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From Stressed to Poised

Do you feel stressed, tense, or overwhelmed? Do you suffer from chronic pain, poor posture, or breathing problems? Have you noticed the two are often interrelated? If so, you may benefit from learning the Alexander Technique, a method of mental and physical re-education that teaches you how find more poise in your life.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is probably best known for improving posture, but in practice it's about improving poise. Posture is merely a shape that could still be held with excess tension. Poise is a combined quality of mind and body. You recognise that quality in others as a state of being, a sense of calm composure.

 

The Alexander Technique is not a therapy or exercise regime, but a skill for self-development that you can apply to any activity, whether it is office work, family life, or playing sports. The technique is based on a few key principles, such as:

  • The mind and body work together intimately as one, each influencing the other
  • Becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities will reduce harmful habits of behaviour
  • How you move, sit, and stand affects how well you function
  • The balance of the head, neck, and spine is fundamental to optimal functioning
woman sat with poise at her computer stress free.

How can the Alexander Technique help you?

The Alexander Technique can help you with a wide range of health conditions, such as: 

  • Stress and stress-related conditions
  • Back, neck, and joint pain
  • Muscle tension and stiffness
  • Poor posture
  • Breathing and vocal problems

The technique can help you achieve a balanced, more naturally aligned body, and a calm, focused mind. By learning the Alexander Technique, you can:

  • Reduce your reactivity to stressors
  • Develop your self-awareness and mindfulness
  • Boost your confidence
  • Increase your energy and vitality
  • Reduce and prevent pain and injury
  • Enhance your mobility and coordination

 

How can you learn the Alexander Technique?

The best way to learn the Alexander Technique is to have one-to-one lessons with a qualified teacher. A teacher will observe your movements and attitudes, and show you how to move, sit and stand with improved balance, less strain and greater mental clarity. You will also learn to observe your own habits and reactions, and how to change them for the better.

 

You will need to attend a number of lessons to learn the basic concepts of the Alexander Technique. Around 10 or more weekly lessons are recommended. The aim is to help you gain an understanding of the main principles involved so you can apply them to everyday life, allowing you to benefit from the technique without the need for frequent ongoing lessons.

Man sat with poise looking stress free in an office

Where can you find a teacher?

If you are interested in learning the Alexander Technique, you can find a qualified teacher near you by using the Find a Teacher page on The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) website. It's world's oldest and largest professional body of Alexander Technique teachers. STAT teachers have completed a three-year full-time training course and adhere to a code of professional conduct and standards.

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique is a proven and effective way to reduce stress and improve your health and well-being. By learning the technique, you can transform your posture, movement, and thinking, and achieve a state of poise and ease in all that you do. Why not give it a try and see for yourself how the Alexander Technique can help you go from stressed to poised?

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The Science of Effortless Posture

Good posture is a cornerstone for physical well-being. It also communicates a healthy attitude and confidence. Conventional wisdom often attributes it to muscular strength and skeletal alignment. However, there's an intriguing connection between good posture and Einstein's theory of General Relativity. This connection sheds light on the subtleties of body mechanics. It also reveals our environmental place in the world.

 

The benefits of good posture are surprisingly varied highlighting just how holistic your functional health is. Here is a typical list of benefits:

  • Boosts your mood and energy
  • A healthy spine with less back pain
  • Increased lung capacity and easier breathing
  • Reduced strain on joints
  • Less neck and shoulder tension
  • Fewer headaches
  • Improved circulation and digestion
  • Increased self confidence
  • Reduced risk of injury.

The Science Bit

Einstein's theory shows that gravity isn't a force pulling objects down, as Isaac Newton first proposed, a view which is still commonly, and erroneously, held. It is, rather, a curvature in the fabric of spacetime (the universe) caused by mass. Don't worry, I'm not going to take a deep dive into the physics at play, but simply put, the larger the mass, the greater the curvature and the more readily you'll slide down it's gradient, AKA falling. I'm not going to get into it here, but it's even less intuitive than that as it's the time component of spacetime being affected by massive objects (like stars and planets) that cause objects to fall towards them, but let's not concern ourselves with that here. Our reality is really quite magical, wondrous and frankly baffling.

 

An interesting byproduct of this cosmic dance is that we experience a counter and measurable acceleration of 9.8ms² of up thrust from the earth due to these gravitational effects. This upward force is a direct consequence of the Earth's mass as it repulses the bending of spacetime around it. As counter-intuitive as that is, it's a well tested phenomenon with implications such that Satellite Navigation systems simply wouldn't work without taking them into consideration, because curving spacetime also affects time and that needs be factored in by engineers or their accuracy would drift by about 11km a day, a remarkable figure.

Experimental Proof

If you find this hard to process or accept, consider an accelerometer, which measures acceleration. When placed on the ground it measures 9.8ms² of acceleration coming up under it, or 1G as it's more commonly known (1 Earth gravity). If you were to throw the accelerometer in the air it would read zero acceleration as it would no longer be in contact with an accelerating surface. It's directly measurable.

accelerometer phone app display showing 1G of acceleration

In physics your weight is the relationship between your mass (how much there is of you), and the amount of acceleration pushing into you, the basic formula being Weight = Mass x Acceleration. So whenever you jump up in the air you become weightless, as is shown by throwing an accelerometer in the air. Your smartphone has accelerometers in it so it knows which way is up in order to flip the screen from portrait to landscape. This function doesn't work whenever the phone is in free fall (yes, I've even tested this for myself!). What's more, there are accelerometer apps you can download for your phone. On the right is the read out from the app as I held it upright in my hand, roughly 9.8ms² (9.776) of acceleration up along the Y axis (I muted the other to axis in the app to avoid confusion, and the axis refers to the direction of the internal 3 accelerometers, not the graph on the display output)

You've personally experienced being, and feeling, heavier in a instant each time an elevator first accelerates as it goes up. You return to your usual weight the moment the elevator reaches a steady speed. I've noticed some modern elevators accelerate more slowly so this effect is less pronounced, but you'll be familiar with the experience. It's the experience of adding the elevators acceleration to that of the Earths. You feel heavier because you experience greater gravitational effects through acceleration. 

Astronaut on an accelerating rocket ship
Our astronaut can stand perfectly normally in space if the ship is accelerating at 1G

Here's a thought experiment, if you were in a rocket ship in interstellar space and you set it to accelerate at 9.8ms², you would not be floating around due to lack of gravity, you would be able stand normally with the experience being indistinguishable from that you experience daily here on Earth. Only when the rocket ship stops accelerating would you float about weightless.

Enter The Alexander Technique

So, how does this gravitational dance relate to maintaining good posture? Enter the Alexander Technique (AT), a method that emphasizes the integration of mind and body to improve overall coordination. At its core, the Technique encourages you to become aware of your habits that may be interfering with your natural functioning, and consciously redirect them for optimal functioning.

 

AT teachers engage you in simple yet profound movements, retraining balance and coordination to use this upward force. It's not about forceful correction but rather a gentle redirection – a harmonious collaboration with the natural forces at play.

  

Your posture only exists because you're being pushed up by the Earth, all you have to do is let it. There's a classic AT mantra "LET your neck be free, to LET head go forward and up". I capitlised "let" to make it clear it's not something you do, but something you allow. The "forward" is the rotation of the skull over the atlanto-occipital joint (where the spine meets the skull) because it's slightly to the rear of the skull, the upwards thrust therefore tips your head forward as well as sending it up.

 

The skill in posture is in innate subtle movements to keep redirecting this upwards line of support that maintains mobility, not in rigidity or holding a position. It's an act of dynamic balancing and if you placed an accelerometer on top of your head it would register your head pushing/accelerating up into it without you have to do a thing. Good coordination in movement entails creatively and constructively re-routing this upwards support in what we generally call Mechanical Advantage in the Alexander Technique.

Man stood inside an accelerating rocket ship
Letting his head go "forward and up"

It was a great observation by F.M.Alexander, the originator of the Technique, if only he'd understood why we had evolved this way, to take advantage of our environment. He was alive in Einstein's time, I consider it a shame he missed out on this realisation, but his observation still stands as an element of good coordination in relation to our environment. It's interesting to note that the Alexander Technique wasn't born out of theory, but observation, which is why it has stood the test of time for well over a century.

Functioning = Self-Environment Unity

We use the ground like a fish uses water, it buoys us up, not exactly analogous, but I'm sure you get the point, we're an evolutionary byproduct of our environment. A common mistake in various "bodywork" modalities, in my opinion, is the attempts to find functioning/use from within, when functionality is provided by the environment. It's like snatching a fish out of water and turning it over in your hands wondering why you can't see it's ability to swim. Functioning is a unity of the Self and the environment.

 

In short, good posture transcends traditional ideas of muscle strength and bone alignment. It is also effortless. It integrates principles from General Relativity. It acknowledges the upward acceleration in our daily existence. The marriage of this scientific insight with the wisdom of the Alexander Technique offers a nuanced understanding. It explains how we can stand tall in harmony with the forces shaping our lives, not against gravity. This allows us to attain poise over mere posture.

"There is only one way of saying what the work is and what we are doing. We are giving Nature her opportunity. This is a definition allowing for change and growth" - FM Alexander
Albert Einstein
Thank you Einstein for your marvelous insights
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Beyond Good Posture: Unlocking Your Full Potential with the Alexander Technique

The importance of maintaining good posture is frequently emphasized as an aspect of good health, especially with back and neck pain issues, but can also include other issues such as with breathing . However, the Alexander Technique, despite being best known for posture, goes beyond the conventional notion of posture, offering a holistic approach to self-use that encompasses physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Let's delve into why utilizing yourself effectively in the Alexander Technique transcends the mere pursuit of good posture.

Awareness of Movement Patterns

The Alexander Technique focuses on improving awareness of your movement patterns, encouraging you to observe and understand how you use your body in various activities. This heightened awareness extends beyond achieving an upright posture to encompass the nuances of everyday movements, fostering a more mindful and intentional approach to physical actions.

Release of Tension and Stress

Unlike a rigid focus on maintaining a static "correct" posture, the Alexander Technique emphasizes the release of unnecessary tension to achieve a mobile balance. The issue is often not so much what you should do, but what you can't stop doing. By letting go of habitual muscular and mental tension, you experience a profound sense of relaxation. This not only contributes to physical comfort but also helps alleviate stress and anxiety, promoting overall mental well-being.

Efficient Use of Energy

The Technique teaches you to use your self with optimal efficiency by recognizing how gravity positively supports you and how thinking habits can lead to interference. This means that movements become more economical, requiring less energy for the same tasks. This efficiency extends to both physical activities and mental processes, enhancing productivity and reducing fatigue.

Woman with good posture gardening
The Alexander Technique applies to all activities.

Integration of Mind and Body

The Alexander Technique recognizes the unity of mind and body, what F.M Alexander called Psycho-physical Unity, or simply the Self as a shorthand. It goes beyond the surface level of posture, addressing the mental and emotional aspects of self-use. Through mindful movement and coordination, you learn to synchronize your thoughts, emotions, and physical actions, encouraging a harmonious integration of mind and body, otherwise known simply as poise.

Enhanced Performance in Daily Activities

By honing the skills of self-awareness and efficient movement, you can experience improved performance in your daily activities. Whether it's sitting at a desk, walking, or engaging in sports, the Alexander Technique provides a foundation for optimal functioning in various aspects of life.

Long-Term Well-Being

Unlike quick-fix solutions that focus solely on achieving a specific fixed posture, the Alexander Technique offers a long-term approach to well-being. It equips you with the tools to continuously refine your self-use, adapting to the evolving demands of life and maintaining a sustainable foundation for health and vitality. 

 

The effectiveness of the Alexander Technique in addressing back pain has been been given support through gold standard randomized trials funded by the NHS, and the outcomes have been documented in the British Medical Journal. This approach is endorsed by backcare.org.uk and Dentists Provident, the primary health insurers for the dental profession in the UK.

 

Moreover, in accordance with NICE guidelines, the NHS and Parkinson's UK advocate the Alexander Technique as a valuable tool for managing Parkinson's symptoms and enhancing overall quality of life, including improvements in balance, coordination, and mobility.

 

Conclusion

Using yourself well in the Alexander Technique extends far beyond the superficial pursuit of good posture. It involves cultivating awareness, releasing tension, using energy efficiently, integrating mind and body, and ultimately enhancing overall performance and well-being. By embracing this comprehensive approach, you can unlock your full potential, promoting a lifetime of health, balance, and mindful living.

man with good posture playing pool
The Alexander Technique can help you with your hobbies and interests.
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Rethinking Ergonomic Chairs: Embracing the Alexander Technique for True Comfort

Are you tired of spending a fortune on ergonomic furniture that doesn't solve your problems? Do you still suffer from back pain, neck ache, sore shoulders and other musculoskeletal issues despite having a fancy chair, desk and keyboard? If so, you might want to consider a different approach to improving your posture and movement: the Alexander Technique.

 

Many offices and homes have made ergonomic chairs a staple in the pursuit of comfortable seating. Yet, as we delve into the intricacies of body mechanics and well-being, it becomes evident that ergonomic chairs may not be as effective as we once believed. In fact, despite being a multi-billion dollar industry, you may be surprised to hear there is no scientific research that validates the use of ergonomic chairs.

Aeron ergonomic chair

The Pitfalls of Ergonomic Chairs

  1.  Static Design: Ergonomic chairs often boast adjustable features, but their fundamental design remains static. The human body, on the other hand, is dynamic and constantly in motion. The fixed structure of ergonomic chairs might not cater to the varied movements our bodies naturally engage in throughout the day.
  2.  One-Size-Fits-All Fallacy: Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another. Ergonomic chairs, despite their adjustability, adhere to a somewhat standardized design. This one-size-fits-all approach can result in discomfort and even exacerbate existing musculoskeletal issues.
  3.  Dependency on Support: Ergonomic chairs often encourage a reliance on external support, such as lumbar cushions or headrests. While these features may provide temporary relief, they don't address the root cause of poor posture or discomfort. Dependency on such support can hinder the development of natural, balanced body awareness.

The primary issue lies in the fact that ergonomics often attempts to address the problem from a mechanical engineering perspective rather than considering behavioral aspects. It is possible to maintain stiffness in both a "correct" posture and an "incorrect" one. Therefore, any solution should delve into the psychological dimensions of the situation as much as the mechanical ones.

 

Chairs, being inanimate objects, cannot assume responsibility for your behavior. When it comes to expensive ergonomic chairs, individuals may fall into two categories: some might believe that the additional expense guarantees more support, leading to a diminished sense of responsibility for their behavior, while others might justify the cost by becoming more mindful in their actions. The latter can be achieved without the need to invest $1,000 in a chair that you are reliant on.

 

In my view, the concept of an ergonomic chair for sitting is akin to the idea of an ergonomic floor to stand on—making about as much sense.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a method of education that teaches you how to be more aware of your body, how to improve poor posture and move more efficiently. The Alexander Technique is not a form of exercise, therapy or treatment in the usual sense, it is a skill that you learn from a qualified teacher. The teacher will observe your movements and show you how to move, sit and stand with more ease, better balance and less strain. They will use their hands to gently guide you in your movements, help you maintain a better relationship between your head, neck and spine, and to release muscle tension.

 

The Alexander Technique can help you get rid of tension in your body and relieve problems such as back pain, neck ache, sore shoulders and other musculoskeletal problems. It can also enhance your performance and prevent injury in music, drama, sport, business and presentation skills. It can help you develop ease and elegance in movement, improve your breathing and vocal quality, and support your pregnancy and childbirth. It can also help you cope better with stress and improve your mental clarity and focus.

What are the benefits of the Alexander Technique?

  1. Relief from musculoskeletal pain: The Technique is known to help relieve back pain, neck ache, sore shoulders, and other musculoskeletal problems.
  2. Improved posture: The Technique helps you become more aware of your body and how to improve poor posture by understanding the connection between poise and mind-body awareness and the ease that promotes.
  3. Better balance and coordination: With the Alexander Technique, you learn to let go of tension, take pressure off yourself, and rediscover balance of mind and body.
  4. Enhanced personal performance: The Alexander Technique can enhance personal performance across the whole spectrum of human activity, including music, drama, and sport. You will also think more clearly and creatively.
  5. Stress relief: The technique can help you become calm and confident, and relieve stress and stress-related conditions. You feel younger, lighter, taller and more confident.

There is also scientific evidence to support some of the claims made by the Alexander Technique. For example, a randomised controlled trial published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 found that the Alexander Technique was effective in reducing chronic and recurrent back pain. The study involved 579 patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain who were randomly assigned to one of four groups: normal care, massage, six Alexander Technique lessons, or 24 Alexander Technique lessons. The results showed that after one year, the group that received 24 Alexander Technique lessons had an average of 3 days of pain per month, compared to 11 days for the normal care group, 7 days for the massage group, and 6 days for the six-lesson group. The group that received 24 lessons also reported improved quality of life, reduced disability and less use of medication.

man sitting with good posture on a normal chair
It's not the chair that does the sitting, you can learn to sit comfortably on any chair.

The Alexander Technique as an Alternative

  1. Mind-Body Unity: The Alexander Technique is under-pinned by the idea of mind-body unity, that you function as a whole, and emphases awareness in movement and posture. Rather than relying on external support, this technique empowers individuals to understand and improve their own habits, leading to a more sustainable and organic approach to comfort.
  2. Dynamic Poise: Unlike the static design of ergonomic chairs, the Alexander Technique promotes dynamic poise. It encourages you to move with ease and balance, adapting to the demands of different activities. This adaptability aligns with the natural flexibility of the human body.
  3. Long-Term Benefits: While ergonomic chairs might provide immediate relief, the Alexander Technique offers long-term benefits by addressing the underlying causes of discomfort. Through mindful movement and re-education of posture, you can experience lasting improvements in overall well-being which can be applied to any chair.

Conclusion

In the quest for ergonomic solutions, it's crucial to question the conventional wisdom surrounding chairs and seating. Ergonomic furniture may seem like a good idea to improve your comfort and health at work or at home, but it is not a substitute for good behaviour and movement habits. The Alexander Technique stands as a compelling alternative, promoting a holistic understanding of the mind-body relationship. By embracing dynamic poise and promoting self-awareness, the Technique opens new avenues for achieving true comfort and well-being in your daily life. The Alexander Technique can help you reduce pain, improve performance, and enhance your well-being in all aspects of life.

Aeron ergonomic chair
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Boosting Self-Confidence: The Alexander Technique's Hidden Power

The Alexander Technique is a self-help method that teaches you how to use your body and mind more efficiently and harmoniously. It can help you improve your posture/poise, balance, coordination, breathing, and vocal skills, as well as reduce stress, pain, and tension. But did you know that the Alexander Technique can also boost your self-confidence and self-esteem?

 

Self-confidence is the belief in your own abilities and worth, while self-esteem is the overall evaluation of yourself as a person. Both are essential for your mental and emotional well-being, as they affect how you think, feel, and act in various situations. However, many people struggle with low self-confidence and self-esteem, which can lead to anxiety, insecurity, and poor performance.

 

The Alexander Technique can help you overcome these challenges by helping you become more aware of your habitual patterns of thinking and moving, and how they affect your self-image and self-expression. By learning to let go of unnecessary tension and interference, you can discover a more natural and authentic way of being, which can enhance your confidence and esteem. As a base line, confidence could be said to be a lack of reaction to situations and beliefs that you find challenging, which as a theme is central to the Alexander Technique, a principle known as Inhibition.

Young man and woman looking poised and confident from using the Alexander Technique

Enhancing Self-Confidence

Here are some of the benefits of the Alexander Technique for improving self-confidence and self-esteem:

  • Improves your physical appearance and presence: By balancing your head, neck, and spine, you can achieve a more upright and graceful posture, which can make you look taller, slimmer, and more attractive. A good posture, or better still, poise, can also convey a positive impression to others, as it signals confidence, competence, and openness. Poise is a psycho-physical construct, that is, the mind and body work in unison as a singular functional entity. By working on your physical poise you'll also be addressing your mental and emotional poise. Poise is a state of being.
  • Improves your communication and social skills: By freeing your breathing and voice, you can speak more clearly, fluently, and expressively, which can improve your verbal and non-verbal communication. A clear and confident voice can also help you persuade, influence, and inspire others, as well as assert your needs and opinions. Additionally, by being more relaxed and comfortable in your body, you can interact more easily and naturally with others, which can enhance your social and emotional intelligence.
  • Improves your performance and creativity: By reducing stress and tension, you can access more of your mental and physical potential, which can improve your focus, concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills. You can also unleash your creativity and imagination, as you learn to experiment and explore new possibilities and perspectives. Whether you are a student, a professional, a musician, an athlete, or an artist, the Alexander Technique can help you achieve your goals and express your talents with more confidence and ease.
  • Improves your self-awareness and self-acceptance: By becoming more mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you can gain more insight into yourself and your patterns of behavior. You can also learn to accept yourself as you are, without judgment or criticism, and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses. By cultivating a positive and realistic self-image, you can enhance your self-respect and self-love, which are the foundations of self-confidence and self-esteem.

The Alexander Technique is not a quick fix or a magic solution, but a lifelong learning process that can help you discover and develop your true potential. By applying the principles and practices of the Alexander Technique in your daily life, you can transform your relationship with yourself and others, and enjoy a more confident and fulfilling life. 

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique is a valuable tool for improving self-confidence by addressing not only physical aspects but also the mind-body connection. Through improved posture, reduced tension, enhanced self-awareness, better breathing, and improved movement, individuals can experience a profound transformation in how they carry themselves and perceive their own capabilities. If you struggle with self-confidence, consider exploring the Alexander Technique as a means to unlock your hidden potential and boost your self-assurance. It's a journey toward greater self-confidence and a more empowered, poised, and confident you.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique and how it can benefit you, please feel free to get in touch.

Middle-aged man and woman looking poised and confident from using the Alexander Technique
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Poise vs. Posture

The Alexander Technique is a method that aims to improve the way we use oursleves by addressing habits and behaviors that can lead to physical and mental tension and discomfort. One of the central principles of this technique is the distinction between poise and posture. While these terms may seem interchangeable, they carry different meanings in the context of the Alexander Technique.

 

While the Technique is often associated with improving posture, it is not about achieving better static positions such as standing tall or sitting up straight. Instead, it is about achieving poise, which is an attitude, or quality of grace and balance in the way you hold or move your body.

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is named after its founder, F. Matthias Alexander, who developed it in the late 19th century. It is a method of re-educating the body and mind to achieve more efficient and graceful movement. The primary goal is to alleviate tension and improve overall functioning and well-being.

 

The Alexander Technique is based on these key principles:

  1. How you move and behave affects your functioning
  2. The relationship of your head, neck, and spine, known as the Primary Control, is fundamental to your ability to balance and function
  3. The mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other, what we call a psycho-physical unity, or Self, for short. By becoming more aware of your body's habits and reactions, you can gain insight into your emotional and mental states. This heightened awareness allows you to intercept anxious thoughts and physical tension before they escalate, helping you manage anxiety more effectively.
a poised ballerina and postured soldier

The Difference Between Poise and Posture

Posture

In everyday colloquial language, the term "posture" is often associated with how we hold our bodies in a static position, such as sitting or standing. Good posture is typically defined as maintaining a straight back, squared shoulders, and a tucked-in chin. Many of us have heard admonitions like, "Sit up straight!" or "Stand tall!" in our lives.

 

However, in the Alexander Technique, "posture" has a different connotation. It refers to the alignment and coordination of the body while in motion, not just when stationary. A dynamic and fluid posture is what is emphasized, rather than a rigid, static one.

Poise

On the other hand, "poise" in the Alexander Technique refers to a state of balance and ease that one maintains regardless of whether they are in motion or at rest, and is as much an attitude of thinking. Poise is not about holding a specific position but rather about being in a state of dynamic equilibrium. It involves a certain readiness to respond to the demands of the moment with minimal tension.

The Relationship Between Poise and Posture

The distinction between poise and posture is crucial in the Alexander Technique because it underscores the importance of cultivating a conscious awareness of one's body and movement. When we focus solely on achieving a particular posture, we may inadvertently create unnecessary tension in the body. Tension can result from forcing ourselves into rigid positions and trying to hold them.

 

In contrast, when we prioritize poise, we aim for a more natural and balanced state. This approach encourages us to be more attuned to the subtle signals our body provides and to respond to them with a sense of ease. When we move with poise, we are less likely to create habitual patterns of tension and discomfort.

Applying Poise and Posture in Everyday Life

The practical application of poise and posture in the Alexander Technique is to become more mindful of our everyday movements. Whether we're sitting, walking, or performing any activity, we can develop an awareness of our body's innate support and coordination. It involves learning to let go of excessive muscular tension, which can lead to various physical issues, including chronic pain and discomfort.

 

By practicing poise and dynamic posture, you can improve your overall well-being. You can reduce strain and stress on your Self, leading to better physical health and enhanced performance in various activities, from sports to simple daily tasks.

Conclusion

In the Alexander Technique, the distinction between poise and posture is a fundamental concept that encourages you to move and exist in a more mindful and balanced manner. While posture may be a part of your body's expression, poise emphasizes the dynamic equilibrium and grace that comes from reducing unnecessary tension in thought and activity. By adopting the principles of the Alexander Technique, you can experience increased comfort, ease of movement, and improved overall well-being in your daily life. The ATEAM clinical trial, funded by the NHS and performed by Southampton University, has shown this is more than mere semantics, and has shown that the Alexander Technique is clinically effective in addressing chronic back pain.

a poised ballerina and postured soldier
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Finding Calm Within: Managing Your Anxiety with the Alexander Technique

Anxiety is a common and often debilitating condition that affects many people. Anxiety can manifest as excessive worry, nervousness, fear, panic, or phobias, and can interfere with your daily life, work, relationships, and health. Anxiety can also trigger physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, digestive problems, and heart palpitations.

 

While there are many ways to treat anxiety, such as medication, therapy, or relaxation techniques, one method that you may not have heard of is the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is a form of education that teaches you how to improve your self awareness,  posture, movement, and breathing, and how to become more aware of your tension habits and reactions that may contribute to your anxiety.

 

The Alexander Technique was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor who suffered from chronic voice problems and respiratory infections. He discovered that his vocal difficulties were caused by his habitual patterns of tension and misuse of his body. He then developed a method of observation and self-correction that enabled him to restore his natural poise and balance, and reduce his performance anxiety. It's a method designed to improve the way we use our bodies in everyday activities. It emphasizes conscious awareness of posture and movement patterns to reduce tension and promote a more balanced and relaxed state of being and presence. While it is often associated with the performing arts and physical therapy, its applications extend to managing anxiety and stress as well.

woman enjoying a calm and balanced state of being
Learn how to find and carry inner calm with you in all situations

 

The Alexander Technique is based on four key principles:

  1. How you move and behave affects how well you function
  2. The relationship of your head, neck, and spine is fundamental to your ability to balance and function optimally
  3. Becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to make positive long lasting changes 
  4. The mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other, what we call a psycho-physical unity. By becoming more aware of our body's habits and reactions, we can gain insight into our emotional and mental states. This heightened awareness allows us to intercept anxious thoughts and physical tension before they escalate, helping us manage anxiety more effectively.

Breathing plays a crucial role in managing anxiety. When we're anxious, our breathing tends to become shallow and rapid, which further exacerbates feelings of stress. The Alexander Technique places a strong emphasis on breath awareness and teaches how to reduce behviour patterns that interfere with natural breathe. By mastering conscious breathing techniques, individuals can soothe their nervous systems and reduce anxiety.

 

The Alexander Technique helps you to control the way you respond to life and to return to a balanced state of body and mind. Feeling grounded, mindful, and calm will help you manage any stressful event, such as an interview, audition, or exam, with more confidence and control.

 

Through consistent practice, individuals can develop greater self-awareness and the ability to manage anxiety more effectively in the long term. This means that the benefits of the technique extend beyond immediate relief and contribute to a healthier and more resilient mindset.

 

There's evidence suggesting that the Alexander Technique can help people with: 

  • Back pain: A large clinical trial found that one-to-one lessons in the Alexander Technique led to significant long-term reductions in back pain and incapacity caused by chronic back pain.
  • Neck pain: A randomized controlled trial found that 14 lessons in the Alexander Technique led to significant reductions in neck pain and associated disability compared with usual care.
  • Asthma: A small pilot study found that 20 lessons in the Alexander Technique improved breathing function in people with asthma.
  • Parkinson's disease: A randomized controlled trial found that 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique improved balance skills in people with Parkinson's disease.
  • Performance anxiety: A systematic review of studies found that the Alexander Technique improved performance quality in musicians by reducing performance anxiety.

 It's not uncommon for people to report that their back/neck pain or asthma is exacerbated by stress and anxiety, and it's often all part of the same pattern.

Conclusion

Anxiety can be a challenging and pervasive issue, but it doesn't have to control your life. The Alexander Technique offers a holistic approach to managing anxiety by addressing its physical and mental manifestations. Through improved posture, breath awareness, mindfulness, and self-care, individuals can develop the tools they need to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm and well-being. While the Alexander Technique may require dedication and practice, the rewards in terms of anxiety management are well worth the effort. So, if you're looking for a natural and sustainable way to find peace amidst life's chaos, consider exploring the benefits of the Alexander Technique.

 

The Alexander Technique is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, but will compliment them without interference.

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Enhancing Natural Breathing

Introduction

Breathing is a fundamental aspect of our natural functioning, yet many of us are unaware of how we breathe and how it can affect our overall well-being. The Alexander Technique, a practice developed by F.M. Alexander in the early 20th century, offers a unique approach to improving natural breathing. By addressing posture, body awareness, and muscular and mental tension, this technique can unlock the full potential of our respiratory system. In this blog, we will explore the benefits of the Alexander Technique for achieving more natural and efficient breathing.

Improved Posture

One of the core principles of the Alexander Technique is the understanding that our posture greatly influences our breathing, a movement of the torso that Alexander initially termed True Primary Movement. Poor posture can restrict the movement of the rib-cage and diaphragm, making it difficult to breathe deeply and naturally. By learning to release tension and balance the body efficiently, encouraging greater poise, individuals can open up their chest and allow for unrestricted breathing. This improved posture not only aids in natural breathing but also contributes to overall physical comfort and balance.

A man enjoying free and easy breathing

Awareness of Tension

Many of us carry unnecessary tension in our bodies, including the muscles involved in breathing. The Alexander Technique encourages it's students to become more aware of these areas of tension and consciously release them. By doing so, we can reduce the effort required for each breath and experience a more relaxed and natural breathing pattern. Unreleased tension in the diaphragm causes it to remain pulled down, effectively leading people breath on top of an already held breath.

Increased Lung Capacity

Through the Alexander Technique, students can learn to expand their lung capacity. This is achieved by allowing the rib-cage to move more freely with each breath. As a result, more oxygen can be taken in, leading to increased energy levels and improved overall health. Athletes, singers, and performers often turn to this Technique to optimize their breathing for peak performance.

Stress Reduction

Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on our breathing. Shallow, rapid breathing is a common response to stress, which can, in turn, exacerbate feelings of tension and anxiety. The Alexander Technique teaches you to remain calm and centered in stressful situations, allowing for more natural and controlled breathing. By managing stress through this practice, you can lead healthier and more balanced lives.

Enhanced Mind-Body Connection

The Alexander Technique is not just about physical posture; it also focuses on mind-body unity. The mind and body are not simply connected, they're an indivisible functional whole. By becoming more mindful of how we move and breathe, we can develop greater self-awareness. This heightened awareness can extend to our breathing patterns, making it easier to notice and correct any irregularities or discomfort. As a result, you can enjoy a more harmonious relationship with their Self.

Reset Your Breath

Experience some of the benefits of the Alexander Technique for yourself with this simple exercise to reset your breathing and calm your nervous system:

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique offers a holistic approach to improving natural breathing that goes beyond simply addressing the mechanics of respiration. By emphasizing poise, awareness, and the release of tension, this technique empowers students to tap into their body's inherent ability to breathe effortlessly and efficiently, and recognise the interference patterns that may be preventing it. Whether you are seeking relief from stress, looking to enhance your athletic performance, or simply aiming for a healthier and more relaxed way of life, the Alexander Technique can be a valuable tool in achieving natural, free-flowing breathing.

A woman enjoying free and easy breathing
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Finding Your Voice: Unleashing Confidence with the Alexander Technique in Public Speaking

Introduction

Public speaking and voice work can be intimidating for many individuals. Whether you're delivering a presentation, leading a meeting, or engaging in any form of verbal communication, the Alexander Technique offers valuable insights and practices to help you unlock your full potential. In this blog post, we'll explore how the Alexander Technique can enhance your public speaking and voice work, empowering you to express yourself with confidence, clarity, and authenticity.

 

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a method that focuses on improving posture, movement, and coordination. It was developed by F. Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor, in the late 19th century who was struggling with vocal issuies. The technique emphasizes the relationship between the head, neck, and spine and how t affects overall body alignment and movement.

Man Public speaking

Body Awareness and Posture

The Alexander Technique begins with body awareness, a key element in effective public speaking and voice work. By developing an understanding of your body's alignment and posture, you can create a foundation for optimal vocal projection and expression. The technique teaches you to align your head, neck, and spine, allowing your breath to flow freely and supporting a more powerful and resonant voice.

 

Vocal Presence and Projection

 The Alexander Technique emphasizes the importance of vocal presence and projection. Through the technique, you'll learn to access your natural voice, uncover its true potential, and project it effortlessly. By releasing unnecessary muscular tension and cultivating a relaxed yet energized state, you can tap into the full richness and clarity of your voice, capturing the attention and engagement of your audience.

 

Breath and Vocal Control

Breath is the foundation of effective communication. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to use your breath effectively, providing the necessary support for clear and controlled vocal delivery. By cultivating a conscious and connected breath, you can regulate the pace, volume, and tone of your voice, conveying your message with precision and impact.

 

Confidence and Stage Presence

Public speaking often triggers nervousness and stage fright. The Alexander Technique addresses these challenges by helping you cultivate a calm and centered state of mind. Through mindfulness practices, body awareness, and releasing tension, you can overcome performance anxiety and develop a confident stage presence. The technique empowers you to embrace the spotlight, connect with your audience, and deliver your message with authenticity and conviction.

 

Articulation and Clarity

Clear articulation is vital in public speaking and voice work. The Alexander Technique provides tools to enhance your articulatory skills, allowing you to enunciate words clearly and convey your ideas effectively. By promoting a relaxed jaw, open throat, and conscious tongue placement, you can improve your diction, pronunciation, and overall clarity of speech.

 

Non-Verbal Communication

Effective communication extends beyond words. The Alexander Technique helps you become more aware of your non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, and gestures. By aligning your body, cultivating ease and poise, and developing a heightened awareness of non-verbal signals, you can enhance your overall communication impact and connect more authentically with your audience.

woman public speaking

Preparation

Practical Tips for Integrating the Alexander Technique into Public Speaking and Voice Work: 

  1. Prepare Mindfully: Before any speaking engagement, take a moment to ground yourself and cultivate a calm mindset. Practice body scans to release tension and establish a centered presence.
  2. Balance Your Posture: Pay attention to your posture and balance your head, neck, and spine for optimal vocal projection. The classic reminder in the Alexander Technique is to "let your neck be free, to let your head go forward and up" 
  3. Engage Your Breath: Allow deep, diaphragmatic breathing to support your voice. Prioritize the exhalation phase, allowing your voice to ride on a steady and controlled airflow, and allow the in-breathe  to come it's own time. Let yourself be breathed in, the time that takes to happen will discourage rushing and the natural pauses we'll be easier on the audiences ear.
  4. Relax Jaw and Throat: Notice any tension in your jaw and throat and consciously release it. Allow your jaw to hang loosely, creating space for clear articulation and vocal resonance.
  5. Practice Vocal Exercises: Incorporate vocal warm-up exercises into your routine to loosen up your vocal apparatus, improve flexibility, and enhance vocal. The Alexander Technique procedure the Whispered Ah, and it's vocalised equivalent are particularly helpful.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Alexander Technique offers numerous benefits for public speakers, including improved posture, reduced performance anxiety, enhanced vocal technique, increased confidence and presence, and a stronger mind-body connection. By incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique into their practice, individuals can enhance their public speaking skills and deliver more engaging and impactful speeches.

Woman public speaking
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Managing Hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome with the Alexander Technique

Introduction

Hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) are conditions that affect the connective tissues in our bodies, leading to a range of physical challenges. Managing the symptoms and improving the quality of life for individuals with these conditions can be a complex task. One approach that has shown promise in helping those with hypermobility and EDS is the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we'll explore the benefits of the Alexander Technique for individuals living with hypermobility and EDS, shedding light on how this gentle practice can offer relief and support.

Understanding Hypermobility and EDS

Before delving into the Alexander Technique, it's crucial to grasp the nature of hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. 

 

Hypermobility is a condition where the joints have a greater range of motion than is typical. While it can be found in otherwise healthy individuals, it's also a common feature of EDS, a group of genetic connective tissue disorders. EDS can manifest in various ways, including joint hypermobility, skin that bruises easily, and a heightened risk of dislocations. Managing pain, fatigue, and physical limitations becomes a daily challenge for those with these conditions.

The Alexander Technique: An Overview

The Alexander Technique is a method that focuses on improving posture, movement, and overall body awareness. Developed by F.M. Alexander in the early 20th century, it has gained recognition for its ability to address a wide range of musculoskeletal issues, making it particularly beneficial for individuals with hypermobility and EDS.

 

The Alexander Technique has been shown to have positive effects on people with hypermobility and EDS. A study by Dr. Philip Bull found that people with hypermobility who took Alexander Technique lessons reported significant improvements in pain, disability, quality of life, anxiety, and depression. 

 

The Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises or a quick fix. It is a skill that you can learn from a qualified teacher in one-to-one lessons. The teacher will observe how you move, sit, stand, and lie down, and guide you with gentle touch and verbal instructions to help you discover a more natural and comfortable way of being. You will also learn how to apply the principles of the Alexander Technique to your daily life, so that you can benefit from it in any situation.

