Alexander Technique and Education Adaptability – Approach to Education – Alexander Technique for Children

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AT and Education Adaptability

Education must teach adaptability, and adaptability comes from understanding of ourselves. If education does not provide us with the tools to take care of ourselves and to understand and improve our own reactions, we will be less able to adapt and make smart decisions.

Alexander Technique for Children

By Eve Bernfeld

Children study the Alexander Technique for all the same reasons as adults: to improve performance in arts or sports, to prevent or recover from pain and injury, to function better overall, and on and on. But F.M. Alexander believed that there was extra import in teaching the work to children. He described his technique as “re-education” and he spent tens of thousands of hours re-educating adults out of the bad habits they had acquired through the course of life. He saw how much more efficient it would be if Alexander Technique could be integrated into the education of children, preserving their natural poise and leaving off the need to be re-educated later on!

Pretty much all Alexander Technique books (and websites!) somewhere feature an image of a child, because small children tend to be beautifully coordinated. They have these giant heads (relative to the rest of them) that they balance easily at the top of long, buoyant spines. They run, jump, squat, sit on the floor and yell for hours on end with nary a slump or slouch.

Sadly, this all starts to go downhill through later childhood and by middle school, high school and college, slumping, slouching and even back and neck pain seem to be de rigueur. We can often trace the decline to the start of serious schooling. Why is this? Here are a few factors:

  • A culture of education that values product over process (Alexander called this “endgaining”*). Great emphasis is placed on literacy and numeracy, and no emphasis is placed on maintaining ease and poise while learning. It’s not even on the radar.
  • Backward sloping chairs** make natural, upright sitting almost impossible.
  • Juvenile mammals are not well adapted to being still for long hours at a time.
  • The never-ending parade of examples of poor use* by adults at home, school and everywhere else is ripe to be imitated.

It is around this same time that many children begin to have challenges with attention, impulse-control, emotional-regulation, executive function.

We believe these two factors are related.

One of the fundamental premises of the Alexander Technique is the complete “unity of self.” In other words, “body” and “mind” are verbal constructs, when in reality we are always a single, unified person. There is no such thing as a purely mental activity or a purely physical one. Taking this view of the human individual, it becomes easier to propose that so-called physical states (like slouching) and so-called mental ones (like lack of attention) are really just states of a human adapting less-than-optimally to a challenging situation***.

Alexander started a “Little School” for children and wrote at length about education in his books. But one doesn’t need a Little School to benefit from the Alexander Technique as part of one’s education. One only needs a qualified teacher. The Alexander Technique is poised to help all kinds of children to function better and navigate school and other activities with more ease. It also holds promise for the struggling child (or adult), as a powerful addition to other services, by teaching practical skills of self-regulation not narrowly addressed toward the “mental” or “physical” symptoms, but instead broadly inclusive of the whole person.

In other words, how we sit AND how we think matter.

 

[*Hyper-links to articles on endgaining, use on this website (if such exist)
**Link to this video re STAT’s school chairs campaign https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=149&v=f3AL5SK_tUI]

 

***A recent study on mobility and cognition in older adults is the first to point to a link between postural alignment and cognitive functioning. We believe this exciting research is just the first step in uncovering what F.M. Alexander proposed over 100 years ago: one can’t separate mental from physical processes.
(link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27877123)

Please enjoy reading about the Alexander Technique on our website! Feel free to contact us for more information or to try out a lesson with an AmSAT-certified Alexander Technique teacher today.