Alexander Technique

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Disclaimer

As always, seek professional advice before using any of the methods listed.

Intro

This technique, was named after Frederick Matthias Alexander, and teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscular and mental tension during their everyday activities, and is based on a movement technique. Some of this movement technique is based upon the bodies natural spirals.

It is an educational process rather than a style of relaxation or a form of exercise.

Most other methods take it for granted that 'one's awareness of oneself' is accurate, whereas Alexander tought that a person who had been using himself incorrectly for a long time could not trust his sensory appreciation) The Alexander technique, named after Frederick Matthias Alexander, teaches people how to avoid unnecessary muscular and mental tension during their everyday activities. It is an educational process rather than a relaxation technique or form of exercise. Most other methods take it for granted that 'one's awareness of oneself' is accurate, whereas Alexander realized that a person who had been using himself wrongly for a long time could not trust his sensory appreciation in carrying out any activity, because the mind and body would begin to accept what was incorrect as normal and correct.

Practitioners say that such problems are often caused by repeated misuse of the body over a long period of time, for example, by standing or sitting with one's weight unevenly distributed, holding one's head incorrectly, or walking or running inefficiently. The purpose of the Alexander technique is to help people unlearn maladaptive physical habits and return to a balanced state of rest and poise in which the body is well-aligned.

Alexander developed the principles of this teaching during the 1890s, as a personal tool to alleviate breathing problems and hoarseness during public speaking, because of these principles, this technique has become very popular with actors and those within similar performance related industries. Alexander himself, credited the technique with allowing him to pursue his passion for Shakespearean acting.

Alexander is a well liked form of Alternative Medicine, and a well respected technique.

How Effective can it be

  • This technique can be a highly cost-effective treatment in the management of chronic pain.
  • There is minor evidence that claims that this technique can assist with improving the quality of life for people who suffer with Parkinson's Disease.
  • According to Alexander Technique instructor Michael J. Gelb, people tend to study the Alexander Technique either to rid themselves of pain, to increase their performance abilities, or for reasons of personal development and transformation.
  • As an example among performance-art applications, the Alexander technique is used and taught by classically trained vocal coaches and musicians. Its advocates claim that it allows for the free alignment of all aspects of the vocal tract by consciously increasing air-flow, allowing improved vocal technique and tone.
  • Because Alexander technique has allegedly been used to assist in the improvement of breathing and stamina, advocates also claim that athletes, people with asthma, tuberculosis, and panic attacks have also found improvements.
  • The technique has been used by actors to reduce stage fright and to increase spontaneity, this is because it improves stress-management, it can also be helpful within psychotherapy for people with disabilities, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, panic attacks, stuttering, and chronic pain.

Theories and Uses

Alexander's approach emphasizes mindful action. The technique is applied dynamically to everyday movements, as well as actions selected by students.

Actions such as sitting, squatting, lunging or walking are often selected by the teacher. Other actions may be selected by the student, tailored to their interests or work activities such as hobbies, computer use, lifting, driving or performance in acting, sports, speech or music.

Alexander developed terminology to describe his methods, outlined in his four books that explain the sometimes paradoxical experience of learning and substituting new improvements.

Constructive Conscious Control

Alexander insisted on the need for strategic reasoning because, he makes the claim, that, kinesthetic sensory awareness is a relative sense, not a truthful indicator of factual bodily relationship in space.

The current postural attitude is sensed internally as customarily normal, however inefficient.

Alexander's term was, "debauched sensory appreciation", this describes how the repetition of a circumstance encourages habit design as a person adapts to circumstances or builds skills.

Once trained and forgotten, completed habits may be activated without feedback sensations that these habits are in effect, just by thinking about them. Short-sighted habits that have become harmfully exaggerated over time, such as restricted breathing or other habitually assumed adaptations to past circumstances, will stop after learning to perceive and prevent them.

End-gaining

Another example is the term "end-gaining". This term means to focus on a goal so as to lose sight of the "means-whereby" the goal could be most appropriately achieved.

According to Alexander teachers, "end-gaining" increases the likelihood of selecting older or multiple conflicting coping strategies.

End-gaining is usually carried out because an imperative priority of impatience or frustration justifies it.

Inhibition

In the Alexander technique, the principle of "inhibition" is considered by teachers to be the most important to gaining improved "use."

F.M. Alexander's selection of this word predates the meaning of the word originated by Sigmund Freud.

Inhibition, or 'intentional inhibition', is the act of refraining from responding in one's habitual manner - in particular, imposed tension in neck muscles.

Inhibition describes a moment of conscious awareness of a choice to interrupt, stop or entirely prevent an unnecessary habitual "misuse".

As unnecessary habits are prevented or interrupted, a freer capacity and range of motion resumes, experienced by the student as a state of "non-doing" or "allowing," allowing - this is the assumption that the body wants to perform movements in the correct way, but the "patient" needs to "allow" the body to do these movements in the correct way.

Primary control

This innate co-ordination that emerges is also described more specifically as "Primary Control".

This is a key head, neck and spinal relationship. The body's responses are determined by the qualities of head and eye movement at the inception of head motion.

What expands the qualities of further bodily response is a very subtle nod forward to counteract a common backward startle pattern, coupled with an upward movement of the head away from the body that lengthens the spine.

Students gradually learn to include their whole body toward their new means of initiating motion.

Directions

To continue to select and reinforce the often less dominant "good use", it is recommended to repeatedly suggest, by thinking to oneself, a tailored series of "Orders" or "Directions." "Giving Directions" is the term for thinking and projecting an anatomically ideal map of how one's body may be used effortlessly. "Directing" is suggestively thought, rather than willfully accomplished, because the physical responses to "Directing" often occur underneath one's ability to perceive.

As freedom of expression or movement is the objective, the most appropriate responses cannot be anticipated, but are observed and chosen in the moment.

Psycho-Physical Unity

Global concepts such as "Psycho-Physical Unity" and "Use" describe how thinking strategies and attention work together during preparation for action.

They connote the general sequence of how intention joins together with execution to directly affect the perception of events and the outcome of intended results.

Studies

The Alexander Technique is most commonly taught privately in a series of 10 to 40 private lessons which may last from 30 minutes to an hour. Students are often performers, such as actors, dancers, musicians, athletes and public speakers, or people who work on computers, or who are in frequent pain for other reasons. Instructors observe their students, then show them how to hold themselves and move with better poise and less strain. Sessions include chair work and table work, often in front of a mirror, during which the instructor and the student will stand, sit and lie down, moving efficiently while maintaining a correct relationship between the head, neck and spine.

To qualify as a teacher of Alexander Technique, instructors are required to complete at least 1,600 hours, spanning at least three years, of supervised teacher training. The result must be satisfactory to qualified peers to gain membership in professional societies.