 

The Alexander Technique is a method of learning how to use your body more efficiently and with less tension. It teaches you how to become more aware of your posture, movement, and breathing, and how to change your habits that cause unnecessary strain on your joints and muscles. The Alexander Technique can help you to: 

  • Reduce pain and inflammation by improving your alignment and balance
  • Prevent injuries and complications by avoiding overstretching and stressing your joints
  • Increase your energy and stamina by using less effort and more coordination
  • Enhance your performance and well-being in any activity, such as sports, music, or work
woman experiencing shoulder pain from EDS/Hypermobilty

Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Hypermobility and EDS

The Alexander Technique can be especially beneficial for people with hypermobility/Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, as it can help them to develop strategies to deal with their condition and improve their quality of life. Here are some of the ways that the Alexander Technique can help:

  • How to be comfortable in your body, whether at rest or in movement: With hypermobile joints, sitting and standing often involve 'locking' joints at one end of their range of movement as a way of stabilising them. This is bad news for your ligaments and tendons, and actually weakens them over time. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to avoid the locking and yet be able to sit or stand comfortably, in balance, with much less effort.
  • How to prevent misuse and overuse - such as overstretching when doing exercises, or holding excessive muscular tension - and how to move with ease in daily life: The Alexander Technique helps you to become more aware of how you use your body and how you respond to stimuli. You can learn to avoid habits that cause strain and stress on your joints and muscles, such as overstretching when doing exercises, or holding excessive muscular tension in certain areas. You can also learn to move with more ease and fluidity in daily life, by using your whole body in a coordinated way.
  • How to improve your balance and coordination: As tension reduces, your balance and coordination can improve. The Alexander Technique helps you to develop a reliable body awareness, which can help you to sense where you are in space and how you are moving. You can also learn to use your eyes more effectively, which can help with spatial orientation.
  • How to improve your breathing: The Alexander Technique teaches you how to breathe more freely and naturally, by allowing your ribs and diaphragm to move without restriction. This can improve your oxygen intake and circulation, as well as reduce anxiety and stress.
  • How to cope better with pain and fatigue: The Alexander Technique can help you to manage pain and fatigue by giving you tools to relax your mind and body, such as lying down in a semi-supine position with your head supported by books. This practice can help you to release tension, restore energy and calm your nervous system. You can also learn to use constructive thinking to change your attitude towards pain and fatigue, and find ways to cope better with them. The charity Ehlers-Danlos Support UK recommends trying the Alexander Technique as a pain management tool.

For more on on the Alexander Technique this is an informative talk at The Ehlers-Danlos Society's 2019 conference:

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique offers a holistic and gentle approach to improving the lives of individuals with hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. By focusing on posture, body awareness, muscle tension, and coordination, this technique can help manage pain, increase mobility, and enhance overall well-being. While it may not be a cure, the Alexander Technique can be a valuable addition to the toolkit of those living with these conditions, offering a path to a more comfortable and functional life. If you or a loved one is dealing with hypermobility or EDS, consider exploring the benefits of the Alexander Technique with a certified practitioner to discover the positive impact it can have on your quality of life.

woman experiencing lower back pain from EDS/Hypermobility
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Relieving Chronic Joint Pain with the Alexander Technique

Joint pain is a common problem that affects many people, especially those with arthritis. It can limit your mobility, affect your mood, and interfere with your daily activities. But what if there was a way to reduce your pain and improve your quality of life without medication or surgery?

 

If you suffer from joint pain, you may have tried different treatments, such as medication, surgery, physiotherapy, or alternative therapies. However, some of these treatments may not be effective, have side effects, or require ongoing use. You may also feel frustrated, hopeless, or depressed about your condition.

 

But there is a way to relieve your joint pain that does not involve drugs, invasive procedures, or expensive equipment. It is called the Alexander Technique, and it is a simple yet powerful method that teaches you how to improve your posture and movement, reduce tension and stress, and enhance your overall health and well-being.

 

The Alexander Technique is a method of learning how to move, sit, stand, and breathe with more ease and efficiency. It teaches you to be more aware of your posture, balance, and coordination, and to release unnecessary tension in your muscles and joints. By doing so, you can prevent or relieve problems caused by poor habits that put stress on your body.

Man with hip pain

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a form of education that helps you become more aware of your body, how you move, sit, stand, and breathe. It was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor who suffered from chronic voice problems and respiratory issues. He discovered that his habits of tension and misuse of his body were affecting his voice and health. He also realized that by changing his habits and improving his alignment and coordination, he could restore his natural functioning and heal himself.

 

The Alexander Technique is based on four key principles:

  1. How you move, sit, and stand affects how well you function.
  2. The relationship of the head, neck, and spine is fundamental to your ability to function optimally.
  3. Becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to make changes and gain benefit.
  4. The mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other.

 The Alexander Technique is taught by a qualified teacher in one-to-one lessons. The teacher will observe your movements and posture and use gentle verbal and hands-on guidance to help you release unnecessary tension and find a more balanced and efficient way of using your body. You will also learn some simple exercises that you can practice at home to reinforce the changes.

 

The Alexander Technique is not a quick fix or a cure for joint pain. It is a learning process that requires your active participation and commitment, a skill that you can learn from a qualified teacher in one-to-one lessons. The teacher will observe your movements and guide you with gentle touch and verbal instructions. You will learn how to apply the principles of the Technique to your everyday activities, such as walking, sitting, working, or exercising. By applying the principles of the Technique to your everyday life, you can improve your condition and experience less pain and more ease.

Elderly lady with hip pain.

Studying the Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Joint Pain

A study conducted in 1988 surveyed chronic pain sufferers who had tried various methods to relieve their pain. The study found that the Alexander Technique was chosen as the number one pain management method by the participants. A year after the study was completed, they still chose it as the best way to reduce pain. According to PhysicalTherapy.org, some of the observed clinical benefits of learning the Technique include: 

  • a simple method of moving while protecting joints
  • improved posture with a subjective feeling of support and lightness
  • more freedom of movement without exceeding the margins of joint safety
  • confidence in one's ability to move with greater ease 

The Alexander Technique can help you relieve joint pain by: 

  1. Improving your posture and alignment: Poor posture can cause or worsen joint pain by putting excess pressure on your joints, muscles, nerves, and organs. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to align your head, neck, and spine in a way that supports your natural structure and allows for free movement.
  2. Reducing tension and stress: Tension and stress can trigger or amplify joint pain by causing muscle spasms, inflammation, reduced blood flow, and impaired healing. The Alexander Technique helps you release unnecessary tension from your body and mind by teaching you how to relax and breathe more efficiently.
  3. Increasing awareness and control: Joint pain can make you feel helpless and hopeless about your situation. The Alexander Technique helps you increase your awareness of your body and how it reacts to pain. It also gives you more control over your movements and habits by teaching you how to make conscious choices that benefit your health.
  4. Enhancing self-care and coping skills: Joint pain can affect your mood, self-esteem, relationships, work performance, and enjoyment of life. The AlexanderTechnique helps you enhance your self-care and coping skills by teaching you how to take responsibility for your own well-being, cope with challenges, and find pleasure in everyday activities.

The NHS also states that there is evidence suggesting that the Technique can help people with back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, Parkinson's disease, and respiratory conditions. The Technique can also enhance performance and prevent injury in music, drama, sport, and business.

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique is a safe and natural way to relieve your joint pain. It can help you improve your posture, reduce tension, increase awareness, and enhance your quality of life. By learning and applying the principles of the Technique, you can make positive changes in your body and mind that will last a lifetime. It can also improve your overall well-being and happiness. Why not give it a try and see what it can do for you?

 

The Alexander Technique is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any health concerns or questions, please consult your doctor before starting any new exercise or therapy.

man with shoulder pain
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Parkinson's: How the Alexander Technique Can Help You Cope

"The only therapy recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Evidence (NICE) is the Alexander Technique to help day-to-day movement for people with Parkinson’s."

Parkinson’s UK Policy Statement Complementary and Alternative Medicines and Therapies 

Introduction

Living with Parkinson's disease can present numerous challenges, affecting one's posture, movement, and overall quality of life. However, a promising approach that has gained attention for its potential benefits in managing Parkinson's symptoms is the Alexander Technique. Rooted in mindful awareness and body re-education, this technique offers a holistic way to enhance mobility, reduce muscle tension, and improve daily functioning for individuals dealing with Parkinson's. The Alexander Technique can help you carry out everyday tasks more easily and effectively, as well as giving you the tools for self-management and self-care.

 

The Alexander Technique is based on the principle that how you move, sit, and stand affects how well you function. By becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities, you can learn to avoid habits that interfere with your natural balance and coordination. You can also learn to respond to challenges with more ease and flexibility, rather than with rigidity and strain. It compliments other treatments well and is not intended as an alternative to medical care.

 

The Alexander Technique is endorsed by both the NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a valuable approach to manage Parkinson's symptoms and enhance overall quality of life.

Woman walking aided by the Alexander Technique

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational method that teaches individuals to become more aware of their body's posture and movement patterns. Developed by F. Matthias Alexander in the late 19th century, the technique aims to retrain the body to move with greater ease and efficiency. This can be particularly beneficial for those with Parkinson's, as the disease often leads to involuntary muscle stiffness and rigidity. 

 

The Alexander Technique is taught by a qualified teacher in one-to-one lessons, usually lasting 30 to 45 minutes. The teacher will observe your movements and show you how to move, sit, lie down, and stand with better alignment and less effort. They will use gentle hands-on guidance and verbal coaching to help you release excess muscle tension and improve your relationship between your head, neck, and spine. You will also learn how to apply the principles of the technique to any activity you want to improve, such as walking, lifting, gardening, writing, or speaking.

Clinical Research

The Alexander Technique is not a quick fix or a cure for Parkinson's. It is a skill that requires practice and commitment. However, research has shown that it can provide significant and lasting benefits for people with Parkinson's. A randomized controlled trial of the Alexander Technique for idiopathic Parkinson's disease by The School of Integrated Medicine, London University of Westminster⁵ found that people who received 24 lessons in the technique improved their ability to carry out everyday activities compared with those who received usual medical care or massage. They also reported less depression, better self-image, and lower medication dose. These benefits were maintained at six-month follow-up.

 

Benefits reported by participants included:

  • Reduced tremors
  • Improved balance and posture
  • Improved walking
  • Improved speech
  • reduced medication
  • Improved self confidence
  • They felt more positive and less stressed
Man walking with the aid of two walking sticks

More on the Benefits of Alexander Lessons

  • Enhancing Body Awareness: One of the primary benefits of the Alexander Technique is its focus on enhancing body awareness. Individuals with Parkinson's often struggle with maintaining proper posture and balance due to motor control issues. Through the technique, practitioners learn to become more conscious of their movements and make adjustments to reduce muscle tension. This newfound awareness can lead to improved posture and coordination, helping individuals regain a sense of control over their body.
  • Reducing Muscle Tension and Rigidity: Parkinson's disease can result in muscle stiffness and rigidity, making even simple tasks challenging. The Alexander Technique teaches individuals how to release unnecessary muscle tension and move more freely. By promoting relaxation and efficient use of muscles, practitioners may experience a reduction in the physical discomfort associated with Parkinson's, allowing them to engage in daily activities more comfortably.
  • Improving Balance and Coordination: Loss of balance and coordination is a common issue for those with Parkinson's. The Alexander Technique focuses on aligning the body properly, which can lead to improved balance and coordination. By retraining the body's movement patterns, individuals may find it easier to maintain stability and navigate their surroundings with greater confidence.
  • Enhancing Breathing and Vocalization: Parkinson's can also impact vocal quality and breathing patterns. The Alexander Technique emphasizes proper breathing techniques and encourages relaxation of the neck and throat muscles. This can lead to improved vocal projection and clarity, benefiting communication for those with Parkinson's. Additionally, proper breathing techniques can have a positive impact on overall well-being and stress reduction.
  • Cultivating Mind-Body Connection: Living with Parkinson's can be emotionally and mentally challenging. The Alexander Technique promotes a mind-body connection that fosters self-awareness, mindfulness, and stress reduction. Practitioners develop a heightened sense of how their body responds to various stimuli, enabling them to better manage stress, anxiety, and emotional well-being.
  • Complementary Approach to Medical Treatment: It's important to note that the Alexander Technique is not a replacement for medical treatment for Parkinson's disease. However, it can serve as a complementary approach to conventional therapies. Integrating the technique into an individual's treatment plan can enhance the overall management of symptoms and contribute to a better quality of life.

A Patients Perspective

At the conclusion of Harry's lesson, we spontaneously recorded a demonstration of his improved balance. Before starting the lessons, Harry struggled to rise onto his toes while maintaining balance. This basic balance assessment was a part of his routine evaluation by his Parkinson's medical support team. Harry was elated to discover that he could now perform this test effortlessly.

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique offers a holistic and empowering approach for individuals living with Parkinson's disease. By promoting body awareness, reducing muscle tension, improving balance and coordination, and fostering a mind-body connection, this technique has the potential to enhance daily functioning and overall well-being. While it may not be a cure, it can serve as a valuable tool in managing the challenges that Parkinson's presents, allowing individuals to regain a sense of control and confidence in their bodies.

 

In summary, the Alexander Technique can be an effective way for people living with Parkinson's to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. The randomized controlled trial conducted by The School of Integrated Medicine, London University of Westminster, provides evidence that Alexander Technique lessons can lead to an increased ability to carry out everyday activities 

 

The Alexander Technique is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have Parkinson's or any other health condition, you should consult your doctor before starting any new therapy or exercise program.

