The Alexander Technique follows the philosophy of Frederick Matthias Alexander, which is to remove all the harmful tension in your body.
I think I spent about a year studying the Alexander Technique... Actually, I'm not sure if "studying" is the right word - each week I would spend an hour being stretched and lengthened by my Alexander Technique teacher.
The Alexander Technique was recommended to me by a friend of a friend. I can't remember how it came up, but we were in a bar and I mentioned that I had a bad back and she recommended the Alexander Technique. So shortly afterwards I looked through the yellow pages and booked myself a session.
So I went along, not really knowing what to expect. What I got was a series of gentle manipulations and lengthenings that added an inch or so to my height. Along with the gentle manipulations, I was also taught how to sit properly and how to stand up and sit down. Oh, and how to stand and walk - it was a complete reprogramming.
The first time you try the Alexander Technique, it's genuinely weird. I was actually taller - I had to readjust the rear-view mirror when I drove away. It was that strange.
Frederick Matthias Alexander
FM Alexander (1869-1955) developed chronic laryngitis while acting. Determined to restore the full use of his voice, he carefully watched himself in a mirror while speaking and observed that undue muscular tension accounted for his laryngitis. He then sought a way to eliminate that tension.
What he discovered was remarkable - he found that when neck tension is reduced, the head no longer compresses the spine and the spine is free to lengthen. Removing that tension resulted in a profound effect on health. As a result, Alexander evolved a hands-on teaching method that encourages all the body's processes to work more efficiently - as an integrated, dynamic whole.
My Alexander Technique teacher gave me homework - each day I had to spend 30 minutes lying on my back (knees bent, head supported on a couple of paperback books) lengthening. To lengthen I had to imagine my left foot and right shoulder trying to pull away from each other. And then my right foot and left shoulder. And then imagine my chest opening. And so on - I found it easiest to imagine myself settling into the ground, as if I was made of chocolate and starting to melt and sag.
I quite enjoyed the homework. It's a great time to relax, and listen to music or a storytape, or just think and meditate. (You're not supposed to relax and drift off - you've got to concentrate on lengthening.)
I stopped going to my Alexander teacher because I found it was having diminishing returns. My aches began to return and I wasn't getting the great results that I first got. Anyway, I know that some people swear by it, and it may be that one day I'll try taking it up again. I do know that I still sometimes do the homework, but probably not as much as I should. Maybe I'll return one day and give it another go.
- Check out this website for more information on the Alexander Technique.
- Alexander Technique news story from the BBC
Your Alexander Technique Stories
If you have any stories or comments (or even tips) about the Alexander Technique, please share them with me and I'll add them to this site. Click here to tell me your story.
Written by Steve Hatherley.