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The Alexander Technique

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The Alexander Technique enables you to release tension by re-educating your mind and body through various movements which improves your posture and co-ordination.  Frederick Matthias Alexander was a Shakespearean actor who constantly suffered from throat problems.  He was permanently hoarse and he lost his voice while performing. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with his vocal mechanism.  It was a mystery as to what was causing this.  He pondered over this and decided to research the problem.  He realised that he was very tense when he was speaking.  He discovered how to speak without feeling tense.  He didn’t have voice problems after this and his voice was strong when he performed.  His coordination and posture also improved and his breathing problems had dissipated.

Alexander enhanced his technique by discovering the connection of habit, thought and perception to human movement and functioning.  Doctors started referring patients with asthma and coordination problems to him.  Eventually his technique expanded worldwide.  He developed training programmes so his graduates could teach the method to others.  Today the Alexander Technique is extremely popular, and there are thousands of teachers trained in it worldwide.

Toddlers have natural postures; their spine is straight and they move their joints with ease.   As we mature however, we develop unhealthy habits and slouching can lead to all kinds of upper body problems.

Primary Control

Frederick Matthias Alexander found that the connection between the head, neck and the back or “primary control” resulted in the controlled movement and coordination of the whole body.


This is a fast moving control of your reactions which subdues your spontaneity. However Alexander realised that by preventing himself from behaving habitually he could choose how to react to a stimulus.


Alexander called the inclination to be impulsive – ‘end gaining’.  This means instantly and quickly reacting to stimulus without thinking.  You are not in the present moment when you are impulsive.  You react by wanting something instantly and are only interested in the end result.  e.g. if you are late for work you start to worry about what your boss will say.  Your mind races and you picture what he/she might say to you.  You are living in your head and not aware of your current situation, (in your car or on the bus stuck in traffic.)

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There is nothing you can do about this but accept it, and come back to the present moment.  Detaching from the present moment can have very negative consequences for your posture.  The shoulders are rounded, legs feel tense and there may be a reduced connection between the arms and back.  Basically both the person’s mind and body are affected.  Alexander advises to use the “means-whereby”.  This essentially means that if we know we can’t change a situation, we accept this by adopting a different approach to our body.  We enable ourselves to experience the new approach.  By doing this we are learning how to live in the present moment rather than in the past or the future.


These are different signals which the brain transmits to the body before or during physical activity.  Direction and Inhibition allow the person to change habitual ways of moving, and diminish previous behaviours of mistreatment.


There is something very graceful about people who walk with poise.  You automatically feel more confident when you walk tall and straight.  However it is easy to fall into lazy and unhealthy patterns of poor posture.  Accomplishing the Alexander Technique does take commitment and patience. It is important not to give yourself a hard time if you slip into your old ways when you are practicing it.

The Alexander Technique Lesson

The average length of time for a lesson is between 30 to 45 minutes and the amount of lessons required depends on the individual.  Initially it is usually recommended to have two lessons a week, but once you learn the principles of the technique and are able to do them yourself, you only need a lesson every two or three weeks.  A basic course will consist of about ten lessons, but a course of 30 lessons is required if a person wants to learn it thoroughly.  Your first lesson will be longer than the subsequent lessons because the teacher will need to explore your health problems.  The technique requires the teacher to gently move your head or limbs while checking your body for any extreme or unusual muscle tension.  You may be standing, sitting or lying on the treatment table while the teacher is doing this.  After the first session the teacher will know how many lessons you will need.  Many people describe receiving a treatment as feeling light; relaxed or ‘walking on air.’

ATEAM research

The Alexander Technique lessons, exercise and massage (ATEAM) is the most important and widespread research conducted in relation to the Alexander Technique.  Its objective was to study its effects on severe and reoccurring back pain.  Clinical trials which were funded by the Medical Research Council and NHS Research and Development fund  were directed by GP researchers, Professor Paul Little of the University of Southampton U.K. and Professor Debbie Sharp of Bristol University, U.K.  The findings were published in the British Medical Journal in 2008.


There were 579 people with chronic/recurrent non-specific low back pain selected from 64 general practices for the study.  They were given 6 Alexander Technique lessons; 24 Alexander Technique lessons, 6 sessions of massage, or control group.  The patients continued to see their GP during the trial.  The people in the Alexander Technique groups were taught by experienced STAT (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique.) The two main outcome measures were used: a) the Roland Morris disability score, the ‘industry standard’ outcome measure for back function and b) days in pain in the past four weeks.   There were ten other outcome measures also used.  The results indicated that the Alexander Technique lessons showed the most long-term benefits: after 24 lessons the person’s pain was only 3 days per month, compared with 21 days for the control group. Since the effect of massage on the Roland Morris score were not significant after a year, but the effects of the Alexander lessons were retained, the professors concluded that the long-term benefits of the lessons were because of a placebo effect of attention and touch, and incorporating the Alexander Technique into their daily schedule.

The Health Benefits

Repetitive Strain Injury

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Back Pain


Stress and anxiety


Frozen Shoulder


Tennis elbow





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