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Exploring the Core Principles of the Alexander Technique for Enhanced Well-Being

In the pursuit of holistic well-being and improved physical performance, numerous methods and techniques have emerged to help individuals tap into their body's innate potential. One such approach is the Alexander Technique, a method that focuses on re-educating the body's movement patterns and fostering mindfulness in daily activities. Rooted in a deep understanding of the body-mind connection, the Alexander Technique provides a comprehensive framework for self-improvement by addressing several key principles: Primary Control, Inhibition, Direction, End-gaining, Means-Whereby, and Positions of Mechanical Advantage.

 

The Alexander Technique is based on the idea that we often develop habits of tension and misuse that interfere with our natural functioning and cause various problems, such as pain, stiffness, fatigue and stress. By becoming more conscious of how we use our bodies and minds, we can learn to change these habits and restore our innate ability to move with ease and efficiency.

woman going to sit down
Sitting and standing are commonly used in Alexander lessons to explore the quality of functional movement

Primary Control

At the heart of the Alexander Technique lies the concept of Primary Control. This refers to the harmonious coordination of the head, neck, and back—a central axis that governs our overall posture and movement. By cultivating awareness and mastery over this core relationship, individuals can experience a natural sense of balance and poise.

 

This relationship affects the functioning of the whole body, as it determines the balance of the head on the spine, the length and width of the back, and the freedom of the limbs. When the primary control is working well, the head is poised lightly on top of the spine, allowing the neck to be free and the back to lengthen and widen. This creates a state of dynamic equilibrium, where the body is supported by its own structure and not by muscular tension.

Psycho-physical Unity

Psycho-physical Unity, in the context of the Alexander Technique, refers to the inherent interconnectedness of the mind and body. This concept suggests that mental and physical aspects are not separate entities but are instead intertwined and influence each other in a holistic manner. The Alexander Technique recognizes that thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations are all part of a unified experience, and that changes in one aspect can lead to changes in the other.

 

Overall, psycho-physical unity in the Alexander Technique underscores the importance of cultivating a harmonious relationship between the mind and body. By recognizing the interconnectedness of mental and physical aspects, individuals can work toward greater self-awareness, improved movement patterns, and enhanced overall well-being.

Inhibition

Inhibition, within the context of the Alexander Technique, is about pausing before responding. It involves suspending habitual reactions to stimuli and giving oneself the opportunity to make conscious choices. This principle helps individuals avoid falling into repetitive patterns of movement and thought, allowing for the possibility of more efficient and graceful responses.

 

For example, if we feel stressed or anxious, we may tend to tighten our shoulders, hold our breath or clench our jaws. By inhibiting these reactions, we can prevent unnecessary tension and choose a more constructive way of dealing with the situation.

man sitting down with poor coordination
Raised arms indicates a lack of balance and coordination

Direction

Direction refers to the conscious intention to redirect one's body towards ease and balance. By gently guiding the body's movements and aligning them with the Primary Control, individuals can avoid unnecessary tension and stress. Direction enhances coordination and fluidity in daily activities, making tasks feel less taxing and more enjoyable.

 

For example, we can direct ourselves to allow our neck to be free, our head to go forward and up, and our back to lengthen and widen. Direction is not about doing or forcing something, but rather about allowing or permitting something to happen.

End-Gaining

One of the common obstacles to applying inhibition and direction is end-gaining, which means focusing on achieving a goal or result without paying attention to the means or process of getting there. End-gaining often leads to rushing, overdoing or compromising our quality of movement. For example, if we want to reach for something on a high shelf, we may end up stretching our arm, lifting our shoulder or arching our back in an awkward way. To avoid end-gaining, we need to use the means-whereby, which means considering how we are going to do something before we do it. The means-whereby involves using inhibition and direction to plan and execute our actions in a more efficient and comfortable way.

The process of getting to the chair is more important than the arriving on the chair!
The process of getting to the chair is more important than the arriving on the chair!

Means-Whereby

To avoid end-gaining, we need to use the means-whereby, which means considering how we are going to do something before we do it. The means-whereby involves using inhibition and direction to plan and execute our actions in a more efficient and comfortable way. The Means-Whereby principle encourages individuals to prioritize the process rather than the outcome. It highlights the importance of understanding how we achieve our goals—emphasizing that the manner in which we perform tasks can greatly impact our overall well-being. By cultivating awareness of the means employed, we can refine our actions for increased efficiency and comfort.

Positions of Mechanical Advantage

Positions of Mechanical Advantage involve arranging one's body in ways that leverage its natural design for maximum efficiency. This principle recognizes that certain positions can minimize strain on muscles and joints, allowing the body to function optimally. It's about finding the most effortless way to engage in daily activities by utilizing the body's built-in mechanics.

 

Incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique into daily life can lead to a range of benefits, including improved posture, enhanced body awareness, reduced stress, and increased overall vitality. Whether you're an athlete striving for peak performance, an artist aiming for greater creative freedom, or an individual seeking relief from chronic pain, the Alexander Technique offers a valuable toolkit for self-improvement.

 sitting down with good coordination
Anywhere on the way to the chair should be a position of mechanical advantage

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique provides a comprehensive approach to cultivating a more harmonious relationship between body and mind. By embracing the principles of Primary Control, Inhibition, Direction, End-gaining, Means-Whereby, and Positions of Mechanical Advantage, individuals can unlock their body's natural potential for fluid, efficient, and mindful movement. This technique is not just a method; it's a way of life that fosters lifelong well-being and self-discovery.

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Discover Lasting Relief: Alexander Technique for Back Pain, Backed by the ATEAM Clinical Trial

Are you tired of living with chronic back pain that affects your daily life and well-being? The Alexander Technique offers a proven solution for long-lasting relief. Backed by the ATEAM clinical trial conducted by Southampton University in 2008, this holistic approach to managing back pain has garnered recognition and trust from both healthcare professionals and individuals seeking effective pain management. In this article, we will explore how the Alexander Technique, supported by the ATEAM trial, can transform lives by alleviating back pain.

The ATEAM Clinical Trial: Validating the Benefits

The 2008 ATEAM Clinical Trial,  conducted by renowned researchers at Southampton University, found that the Alexander Technique can help relieve chronic and recurrent back pain. The trial involved 579 patients with chronic or recurrent low back pain who were randomly assigned to one of four groups: normal care (control), six sessions of massage, six or 24 lessons on the Alexander technique, and prescription for exercise from a doctor with nurse delivered behavioural counselling. The results showed that exercise and lessons in the Alexander technique, but not massage, remained effective at one year compared with control.

Notable Findings and Results

  1. Significant and Long-Term Pain Relief: The ATEAM trial demonstrated that individuals who received Alexander Technique lessons experienced significant and lasting pain relief compared to other treatment groups. This groundbreaking finding indicates that the Alexander Technique provides tangible and long-lasting benefits, offering a potential solution for chronic back pain sufferers.
  2. Improved Function and Quality of Life: In addition to pain reduction, participants in the Alexander Technique group reported improved physical functioning and enhanced quality of life. They demonstrated increased mobility, better posture, and an overall improvement in their ability to carry out daily activities. This positive impact on functionality enables individuals to regain control over their bodies and enhance their overall well-being.
  3. Empowering Self-Management Skills: One of the core principles of the Alexander Technique is empowering individuals with self-management skills. Participants in the Alexander Technique group learned how to recognize and prevent harmful movement and postural habits that contribute to back pain. By cultivating body awareness and conscious adjustments to movement and posture, individuals were able to actively manage their condition, fostering independence and self-efficacy.
  4. Reduced Reliance on Healthcare Visits: The ATEAM trial revealed that individuals who received Alexander Technique lessons had significantly fewer visits to healthcare practitioners for their back pain compared to other groups. This finding suggests that the Alexander Technique's long-term benefits not only contribute to pain reduction but also result in reduced healthcare costs associated with back pain management.
women with lower back pain

Why Choose the Alexander Technique?

 The Alexander Technique stands out as a holistic and evidence-based approach to back pain management. By enrolling in Alexander Technique lessons, you gain access to: 

  1. Skilled and Certified Instructors: Certified Alexander Technique teachers are trained to guide individuals in developing body awareness, making necessary postural adjustments, and managing pain effectively.
  2. Long-Term Relief: The ATEAM trial demonstrates that the Alexander Technique offers lasting pain relief, allowing you to experience freedom from chronic back pain and improve your overall quality of life.
  3. Empowerment and Self-Management: By learning the Alexander Technique, you gain the skills to take an active role in managing your back pain, providing a sense of control and self-efficacy.
  4. Individualized Approach: Each individual's experience of back pain is unique, and the Alexander Technique caters to your specific needs, addressing your unique movement patterns and postural habits.

Conclusion

Don't let back pain control your life any longer. With the Alexander Technique, supported by the ATEAM clinical trial, you have the opportunity to find lasting relief, improve functionality, and regain control over your well-being. Certified Alexander Technique teachers are ready to guide you on this transformative journey, empowering you to live a pain-free and fulfilling life. Take the first step towards a healthier back and a brighter future by embracing the proven benefits of the Alexander Technique.

man with lower back pain
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How To Manage Chronic Pain with the Alexander Technique

Chronic pain is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by various factors, such as injury, illness, stress, or poor posture. Chronic pain can have a negative impact on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, affecting your quality of life and your ability to perform daily activities.

 

If you suffer from chronic pain, you may have tried different treatments, such as medication, surgery, physiotherapy, or alternative therapies. However, some of these treatments may not be effective, have side effects, or require ongoing use. You may also feel frustrated, hopeless, or depressed about your condition.

 

But there is a way to manage your chronic pain that does not involve drugs, invasive procedures, or expensive equipment. It is called the Alexander technique, and it is a simple yet powerful method that teaches you how to improve your posture and movement, reduce tension and stress, and enhance your overall health and well-being.

man with neck and shoulder pain

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander technique is a form of education that helps you become more aware of your body, how you move, sit, stand, and breathe. It was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor who suffered from chronic voice problems and respiratory issues. He discovered that his habits of tension and misuse of his body were affecting his voice and health. He also realized that by changing his habits and improving his alignment and coordination, he could restore his natural functioning and heal himself.

 

The Alexander technique is based on four key principles:

  • How you move, sit, and stand affects how well you function.
  • The relationship of the head, neck, and spine is fundamental to your ability to function optimally.
  • Becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to make changes and gain benefit.
  • The mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other.

 The Alexander technique is taught by a qualified teacher in one-to-one lessons. The teacher will observe your movements and posture and use gentle verbal and hands-on guidance to help you release unnecessary tension and find a more balanced and efficient way of using your body. You will also learn some simple exercises that you can practice at home to reinforce the changes.

 

The Alexander technique is not a quick fix or a cure for chronic pain. It is a lifelong learning process that requires your active participation and commitment. However, by applying the principles of the technique to your everyday life, you can gradually improve your condition and experience less pain and more ease.  

woman with lower back pain

What are the Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Chronic Pain?

There is scientific evidence that supports the effectiveness of the Alexander technique for chronic pain. A [randomised controlled trial](^2^) published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 found that one-to-one lessons in the Alexander technique had long-term benefits for patients with chronic back pain. The study involved 579 patients who were randomly assigned to receive either normal care (control), massage therapy, six or 24 lessons in the Alexander technique, or exercise prescription with nurse-delivered behavioural counselling. The results showed that: 

  • Exercise and lessons in the Alexander technique, but not massage therapy, remained effective at one year.
  • Six lessons followed by exercise prescription achieved 72% of the effect of 24 lessons alone.
  • Number of days with back pain in the past four weeks was lower after lessons.
  • Quality of life improved significantly. 

Another study conducted in 1988 by British researchers surveyed 1,600 chronic pain sufferers who had tried various methods to relieve their pain. The study found that the Alexander technique was chosen as the number one pain management method by the participants. A year after the study was completed, they still chose it as the best way to reduce pain.

 

The Alexander technique can help you manage chronic pain by: 

  1. Improving your posture and alignment: Poor posture can cause or worsen chronic pain by putting excess pressure on your joints, muscles, nerves, and organs. The Alexander technique teaches you how to align your head, neck, and spine in a way that supports your natural structure and allows for free movement. 
  2. Reducing tension and stress: Tension and stress can trigger or amplify chronic pain by causing muscle spasms, inflammation, reduced blood flow, and impaired healing. The Alexander technique helps you release unnecessary tension from your body and mind by teaching you how to relax and breathe more efficiently. 
  3. Increasing awareness and control: Chronic pain can make you feel helpless and hopeless about your situation. The Alexander technique helps you increase your awareness of your body and how it reacts to pain. It also gives you more control over your movements and habits by teaching you how to make conscious choices that benefit your health.
  4. Enhancing self-care and coping skills: Chronic pain can affect your mood, self-esteem, relationships, work performance, and enjoyment of life. The Alexander technique helps you enhance your self-care and coping skills by teaching you how to take responsibility for your own well-being, cope with challenges, and find pleasure in everyday activities.

