If you are like many people who spend hours in front of a computer every day, you may have experienced some of the common problems that come with prolonged sitting and typing, such as:
- Back, neck, shoulder, or wrist pain
- Headaches, eye strain, or fatigue
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI) or carpal tunnel syndrome
- Poor posture, slouching, or stiffness
- Stress, anxiety, or lack of concentration
These problems can affect your health, productivity, and well-being. They can also interfere with your enjoyment of your work and your life.
But what if there was a simple and effective way to prevent or reduce these problems, without changing your equipment, your environment, or your schedule?
That's where the Alexander Technique comes in.
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is a practical method of self-care and self-improvement that teaches you how to use your body and mind more efficiently and comfortably. It helps you become more aware of your habits of movement, posture, and tension, and how they affect your functioning and health. It also helps you learn how to release unnecessary tension and move with more ease, balance, and coordination.
The Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises or rules to follow. It is a skill that you can apply to any activity, whether it is sitting at your computer, playing an instrument, speaking in public, or doing sports. It is a way of enhancing your performance and preventing injury in whatever you do.
The Alexander Technique was developed by F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor who suffered from chronic voice problems. He discovered that his vocal difficulties were caused by his habitual patterns of tension and misuse of his body. He also realized that these habits affected his whole functioning and health. He then developed a method of changing these habits and improving his use of himself. He later taught his method to others and became widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of human potential.
How can the Alexander Technique help computer users?
The Alexander Technique can help you work better and feel better at your computer by helping you:
- Sit upright without strain and back tension
- Allow the joints to expand rather than compress
- Release excess neck tension and allow the head to move freely
- Breathe deeply and calmly
- Use your hands and arms with less effort and more dexterity
- Balance your attention between the screen and your surroundings
- Reduce stress and increase concentration
By applying the principles of the Alexander Technique to your computer work, you can avoid or recover from common problems such as RSI, chronic pain, fatigue, headaches, or stress-related disorders. You can also improve your quality of work and enjoy it more.
Understanding the Challenge
Extended periods of sitting and repetitive movements associated with computer use can lead to various issues, including back and neck pain, tension headaches, and overall fatigue. Poor posture, excessive muscle tension, and lack of body awareness exacerbate these problems. The Alexander Technique offers a practical and mindful approach to counteract these challenges and promote a healthier and more comfortable computer workstation.
- Mindful Posture: At the heart of the Alexander Technique is the concept of mindful posture. Instead of slumping or hunching forward, the technique encourages an upright yet relaxed posture while sitting at a computer. By aligning your head, neck, and spine in a balanced and natural way, you reduce strain on your muscles, joints, and ligaments, fostering a more comfortable and sustainable sitting position.
- Dynamic Sitting: The Alexander Technique emphasizes the importance of dynamic sitting—remaining attentive and responsive to your body's needs while at the computer. Rather than remaining static for prolonged periods, it encourages regular movement and micro-adjustments to avoid stiffness and muscle fatigue. Simple actions like shifting your weight, stretching your legs, or gently rotating your shoulders can help alleviate tension and promote blood circulation.
- Ergonomic Environment: Incorporating ergonomic principles into your computer setup can significantly enhance your comfort and well-being. The Alexander Technique advocates for an adjustable chair and desk that allow you to customize your workstation to your unique body proportions to provide what we could call a mechanical advantage, although it should be noted that it is an advantage, not a guarantee. Position your computer screen at eye level to avoid straining your neck and use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse that support neutral wrist positions. A supportive chair with proper lumbar support is also essential for maintaining a healthy spinal alignment.
- Body Awareness and Tension Release: The Alexander Technique cultivates body awareness, helping you identify and release unnecessary tension while sitting at the computer. Through gentle and mindful movements, you'll learn to recognize areas of tension—such as in your neck, shoulders, and wrists—and consciously release that tension. This practice not only improves your immediate comfort but also prevents the accumulation of strain and potential musculoskeletal issues over time.
- Breathing and Stress Reduction: Computer work can often be accompanied by stress and mental strain. The Alexander Technique teaches conscious breathing, which can serve as an anchor during intense or demanding moments. Taking slow, deep breaths allows you to relax your body and quiet your mind, promoting a sense of calm and reducing the impact of stress on your overall well-being.
How can you learn the Alexander Technique?
The best way to learn the Alexander Technique is to take lessons from a certified teacher. A teacher can observe how you move, sit, and function, and give you personalized feedback and guidance. A teacher can also use gentle hands-on contact to help you sense and release tension, and experience a new way of moving and being.
A typical lesson lasts about 45 minutes and involves both verbal instruction and hands-on work. You will learn how to apply the Technique to various activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, bending, lifting, or using your computer. You will also learn some simple procedures that you can practice on your own to reinforce what you learn in the lessons.
The number of lessons you need depends on your goals, needs, and interests. Some people take a few lessons to address a specific problem or improve a specific skill. Others take more lessons to explore the Technique more deeply and experience its benefits in different aspects of their lives.
You can also learn more about the Alexander Technique by reading books³, watching videos, listening to podcasts, or attending workshops. However, these resources are not a substitute for taking lessons from a teacher. They are meant to supplement and support your learning process.
The Alexander Technique is a valuable tool for anyone who uses a computer regularly. It can help you prevent or reduce common problems associated with computer work, such as pain, tension, fatigue, or stress. It can also help you improve your performance and enjoyment of your work and your life.
If you are interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique or finding a teacher near you, please visit the official website of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT).