We can throw away the habit of a lifetime, in a few minutes, if we use our brains.
F. M. Alexander
The Alexander Technique
It is a practical method for correcting posture, unnecessary muscular tension, and poor coordination by undoing deep-rooted habits in how we sit, stand, walk, speak, and perform virtually all of our daily, as well as, specialized activities.
The aim is for you to gain the skill of allowing your whole self to expand rather than contract in any activity: to have a free neck, lengthening spine and balancing well-poised head. We explore alternatives to inefficient habits, replacing them with improved coordination by releasing unnecessary muscular tension. Eventually, as you become more skilled in the Alexander Technique, we work together to help you apply the skill to more and more challenging activities, as well as daily life.
A major clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal (2008) shows that people with chronic/recurrent back pain gain long-term benefit/relief from Alexander Technique Lessons while also improving functioning and enhancing overall wellbeing. It is a practical method for correcting posture, unnecessary muscular tension, and poor coordination by undoing deep-rooted habits in how we sit, stand, walk, speak, and perform virtually all of our daily, as well as, specialized activities.
In short, AT relieves pain and improves performance!
About the Man
The originator of this method was F.M. Alexander. Born in Tasmania, Australia in 1869 with a great passion for equestrianism and the theater, he excelled as an expert horse trainer and later as a Shakespearean dramatist. Despite his passion and excellent schooling back in Melbourne, his career on the stage was challenged due to chronic vocal hoarseness, respiratory trouble, and by some accounts what might be described as stage fright. Doctors advised vocal rest, but this offered merely temporary relief. After painstaking self-observation, F.M. deduced that the source of his problems and limitations were in the way he was utilizing his voice and body. He had no apparent difficulty in ordinary speech so he embarked on an investigation of his habits and manner of speaking during recitation.
F.M. Alexander found that in his manner of recitation, he stiffened his neck, retracted his head, depressed his larynx, and sucked in breath in a kind of gasp. Reasoning that this pattern was a misuse of himself, since it seemed responsible for his problems, he set out to change it. He could not prevent all these habits at once, but soon discovered that if he succeeded in preventing his head from pushing back and down on his neck then the other tendencies improved.
As he became more skilled at preventing the pattern of misuse, the quality of his voice improved. Attempting to further improve his functioning, he experimented with putting his head forward and up in relation to his neck and torso - with this came the discovery of the dynamic relationship between the head, neck and torso as the primary factor in organizing human movement, which is the basis for the Alexander Technique.
All vertebrates are organized around the spine. That is, the prerequisite to any movement is a lengthening spine. F.M. Alexander called the relationship between the head, neck and back, which house the brain and spine the Primary Control (sometimes referred to as the Primary Movement) of the individual. When the relationship of these parts is in order or well aligned so that the vertebrae are not compressed, then the individual can be described as having proper or good Use and therefore be well functioning. The Universal Constant in Living is that Use affects Functioning and thus, Functioning is dependent on one's Use.
Humans have Constructive Conscious Control over their responses to stimuli. We are not relegated to be solely reactive beings, but rather intelligent responsive beings. The Alexander Technique values a lengthening spine and three-dimensional expansion throughout the body as the first step in responding consciously to any stimulus and the Means Whereby any activity or goal is attained. Through the Technique's conscious process of Awareness (Identifying habits, patterns, and interferences), Inhibition (not doing that which interferes or does not serve one's end), and Direction (lengthening, widening and overall three dimensional expansion) an individual can improve his/her Use and therefore improve his/her Functioning. Humans experience Unreliable Sensory Appreciation. Our senses can be off, complicating self-awareness. The technique can improve one's sensory appreciation, but mainly the Alexander Technique teaches an individual how not to be reliant upon it. Instead of feeling or sensing, Thinking in Activity becomes the means.
References: Body Learning, Michael J Gelb and The Alexander Technique Workbook, Richard Brennan
Up - The word used to describe energetic flow up through the body, mostly in opposite relation to gravity.
Use and Functioning - The quality of a person's Use affects his/her Functioning, therefore improvement in one's Use will improve one's Functioning.
Use of the Self - How a person psychophysically goes about performing any activity, specifically but not exclusively in their musculature, posture, poise, energetic output and mental attitude.
Functioning - Performing any activity according to design.
Awareness - The skill of objectively observing oneself in relation to one's Use.
Inhibition - The skill of preventing interferences in the body, mind or in the use of the self, which don't support one's needs or ends.
Direction - The skill of mentally sending orders to one's musculature to either use more or less effort, as well as to change the quality of the musculature.
Primary Control - The relationship between the head, neck, and torso i.e. the relationship of the skull to the spine.
Unreliable Sensory Appreciation - The concept that what feels right, normal, or comfortable in the mind or body may just be habitual and not necessarily right or aligned.
Ends and means - The end of an action is that for the sake of which it is performed. The means is the way in which the end is to be achieved.
End-gaining - Grasping for results without proper attention to the process or means.
Means-Whereby - Term used to describe the process in the technique with the appropriate measure and focus to achieve a goal.
Constructive Conscious Control - The ability to take responsibility for the intelligent use of the self through the application of inhibition and direction.
References: Body Learning, Michael J Gelb ; Back Trouble, Deborah Caplan
© Karina Lombrozo, AT with Karina Lombrozo
What? The 'how to' of how to do everything
Why? To achieve self-mastery
Who Can Benefit?
The short answer is everyone/anyone may benefit from the technique! Specifically, AT has been popular and effective with actors, singers, dancers, athletes, back-pain sufferers, pre and post surgical candidates and patients, and with those who suffer from anxiety/stress.
What Can I Expect in A First Lesson?
A delicate hands-on experience, as well as, verbal instruction with (and only with) your mental/physical participation and consent designed to reeducate your musculoskeletal system. You will be guided through simple movements and possible lying down work on a massage table. Whatever your interests are, we will incorporate them into our lessons together. Wear comfortable clothes - no skirts, dresses or jeans please.
How does AT compare with other modalities such as Yoga, Acupuncture, Feldenkrais, or Massage?
AT is a unique educational process that is applicable in daily-life, to specific activities, and useful for the rest of your life. It is a great complement to any of the above listed modalities. It is not a therapy while it does have therapeutic effects. It is not a series of exercises or procedures although you may apply it to any exercise or procedure. Changes in the body are made through conscious thinking in activity and include but are not limited to awareness through movement. It is a practical method for correcting problems of posture, muscular tension and badly coordinated body movement.
An AT teacher does not impose on your posture, or force your muscular tension or coordination to change. Instead, she uses a delicate hands-on technique coupled with your mental/physical participation, which in turn, corrects the habitual interferences that created those problems in the first place - guiding your whole self towards integration, freedom and ease.