The Alexander Technique

What It's About:

Used correctly, our bodies are able to sit, stand, move, breathe, get and give attention with economy, vitality and poise.  As infants, we figured out the best way to support our own weight and get about with grace and good humor (and to get and give attention with ingenuity and good manners). Over time however, many of us begin to unwittingly misuse our bodies. This misuse limits our potential and is often the cause of pain, tension, low energy, burnout, or a proclivity to injuries.
Alexander Technique teachers use verbal instruction and gentle hands-on guidance to help students avoid unnecessary effort and to experience natural postural support and an easy composure. As students learn to independently apply basic principles of movement, bearing and coordination, many types of discomfort and stress are relieved and a heightened sense confidence and buoyancy may be experienced.

The History: The Technique was developed by an Australian actor who suffered from recurrent vocal failure. As medical attention provided only temporary relief, F. M. Alexander (1869-1955) began a process of self-experimentation with the aid of mirrors. This led to the observation of certain habitual behaviors and mannerisms which, he inferred, were interfering with his voice production. Learning to stop these actions led to the development of a technique for changing interfering habits and the discovery of a way to promote better self-use. The noticeable improvement in his skill and overall health led others to seek his help. Alexander soon discovered that the best way to teach others what he had learned was to use  his hands to prevent students from their habitual actions and guide them to a new experience of working according to design (even if accommodations must be made for congenital or extraneous limitations). Over time, the new experience can help restore the natural poise which is, as Alexander put it, our Supreme Inheritance. 

In 1904, Alexander moved to England where his technique was endorsed by the medical establishment. It gained popularity amongst leading performing artists and intellectuals who appreciated the technique’s capacity to promote self-control and acuity. Amongst his students, John Dewey, George Bernard Shaw and Aldous Huxley were all enthusiastic advocates. To meet the growing demand for lessons, Alexander began training others to teach his technique in London and the United States. Today there are dozens of teacher training schools and thousands of teachers worldwide.

F.M. Alexander, Alexander Technique,
Alexander Technique Cincinnati

F.M. Alexander, Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Cincinnati

Who is It For?

More often than not, people from all walks of life seek Alexander Technique lessons to cope with and relieve common aches and pains, whether chronic or acute. 

Additionally, people in physical training such as athletes or singers, people in physical transition such as pregnancy, adolescents in growth-spurts or people recovering from illness or injury, and people who use their bodies in performance such as actors, dancers and public speakers often seek lessons to help them meet the challenges of their endeavors. However, rather than teach precise or ‘correct’ mechanics of any particular activity or skill, Alexander Technique teachers focus on helping students prevent interferences with a whole host of organic and natural functions, and to find measures of support for unhindered functioning. Simply put, that means getting out of our own way.

  • Actors:  taught for decades at leading drama schools around the world, Alexander Technique helps actors effectively adopt the features, mannerisms and voices of the characters they portray while safely navigating raked stages in period costumes. It can also help break the kind of telling habits that lead to typecasting.
  • Musicians: in addition to helping with the physical challenges of holding and manipulating instruments for hours on end, Alexander Technique is a practice of presence, affording instant insight to keep practice and performance fresh and expressive.
  • Pregnant Women and New Parents: my own experience of my twins and later my singleton stretching and moving about during lessons showed me how space can be made and maintained to avoid lower back pain and pressure on internal organs. Holding babies and toddlers with minds of their own can be even more challenging than holding inanimate objects of greater weight, but the technique can help parents support little ones in an easy and soothing manner.
  • Athletes and Dancers:  experiencing the potential rebound effect of effective weight delivery and appropriate force can make gravity an ally to increase power and endurance. The Technique can also help prevent fatigue and injury by heightening awareness of common but unconscious misuse of muscles and joints.
  • Singers and Public Speakers: experiencing breathing and vocal production as a postural process helps singers and speakers maintain steady sound and projection to effectively command their space and their audience while avoiding strain. The technique can also help meet related challenges such as prolonged standing with music folder in hand or manipulating presentation aids.
  • People Who Spend Prolonged Hours at Desks or on Their Feet: finding proper support and learning to avoid the common pitfalls of relatively sedentary activity can help relieve and prevent back, shoulder and neck pain as well as headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Standing with uncompromised structural integrity can help prevent sciatica, achy feet, stiffness and exhaustion. People who do a lot of heavy lifting learn to adopt positions of mechanical advantage that will prevent strain and over-exertion. 

Alexander Technique Advantages

There are many approaches to better movement and tension-relief; these are the advantages that differentiate the Alexander Technique from other disciplines:

  • You can practice it concurrent to any activity. The technique is taught during a lesson, but you can practice it anytime, without stopping what you are doing. If you are experiencing pain, discomfort or stress, you cannot always drop everything to take a warm bath or hop on the treadmill. Instead, you will find you are able to attend to your condition while gardening, driving, at work or on stage.
  • Independence. Like learning to drive, you work with an instructor until you feel competent on your own. With symptoms alleviated and the ability to meet new challenges with what F.M. Alexander called constructive conscious control, you will not have to rely on a practitioner to apply treatment or physical manipulation (such as a chiropractic or massage therapist).
  • No physical requirements. The Technique is suitable for everyone including people with physical challenges. There are no exercises, homework or dietary requirements.
  • No necessary equipment or special apparel. The teacher will use a table for her own convenience during a lesson, but the floor is equally functional. Loose fitting garments are best during a lesson but are not essential. The technique can be practiced in a suit and tie, uniform, or period costume if needed. ​