How to Learn the Alexander Technique?

If you are interested in learning the Alexander technique, you can find a qualified teacher near you by visiting the website of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) or the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT).  It is also possible to take online lessons.

 

The number of lessons you need will depend on your individual needs and goals. However, most teachers recommend that you take at least 10 lessons to learn the basic concepts and skills of the technique. 

 

The Alexander technique is a safe and natural way to manage your chronic pain. It can help you improve your posture, reduce tension, increase awareness, and enhance your quality of life. By learning and applying the principles of the technique, you can make positive changes in your body and mind that will last a lifetime.

man with shoulder pain
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How the Alexander Technique Can Help You Play Better Music

If you are an instrumental musician, you know how demanding and complex your physical movements are. Whether you play the guitar, bass, violin, the piano, or any other instrument, you need to coordinate your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, head, torso, legs, and breath in a precise and harmonious way. You also need to cope with the pressure of performing in front of an audience, which can cause anxiety and tension.

 

But what if there was a way to improve your tension control, your posture, your breathing, your coordination, and your confidence as a musician? What if you could learn to play with more ease, fluidity, and expressiveness? What if you could prevent or recover from injuries caused by repetitive strain or misuse of your body?

 

This is where the Alexander Technique comes in. The Alexander Technique is a method of kinesthetic re-education that teaches you how to use your body more efficiently and effectively. It helps you become more aware of your habits of movement and posture, and how they affect your performance. It also helps you change those habits by giving you the tools to inhibit unwanted tension and direct your energy in a constructive way.

 

The Alexander Technique was developed by F. M. Alexander, an actor who suffered from vocal problems that threatened his career. He discovered that his voice improved when he stopped interfering with his natural balance and coordination. He then applied his findings to other aspects of his life, and developed a system of principles and procedures that can benefit anyone who wants to improve their functioning.

 

The Alexander Technique has a long history of helping instrumentalists and singers to perform with less stress and likelihood of injury. Some of the prominent musicians who have publicly endorsed the Alexander Technique are Paul McCartney, Sting, Robert Fripp, Julian Bream and  Yehudi Menuhin. The Technique is taught at many prestigious schools of music around the world.

 

The benefits of the Alexander Technique for musicians are manifold. Here are some of them:

  • Improved posture and alignment: The Alexander Technique helps you find your natural balance and alignment, which allows you to play with more freedom and comfort. You learn to avoid slouching, hunching, twisting, or stiffening your body, which can interfere with your sound production and cause pain or injury.
  • Improved coordination: The Alexander Technique helps you coordinate your whole body as a unit, which allows you to play with more fluidity and accuracy. You learn to avoid isolating or overworking certain parts of your body, such as your fingers, wrists, elbows, or shoulders, which can cause fatigue or strain.
  • Improved breathing: The Alexander Technique helps you breathe more deeply and naturally, which enhances your tone quality and stamina. You learn to avoid holding your breath, gasping, or forcing your breath, which can affect your pitch, rhythm, and expression.
  • Improved expression: The Alexander Technique helps you play with more sensitivity and creativity, which allows you to convey your musical intentions more effectively. You learn to avoid inhibiting or suppressing your emotions, which can affect your dynamics, articulation, and phrasing.
  • Reduced anxiety: The Alexander Technique helps you cope with the stress and pressure of performing in front of an audience, which allows you to play with more confidence and enjoyment. You learn to avoid reacting negatively to external stimuli, such as noise, criticism, or expectations, which can affect your concentration, memory, and mood.

If you are interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique and how it can help you as a musician, you can visit the Society for Teachers of the Alexander Technique. You can also find a qualified teacher near you who can guide you through the process of learning the Technique.

 

The Alexander Technique is not a quick fix or a magic bullet. It is a lifelong journey of self-discovery and improvement. But if you are willing to invest some time and effort into it, you will be rewarded with a better quality of life and a better quality of music.

Effortless Guitar

If you specifically play guitar or bass, Effortless Guitar by Adrian Farrell is a book that teaches guitarists how to play with less tension, pain, and effort, and improve their posture, performance, and technique. It is based on the principles of the Alexander Technique. The book also includes six hours of bonus video lectures and masterclasses to help guitarists visualize and apply the concepts in the book.

 

The book covers topics such as:

  • How to reduce tension and effort in playing
  • How to improve postural understanding and positioning
  • How to manage emotion and stage fright
  • How to use the body's natural mechanics
  • How to develop speed and technique effectively
  • How to practice safely and healthily
  • How to overcome and prevent playing-related injuries
  • How to deepen the relationship with the instrument

The book also covers key electric guitar techniques, such as string bending, barre chords, legato, alternate picking, sweep picking, and more. It teaches guitarists how to execute these techniques with elegance and minimal effort.

 

The book is suitable for anyone who is serious about guitar playing, whether they have any pre-existing injuries or not. It is a breakthrough in guitar education, dispelling myths and misinformation that have caused many players' careers and progress to be cut short. The book is available from Amazon for Kindle or in paperback, and soon to be available as an audiobook.

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How You Can Work Better and Feel Better at Your Computer with the Alexander Technique

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.

 

Woman sat at a computer with good posture

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 without strain and back tension
  • Allow the joints to expand rather than compress
  • Release excess neck tension and allow the head to balance and move freely
  • Breathe more deeply and freely
  • Use your hands and arms with less effort and more dexterity
  • Balance your attention between the screen and your surroundings
  • Reduce stress and increase awareness

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.

Man sat at a computer with good posture

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. The guarantees come from your behaviour.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Learning the Whispered Ah in the Alexander Technique 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.

Conclusion

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 contact me, or visit the official website of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT). 

woman sat at a computer with good posture
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How to Change Your Habits with the Alexander Technique

Do you have habits that cause you unnecessary tension, pain or stress? Do you slouch, hunch your shoulders, or hold your breath when you're anxious or busy? Do you wish you could move more freely, gracefully and efficiently in your daily activities?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from learning the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is a skill for self-development that teaches you how to change long-standing habits that interfere with your natural posture, movement and breathing. It can help you improve your performance in any activity, from sports and music to work and leisure, and relieve the discomfort caused by poor alignment and coordination.

sitting with good and bad postural habits

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is based on the principle that the way you use your body affects how well you function.  Developed by F. Matthias Alexander, the Alexander Technique is an educational process that teaches individuals to release unnecessary muscular tension, improve their posture, and move with greater ease. It offers a unique approach to self-improvement by addressing the underlying patterns of thought and movement that contribute to inefficient habits and physical discomfort.

 

Through the Alexander Technique, individuals learn to develop conscious awareness and become more attuned to their mind-body connection. By re-educating their habits, practitioners can experience improved coordination, balance, and overall well-being.

 

The Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises or rules to follow, but a process of becoming more aware of your body and how you use it in everything you do. It helps you identify and release the unnecessary tension that you may have developed over time, and that may be affecting your balance, flexibility, breathing and overall well-being.

 

The Alexander Technique also helps you establish a better relationship between your head, neck and spine, which is fundamental to your optimal functioning. By learning to align your head with your spine in a balanced way, you can prevent or reduce the pressure on your joints, muscles and organs, and allow your natural support system to work more efficiently.

The Intersection of Habit and the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique recognizes that our habits are deeply intertwined with our physical and mental well-being. It understands that our habitual responses often contribute to postural misalignment, tension, and limited movement possibilities. By examining our habits and cultivating mindfulness, we can interrupt these ingrained patterns and create new, more beneficial ones.

 

Here are a few ways the Alexander Technique can help harness the power of habit:

  1. Body Awareness: The Alexander Technique teaches us to be more aware of our bodies in motion. By developing a heightened sense of body awareness, we can recognize and address harmful habits such as slouching, tensing the shoulders, or shallow breathing. Through mindful observation, we gain the power to replace old patterns with healthier alternatives.
  2. Release of Tension: Habitual patterns of tension can lead to chronic discomfort and restricted movement. The Alexander Technique emphasizes releasing unnecessary muscular tension, allowing for more efficient movement and improved posture. By consciously letting go of tension, we create space for new, healthier habits to emerge.
  3. Mindful Movement: Through the Alexander Technique, individuals learn to move with greater mindfulness and intention. By slowing down and paying attention to the quality of their movements, practitioners can break free from unconscious habits that contribute to strain and fatigue. Mindful movement enables us to make conscious choices and establish new patterns that promote optimal functioning.
  4. Stress Reduction: Habits and stress often go hand in hand. Stressful situations can trigger habitual responses that heighten tension and perpetuate harmful patterns. The Alexander Technique offers practical tools for managing stress, helping individuals respond to challenging situations with poise and composure. By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of stress, the technique enables a more balanced and relaxed state.

How do you learn the Alexander Technique?

The best way to learn the Alexander Technique is to have one-to-one lessons with a qualified teacher. A teacher will observe your posture and movement, and use gentle hands-on guidance and verbal instructions to help you become more aware of your habits and how to change them. A teacher will also show you how to apply the principles of the technique to various activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, typing, playing an instrument, etc.

 

You may need a number of lessons to learn the basic concepts of the technique and how to apply them to your daily life. The number of lessons depends on your individual needs and goals, but usually around 20 or more weekly lessons are recommended. You may notice some improvement in your symptoms or performance fairly soon after starting the lessons, but it may take some time to see the full benefits of the technique.

 

The ultimate aim of learning the Alexander Technique is to become more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities, and to be able to make conscious choices about how you use your body. This way, you can gain more control over your habits, and enjoy more ease, comfort and freedom in everything you do.

What are the benefits of the Alexander Technique?

There is evidence suggesting that the Alexander Technique can help people with a wide range of health conditions, such as: 

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Headaches
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

The Alexander Technique can also help improve your performance in various fields, such as:

  • Sports
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Drama
  • Public speaking
  • Education
  • Work

By learning the Alexander Technique, you can:

  1. Improve your posture and alignment
  2. Increase your mobility and flexibility
  3. Enhance your balance and coordination
  4. Breathe more easily and deeply
  5. Reduce tension and fatigue
  6. Boost your confidence and self-esteem
  7. Prevent or recover from injuries
  8. Develop more awareness and creativity

 

Conclusion

The power of habit is a remarkable force that shapes our lives, often without our conscious awareness. The Alexander Technique provides a valuable framework for understanding and transforming these habits, leading to improved posture, enhanced movement, and increased well-being. By cultivating body awareness, releasing tension, and moving mindfully, we can tap into our true potential and experience the transformative power of conscious habits. Embracing the Alexander Technique as a holistic practice can bring about profound positive changes in our lives, ultimately empowering us to live more fully and authentically.

bad and good postural habits
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The Alexander Technique: Why Celebrities Love It

Have you ever wondered how celebrities manage to look so poised, confident and graceful on the red carpet, on stage or on screen? How do they cope with the stress, pressure and demands of their profession? How do they avoid injuries, pain and fatigue from performing repetitive or strenuous tasks?

 

One of the secrets that many celebrities swear by is the Alexander Technique, a method of improving posture, movement and breathing that has been around for over a century. The Alexander Technique is not a form of exercise, therapy or meditation, but rather a way of learning to use your body and mind more efficiently and naturally. It teaches you to become aware of your habits and patterns of tension that interfere with your performance and well-being, and to replace them with more ease, balance and coordination. 

Benefits for Performers

Today, the Alexander Technique is widely used by actors, singers, musicians, dancers and athletes who want to enhance their skills, prevent injuries and express themselves more fully. Some of the celebrities who have trained in or used the Alexander Technique include Margo Robbie, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Radcliffe, Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere, Joanna Lumley, Sir Paul McCartney, William Hurt, Pierce Brosnan, Sting, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jennifer Saunders, Ruby Wax, John Cleese, Robin Williams, Judi Dench and Keanu Reeves. They have praised the technique for helping them with various aspects of their work and life, such as: 

  1. Enhanced Performance: Celebrities, especially actors, singers, and dancers, depend on their bodies and voices to perform at their best. The Alexander Technique's emphasis on proper alignment and breathing techniques helps enhance their physical and vocal capabilities, leading to improved performances.
  2. Stress Reduction: Leading a celebrity lifestyle often involves high-pressure environments, demanding schedules, and media scrutiny. The Alexander Technique's mindfulness and relaxation techniques provide valuable tools for managing stress and maintaining composure.
  3. Injury Prevention and Recovery: For celebrities, injuries can result in costly production delays and canceled tours, affecting both their careers and finances. The Alexander Technique's focus on body awareness and gentle movements aids in preventing injuries and can also support rehabilitation after accidents.
  4. Ageless Grace: Celebrities are under constant pressure to maintain their youthful appearance. The Alexander Technique promotes natural poise and balance, contributing to an ageless and graceful presence, which is highly desirable in the public eye.

Notable Celebrity Advocates

Several well-known personalities have publicly endorsed the Alexander Technique and attributed their success, health, and personal growth to its practice. 

