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