What is The Alexander Technique?

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Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique, over 100 years old and now scientifically validated, is a method that empower us to take more responsibility for ourselves by consciously stopping specific habitual muscle patterns that are associated with stiffness, performance issues, pain and stress. The Alexander Technique gradually changes how the brain controls our muscular coordination; it has been called “neuromuscular reprogramming”, and is a way to master habit and improve the standard of living for people of all ages.

It has been called “neuromuscular reprogramming” and a way to master habit to improve functioning and living. Prominent educational philosopher John Dewey stated that

[The Alexander Technique] bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities.

John Dewey

It works on two levels:

On a Conscious Level

How you approach your everyday activities changes how you respond to the world

On a Motor Control Level

How your brain coordinates activity

The principle is simple:

Normally, we react to a stimulus by getting ready to do the next thing. Usually, the “next thing” is an automatic and largely unconscious reaction, and often involves patterns of tension and stress that we aren’t aware of. The Alexander Technique is a method to refrain from doing these old, automatic, habitual reactions.

Instead, the Alexander Technique teaches us to

STOP
.
THINK
how we would like to carry out our next action.

Specifically, in step 2, we use a kind of ‘directional thinking’ developed by F.M. Alexander and proven for over 100 years.

Alexander Technique The principle

Alexander Technique - Approach to Education

Impulse Control

Rebecca Robbins, long-time teacher trainer and director of the Oregon Center for the Alexander Technique, gives this definition:

The Alexander Technique is a technical practice to improve impulse control and stop engaging in a specific muscular pattern associated with the stress response.

In order to stop and think, we must first learn to quiet the impulse to jump to the ‘next thing’ – the impatience the prevents us from the kind of stopping and thinking that creates a space for us to carry out an action in a new way.

Three Main Parts of the Alexander Technique:

Inhibition, society

To change a habit or behavior, you must first STOP, or inhibit, the old habit or behavior.

This isn’t as easy as it may seem, and takes real practice.

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Non-Endgaining

Whenever you are in a rush, or over-focused on results, you are likely to neglect the means by which you achieve those results. The results are stress and strengthening of undesirable habit patterns. We learn to respond to the stimuli in our environment by stopping, directing and then choosing the best way to accomplishing something.

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Directing, Direction

This is a certain way of spatial and verbal thinking that the Alexander Technique pupil uses to change motor control indirectly.

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Concept Release of Backpain 3Release of Backpain 2Release of Backpain 1Release of Backpain

The three skills of inhibiting, directing and non-endgaining make up the Alexander Technique. They are simple ideas, but when studied as skills and put into practice, they can bring about real change!

Like all skills, they take time to learn and develop; research has shown that they result in big changes in motor control, reduced back pain, improvements in balance, and many others. They are also universal skills, meaning they can be applied to any situation — never be bored standing in line or riding the bus again, it’s a great time to practice the Alexander Technique!

Over a century of experience has showed that the Alexander Technique improves general functioning. FM Alexander developed several insightful concepts stemming directly from the practice of his technique, which are described on the page “Three Central Concepts”, and several ideas about how the technique can benefit society on a larger scale – see the “Three Big Ideas”.

Use of the Self

How you “use” yourself affects your functioning. Just like a car, if you drive well and do your scheduled maintenance, the vehicle will perform well for a longer time.
  • The Alexander Technique is a way to improve the use of yourself: how to you maneuver through your days? Stressed, tensed and fearful? Or poised and ready for whatever life throws your way?

Unreliability of Sensory Appreciation

Alexander found that people don’t always realize that they are mal-coordinated, because their bad habits have come to feel normal to them.
  • To overcome this problem of the untrustworthiness of senses, Alexander Technique teachers are trained to keenly detect patterns of coordination that are problematic, and help students of the Alexander Technique to learn to employ the Alexander Technique on their own to continuously improve their use over time.

Unity of Self

Since motor control takes place in the brain and is influenced, and influences, various other aspects of cognition, it is logical that you cannot separate “mind” and “body” in activity.
  • The West has a long history of dualism, which assumes that the mind and body function separately, but modern science constantly finds that the two are so interwoven as to be best seen as a unity. This idea has important implications for how we think about and coordinate ourselves.

The Alexander Technique has fascinating implications for society at large:

Education

How do we educate our young people? Do we tend to over-focus on results without supplying the means for growth? Do we teach how to use ourselves well, which would minimize self-inflicted problems due to poor use?

Prevention

Do we improve our habits and manner of reaction to the world proactively (it’s fun too!), or do we wait until poor use results in serious health problems? Learning to have good use, and learn do no harm to yourself!

Inhibition and society

How do we know what is going on in our society? What are our societal mechanisms for recognizing inaccurate perceptions of how things are in our country, and what are our mechanisms for bringing these back into line with reality? Are we capable of stopping and thinking as a society to make the most rational decisions we can in this complex world? The Alexander Technique considers these questions on the level of the individual, but Alexander posed the questions on a larger scale as well.

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.