  1. Hugh Jackman: The talented actor best known for his portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men series has spoken openly about how the Alexander Technique helped him maintain the physical demands of his action-packed roles. 
  2. Victoria Beckham: The Spice Girl and fashion designer hit the mainstream news in 2009 after it was revealed she was taking Alexander Technique lessons. She had become concerned that in photos she looked slouched, had a hunched-back posture and rounded shoulders. Years of wearing high heels had also taken their toll. She became a devout student practicing on a daily basis.
  3. Sting: Being both a singer and a bass player is physically and mentally demanding, Sting found his Alexander Technique lessons so useful that he even took his teacher on tour with him to help him with the rigors of being a touring musician and performer.
  4. Madonna: As a pop icon and performer, Madonna has relied on the Alexander Technique to improve her stage presence, reduce stress, and manage the physical demands of her world tours.
  5. Jennifer Aniston: The beloved "Friends" star has credited the Alexander Technique for improving her posture and overall well-being, both on and off the screen.
  6. Paul McCartney: The legendary musician has praised the Alexander Technique for its positive impact on his voice and musical performances and funded a film on the Technique in the 1970's.

Celebrity Quotes

"I find the Alexander Technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you".

Hugh Jackman, actor

 

"The Alexander Technique is a way to transform stress to joy"

Juliette Binoche, actress

 

"With the best intentions, the job of acting can become a display of accumulated bad habits, trapped instincts and blocked energies. Working with the Alexander Technique has given me sightings of another way... Mind and body, work and life together. Real imaginative freedom..."

Alan Rickman, Actor

 

"The Alexander Technique makes a real difference to my often tense and busy life. Its thoughtful approach has made me calmer, improved my concentration and given me a clearer sense of my own well being. I am grateful for it."

Joan Bakewell, TV Presenter and Journalist

 

"The Alexander Technique helped a long-standing back problem and to get a good night's sleep after many years of tossing and turning."

Paul Newman, actor

 

"The Alexander Technique really works. I recommend it enthusiastically to anyone who has neck pains or back pain. I speak from experience."

Roald Dahl, author 

 

"I was dubious about the effects of the Alexander Technique when I first went in to experience it, but I found out almost immediately that the benefits were total - both physically and mentally - and, happily, have also been long-lasting."

Joanne Woodward, actress

 

"The many obvious benefits that the technique afforded us as actors included minimised tension, centredness, vocal relaxation and responsiveness, mind/body connection and about an inch and half of additional height. In addition, I have found in the ensuing years great benefits in my day to day living. By balancing and neutralising tensions, I've learned to relieve as well as to avoid the aches and pains caused by the thousands of natural shocks that flesh is heir to."

Kevin Kline, actor

 

“The Alexander Technique has helped me to undo knots, unblock energy and deal with almost paralysing stage fright.” 

William Hurt, actor. 

 

"In the hands of a good teacher the Technique is invaluable to anyone who seeks to maintain health physical posture and alignment."

Ralph Fiennes, Actor

 

"Alexander Technique really helped my posture and focus during my stint as Othello... Imagine how excited I was when arrived at the National Theatre for Comedy of Errors and found I could have Alexander taught to me once a week, I was chuffed to little meatballs."

Lenny Henry, Comedian and Actor

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique's popularity among celebrities is a testament to its effectiveness in helping them navigate the pressures of fame while maintaining physical and emotional balance. Its emphasis on self-awareness, stress reduction, and performance enhancement aligns perfectly with the demands of celebrity life. As more public figures continue to embrace this technique and share their positive experiences, it is likely that the Alexander Technique will remain a celestial trend in celebrity circles for years to come.

 

You don't have to be a celebrity to enjoy the benefits of the Alexander Technique. You just have to be willing to learn something new about yourself and your potential. As F.M. Alexander said: "You can't do something you don't know if you keep on doing what you do know"

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How You Can Enhance Your Yoga Practice with the Alexander Technique

Yoga is a popular and ancient practice that aims to harmonize the body, mind and spirit through physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. Many people practice yoga for its physical and mental benefits, such as improving flexibility, strength, balance, concentration and relaxation.

 

But did you know that there is another technique that can complement and improve your yoga practice? It's called the Alexander Technique, and it's a method of learning how to move with more ease, efficiency and awareness in everything you do.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a method of learning how to use yourself better in any activity. It teaches you how to identify and release habitual patterns of tension that interfere with your natural coordination, posture and movement. It also helps you to develop more conscious control over your reactions and responses, so that you can choose how to act rather than react automatically.

 

The Alexander Technique is not a set of exercises or a specific way of moving. Rather, it is a process of self-observation and self-correction that you can apply to any situation or activity. By learning the Alexander Technique, you can discover how to move with more freedom, grace and ease in everything you do.

How can the Alexander Technique help your yoga practice?

The Alexander Technique can help your yoga practice in many ways. Here are some of the benefits: 

  • It can help you prevent injuries and strains: Many yoga practitioners experience pain or discomfort in their joints, muscles or back due to overstretching, misalignment or excessive effort. The Alexander Technique can help you avoid these problems by teaching you how to move with more balance, alignment and ease. You will learn how to respect your body's limits and avoid forcing or pushing yourself into positions that are not suitable for you.
  • It can help you improve your alignment and posture: The Alexander Technique can help you become more aware of how you hold yourself and how you move in space. You will learn how to release unnecessary tension in your neck, shoulders, back and pelvis, and how to align your head, spine and limbs in a more natural and efficient way. This will improve your posture and balance, both on and off the mat.
  • It can help you deepen your breathing: The Alexander Technique can help you breathe more fully and freely by teaching you how to relax your chest, ribs and diaphragm. You will learn how to avoid habits that restrict or interfere with your breathing, such as holding your breath, gasping or collapsing your chest. You will also learn how to coordinate your breathing with your movements, so that you can breathe more rhythmically and harmoniously.
  • It can help you enhance your concentration and awareness: The Alexander Technique can help you develop more mindfulness and presence in your yoga practice by teaching you how to pay attention to yourself and your environment. You will learn how to observe your sensations, thoughts and emotions without judging or reacting to them. You will also learn how to focus on the process rather than the outcome of your practice, so that you can enjoy each moment without striving or stressing.
  • It can help you cultivate more calmness and relaxation: The Alexander Technique can help you reduce stress and anxiety by teaching you how to calm your nervous system and release emotional tension. You will learn how to respond to challenges and difficulties with more ease and flexibility, rather than with fear or resistance. You will also learn how to relax more deeply and completely, both during and after your practice.

How can you learn the Alexander Technique?

 The best way to learn the Alexander Technique is by taking lessons from a certified teacher. A teacher will guide you through gentle hands-on contact and verbal instructions, helping you to become aware of your habits and patterns of tension, and showing you how to change them for the better.

 

You can also learn the Alexander Technique by reading books, watching videos or attending workshops or courses. However, these are not substitutes for personal instruction from a teacher, as they cannot give you the feedback and guidance that are essential for learning the technique.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the Alexander Technique and how it can help your yoga practice, here are some resources that you can check out:

 

Yoga and the Alexander Technique - An article that explores the common ground between yoga and the Alexander Technique.

How the Alexander Technique can help your Yoga Practice – The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique - A website that provides audio interviews, videos and articles on the benefits of the Alexander Technique.

David Moore also has two books available from Amazon, Yoga and the Alexander Technique: Intelligent Injury-Free Yoga, and Smart Yoga: Apply the Alexander Technique to Enhance Your Practice, Prevent Injury, and Increase Body Awareness

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique is a powerful and practical tool that can enhance your yoga practice and your life. By learning the Alexander Technique, you can improve your movement, posture, breathing, concentration, awareness, calmness and relaxation. You can also prevent injuries, strains and pains, and enjoy your practice more fully and joyfully.

 

If you are curious about the Alexander Technique and want to experience its benefits for yourself, why not book a lesson with a certified teacher near you? You might be surprised by how much you can learn and improve in just a few sessions.

 

Namaste! 

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Run with Ease: Enhancing Your Performance with the Alexander Technique

Introduction

As a runner, you know that efficiency, balance, and proper technique are key to unlocking your full potential. If you're looking to take your running to the next level, consider incorporating the Alexander Technique into your training regimen. This holistic approach can revolutionize your running experience, helping you run with ease, prevent injuries, and optimize your performance. In this blog post, we'll explore how the Alexander Technique can benefit runners and provide practical tips to incorporate it into your training routine.

woman and man running

Body Awareness

At the core of the Alexander Technique lies body awareness—a fundamental skill for runners. By developing a heightened sense of body awareness, you'll notice areas of tension, imbalances, and inefficient movement patterns. This awareness allows you to make conscious adjustments, releasing unnecessary tension and aligning your body for optimal running mechanics.

Efficient Posture and Alignment

The Alexander Technique emphasizes the importance of efficient posture and alignment while running. By aligning your head, neck, and spine in a balanced and relaxed manner, you'll reduce strain on your muscles and joints. This optimal alignment not only improves your running efficiency but also minimizes the risk of injury and enhances your overall performance.

Breathing and Rhythm

Running is a dynamic activity that requires coordination between your breath and movement. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to synchronize your breath with your running rhythm by not generating interference patterns, allowing for a smooth and effortless flow. By learning to breathe fully and deeply, you enhance your oxygen intake, increase endurance, and reduce the likelihood of muscle tension or cramping.

Effortless Movement

The Alexander Technique encourages runners to discover a sense of effortlessness in their movement. Instead of relying on brute force or straining excessively, you'll learn to move with ease and coordination. This lightness of movement reduces unnecessary muscular effort, conserves energy, and enables you to run longer and faster without exhausting yourself.

Injury Prevention

One of the greatest benefits of the Alexander Technique for runners is injury prevention. By developing body awareness and efficient movement patterns, you can identify potential stress points or imbalances that may lead to injuries. Through the technique, you'll learn how to modify your running technique, address imbalances, and make adjustments that support a healthier and injury-free running experience.

Mind-Body Integration

Running is not just a physical activity; it also involves mental focus and emotional engagement. The Alexander Technique emphasizes the mind-body connection, helping you cultivate a harmonious relationship between your thoughts, emotions, and physical actions. By fostering a calm and focused mindset while running, you'll experience enhanced concentration, increased enjoyment, and greater resilience in the face of challenges.

Incorporating the Alexander Technique into Your Running Routine

Here are a few practical tips to incorporate the Alexander Technique into your running routine:

  1. Start with Body Awareness: Begin each run by checking in with your body, noticing areas of tension or imbalances. Take a few moments to release tension through releasing into direction, especially along the spine, leading upwards along the back of the neck.
  2. Align Your Posture: Focus on aligning your head, neck, and spine as you run. Allow your head to balance on top of your spine by not tightening your neck muscles, let them keep their length as the head rotates forward over the atlanto-occipital joint where the skull meets the spine.
  3. Breathe Mindfully: Allow yourself to be breathed, there's no need to try and tie your breathing rate directly to your running cadence, any attempt to do so will be an interference with your breathing. It can be useful to take long out breaths to reset your breathing if you think your're starting to interfere.
  4. Keep Your Arms and Shoulders Free: Let the weight of your arms release your shoulders down your back by releasing your chest into width. Release the tension in your fists and focus on keeping your wrists relaxed, allowing a gentle connection between your fingertips and thumbs. As you stride, draw your arms backward with each movement, letting them swing forward naturally. By doing so, you will reduce tension in your lower body and enhance the power of your stride.
  5. Prioritize Ease and Effortlessness: Maintain a sense of lightness and ease in your movement. Avoid excess tension or force; instead, allow your body to find a natural and efficient stride by landing your foot underneath your head already traveling backwards. open up your stride behind you and think striding out of the space behind you, rather than into the space in front.
  6. Listen to Your Body: Tune in to any signals of discomfort or strain. Adjust your running technique or take breaks as needed to prevent overexertion and potential.
  7. Constructive Rest: Incorporating Constructive Rest into your daily routine, which involves lying in semi-supine with books under your head, can be highly beneficial for your spine. This practice allows your back to release tension, lengthen, and widen. Furthermore, before going for a run, it serves as an excellent way to prepare your body in a state of relaxed readiness. Consider treating yourself to a 10-minute lie-down as part of your warm-up routine, as it helps you let go of any mental stresses. By doing so, you can approach your run with a focused and alert mind, preventing it from wandering onto thoughts that may negatively impact your form and pull you down. Taking a brief lie-down after arriving home can assist your body in returning to a neutral state.
man and woman running
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The Remarkable Journey of FM Alexander: Pioneering Mind-Body Connection

Introduction

In the world of mind-body practices, one name stands out as a pioneer and visionary: FM Alexander. His groundbreaking work in the early 20th century revolutionized our understanding of movement, posture, and the interplay between the mind and body. Through his extraordinary life and relentless pursuit of knowledge, Alexander forged a path that continues to shape disciplines such as acting, dance, and physical therapy to this day. Join us as we delve into the inspiring history, and highlighting the notable books of FM Alexander, an individual who left an indelible mark on the world.

FM Alexander
FM Alexander

Early Life

Frederick Matthias Alexander was born on January 20, 1869, in Tasmania, Australia. From an early age, he exhibited a deep curiosity and a habit of questioning his teachers on everything. His fascination with the performing arts, particularly the theater, led him to pursue a career as an actor. However, a recurring vocal problem threatened to derail his aspirations and set him on an unexpected path.

The Discovery

Struggling with chronic voice issues which his doctors were unable to help with, Alexander embarked on a tireless quest to uncover the root cause of his vocal difficulties. Years of self-experimentation and observation eventually led him to a groundbreaking realization: his faulty posture and habits of tension were at the core of his troubles. By analyzing his own movements and experimenting with alternative patterns, Alexander began to develop a unique approach to address the mind-body connection.

The Technique

Alexander's exploration culminated in the creation of the Alexander Technique, initially simply known as The Work, a method centered on self-awareness, conscious control, and improved coordination. This technique challenged conventional wisdom and offered a holistic approach to optimizing movement efficiency and well-being. Alexander's work emphasized the importance of aligning the head, neck, and back, allowing for freer, more effortless movement. By cultivating awareness and inhibiting harmful habits, individuals could tap into their innate potential for improved posture, movement, and overall functioning.

Dissemination and Influence

Recognizing the transformative power of his technique, Alexander sought to share his discoveries with others. He relocated to London in 1904, where he established the first Alexander Technique training course. His teachings attracted a diverse range of students, including actors, musicians, and dancers, all seeking to enhance their performance and well-being. The Technique gained recognition and endorsements from influential figures, such as Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw, further cementing its reputation. 

FM Alexander's Books

  1. "Man's Supreme Inheritance" (1910): In this seminal work, FM Alexander introduced his foundational ideas on psychophysical unity. He expounded on the interplay between the mind and the body, emphasizing the significance of conscious control over movement. The book laid the groundwork for what would become the Alexander Technique.
  2. "Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual" (1923): Considered one of FM Alexander's most influential works, this book further expanded upon the principles introduced in his earlier publication. He delved into the specific application of his technique, emphasizing the importance of inhibition, direction, and primary control in achieving optimal movement and overall well-being.
  3. "The Use of the Self" (1932): In this work, FM Alexander recounted his personal journey and the discoveries he made along the way. He provided valuable insights into his thought processes and the profound impact the Alexander Technique had on various aspects of his life, including his health, creativity, and personal development.

The Infamous Lawsuit

As FM Alexander gained recognition for his groundbreaking ideas, he faced a significant obstacle in the form of a lawsuit. In 1945, Alexander took legal action against the South African publication, Manpower, on grounds of defamation. The case concluded in 1948 with a victory for Alexander. The trial took place from February to March 1948. On April 19, 1948, the judgment was delivered in favor of Alexander, who was awarded £1,000 in damages, although this didn't cover Alexanders costs. An appeal was filed on April 21, 1948, but the original judgment was upheld on June 3, 1949.

 

Manpower, a South African government journal focusing on physical education, had published an editorial titled "Quackery versus Physical Education" in March 1944. This lengthy 44-page article launched a scathing attack on Alexander and his technique. Its purported aim was to expose what it deemed a "dangerous and irresponsible form of quackery." The article referred to Alexander using various epithets such as "the new conscious controller," the Australian "immortal," "actor," and "gym-master." His technique was labeled as "posture gymnastics." Furthermore, the article referred to Alexander and his followers as the "head balancing cult," attributing their beliefs to "group hystero-neurosis"—typical of a "new faith." It claimed that Mr. Alexander and his followers had never presented any "objective evidence." The article criticized Alexander's physiological explanations as flawed. It also aimed to disprove his claim of "physical deterioration" by highlighting increases in life expectancy, general height, and the eradication of contagious diseases. Lastly, the article insinuated that Alexander had violated South African law by performing acts that fell within the purview of a medical practitioner, alleging that he falsely claimed to cure people.

 

Initially, Alexander requested the withdrawal of the article, but when this request was denied, he proceeded to sue for defamation and sought damages amounting to £5,000 in 1945. Due to the war, the case was ultimately heard in 1948 (from February 16 to March 5) before Justice Clayden, who presided as a Judge of the Witwatersrand Local Division.

Suffering s Stroke

Alexander suffered a stroke in 1947 at the age of 78 that left him in a coma for 12 hours and partially paralyzed his left side. His subsequent recovery through his technique, and resumption of his working life, was a surprise to his medical friends. He continued working until his death at the age of 86. It has been suggested the stress from the lawsuit contributed to the onset of the stroke.

 

This extract from Michael Bloch's biography on Alexander adds a little more insight:

 

"...he made a remarkable recovery. On 19 January 1948 he wrote in a steady hand to Irene Tasker, thanking her for good wishes on his seventy-ninth birthday. 'Yes, thank you, I am much better. McDonagh says the recovery ... is the most remarkable he has ever known from such serious trouble. He is also of the opinion that with rest and complete freedom from worry etc. I can in time regain my old condition of well-being.' 

 

...his recovery was remarkable. By the spring of 1948, he had resumed his work with the students of the training course; by the autumn, he was back to his normal routine of teaching. Alarmed at the speed of his recuperation, his physician McDonagh begged him not to over-exert himself, to remain calm at all times, and to moderate his former intake of wine and cigars - advice which F.M. had no difficulty putting into effect thanks to his mastery of 'inhibition'. A year after he had been struck down, there was little to show that he had undergone the experience except for a slight weakness on the left side of his body and face ... His retreat from the grave was an impressive tribute to his mastery of his own principles.

Legacy and Continued Evolution

FM Alexander's groundbreaking contributions continue to reverberate in numerous fields today. His influence extended beyond the performing arts, inspiring advancements in physical therapy, rehabilitation, and even everyday movement practices. The Alexander Technique has become an integral part of many performing arts curricula and is widely acknowledged as a valuable tool for enhancing overall well-being and maximizing physical potential.

Conclusion

 FM Alexander's relentless pursuit of understanding the intricate relationship between mind and body led to the development of the Alexander Technique. Through his groundbreaking work, he shed light on the importance of self-awareness, conscious control, and optimal coordination in promoting movement efficiency and well-being. Today, his legacy lives on, as countless individuals and professionals continue to embrace his teachings and incorporate them into their respective disciplines. FM Alexander's unwavering dedication to unlocking human potential serves as a timeless reminder of the power of curiosity, self-exploration, and the potential for personal growth and transformation.

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Cultivating Greater Awareness and Mindfulness through the Alexander Technique

Introduction

In our fast-paced contemporary world, finding moments of stillness, self-awareness, and mindfulness can be a challenge. However, there are various practices and techniques that can help us reconnect with ourselves and cultivate a deeper sense of presence. One such approach is the Alexander Technique, a method developed by F.M. Alexander in the late 19th century. This technique offers a unique pathway to greater awareness and mindfulness, allowing individuals to transform their habitual patterns of movement and thought. In this blog, we will explore how the Alexander Technique can serve as a valuable tool for cultivating mindfulness and enhancing overall well-being.

Man meditating

The Principles of the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is based on the principle that our physical and mental habits affect our overall functioning. It focuses on unlearning unhelpful patterns of movement and relearning more efficient and balanced ways of being. Central to the technique are concepts such as body-mind unity, awareness, non-doinginhibition, and direction. By developing a heightened sense of self-awareness, individuals can gain greater control over their movements, thoughts, and responses.

Mindful Movement and Posture

One of the core components of the Alexander Technique is learning to move and support oneself with mindfulness and poise. By paying attention to the way we sit, stand, walk, and perform daily activities, we can identify and release unnecessary tension and effort. Through gentle guidance from a trained Alexander Technique teacher, individuals can discover optimal alignment, balance, and ease of movement. This mindful approach to posture not only enhances physical well-being but also promotes mental clarity and a sense of being grounded.

Breathing and Stress Reduction

Conscious breathing plays a crucial role in mindfulness practices, and the Alexander Technique recognizes its significance. By becoming aware of our breath and allowing it to flow naturally, we can release tension and restore a sense of calm. The Technique emphasizes the relationship between breath, movement, and coordination, offering practical tools for managing stress and anxiety. Through gentle and mindful breathing procedures such, as the Whispered Ah, individuals can access a state of relaxation and cultivate a greater sense of presence in their daily lives.

Body-Mind Connection and Mental Clarity:

The Alexander Technique recognizes the inseparable connection between the body and mind. By improving body awareness and learning to let go of unnecessary physical and mental tension, individuals can experience increased mental clarity and focus. The Technique helps individuals recognize and change habitual patterns of thinking and reacting that may contribute to stress, anxiety, or inefficient movement. Through the practice of mindfulness within the context of the Alexander Technique, individuals can develop a more conscious and intentional approach to their thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Applying Mindfulness in Everyday Life

The principles and practices of the Alexander Technique extend beyond the studio or practice sessions. The Technique encourages individuals to apply mindfulness and self-awareness to their daily routines, such as sitting at a desk, using technology, or engaging in conversations. By integrating the principles of the Technique into everyday life, individuals can enhance their overall well-being, reduce stress, and improve their interactions with others.

Conclusion

In a world filled with distractions and constant demands on our attention, cultivating mindfulness and greater awareness is essential for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The Alexander Technique offers a holistic approach to developing mindfulness by addressing both the body and mind. Through its principles and practices, individuals can learn to move with greater ease, release tension, and engage in mindful living. By incorporating the Alexander Technique into our lives, we can embark on a journey of self-discovery, presence, and transformation.

woman meditating
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Discovering the Transformative Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Scoliosis

Introduction

Scoliosis, a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine, can have a significant impact on a person's posture, movement, and overall well-being. While traditional medical interventions focus on managing pain and preventing further progression, there is an alternative approach that offers valuable benefits: the Alexander Technique. This holistic method of body re-education empowers individuals with scoliosis to improve their posture, increase body awareness, and manage pain effectively. In this article, we will explore the transformative benefits of the Alexander Technique for individuals living with scoliosis.

Woman with scoliosis

Postural Alignment and Balance

Scoliosis often results in an asymmetrical posture, with the spine curving sideways. The Alexander Technique provides individuals with scoliosis the tools to become aware of their postural habits and make conscious adjustments to improve alignment. By working with a skilled Alexander Technique teacher, individuals can learn to lengthen the spine, balance the body's weight more evenly, and minimize the impact of the spinal curvature on overall posture. This improved alignment can lead to better balance, reduced strain on muscles, and enhanced physical confidence.

Increased Body Awareness

 

The Alexander Technique places a strong emphasis on body awareness, enabling individuals with scoliosis to develop a deeper understanding of their body's movement patterns and habitual responses. Through gentle touch and guided movements, the technique helps individuals recognize areas of tension and imbalance caused by scoliosis. By cultivating a heightened sense of body awareness, individuals can consciously release unnecessary tension, allowing for more freedom and ease in movement. This increased body awareness empowers individuals to take an active role in managing their condition and making choices that promote well-being.

Improved Breathing and Lung Capacity

The spinal curvature associated with scoliosis can restrict mobility of the rib-cage and the space available for the lungs, potentially impacting breathing and reducing lung capacity. The Alexander Technique emphasizes freer mobility of the ribcage and spine, creating space for improved lung function. By learning to release tension in the chest, shoulders, and back, individuals can enhance their breathing capacity, leading to a greater sense of vitality and overall well-being. The Alexander Technique provides tools and techniques to optimize breathing and help individuals with scoliosis maintain optimal respiratory function.

Pain Management and Muscle Tension

Scoliosis can often lead to muscle imbalances, resulting in discomfort, pain, and muscle tension. The Alexander Technique offers a gentle and non-invasive approach to managing pain associated with scoliosis. By bringing conscious attention to movement and posture, individuals can identify areas of muscle tension and learn to release unnecessary gripping and bracing patterns. The technique encourages the lengthening and widening of muscles, promoting relaxation and reducing pain. As individuals develop body awareness and release tension, they often experience a reduction in muscle spasms and discomfort.

Enhanced Mind-Body Connection

Living with scoliosis can create a sense of disconnection between the mind and body. The Alexander Technique emphasizes the integration of mind and body, allowing individuals to develop a more harmonious relationship between the two. By cultivating mindfulness and present-moment awareness, individuals with scoliosis can actively engage in their own healing process. The technique encourages a holistic approach to well-being, recognizing the interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional aspects of health.

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique offers a unique and empowering approach to managing scoliosis. By addressing posture, body awareness, breathing, pain management, and the mind-body connection, this technique provides individuals with scoliosis valuable tools for self-care and improved well-being. Through the guidance of a skilled Alexander Technique teacher, individuals can learn to adapt and optimize their movements, allowing them to live with greater freedom, confidence, and reduced discomfort. By embracing the principles of the Alexander Technique it's possible to learn to self manage the realities of living with scoliosis.

 

For more insight you can read a first person account of taking Alexander lessons to aid scoliosis here ...

woman with milder scoliosis
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Finding Serenity Amidst the Storm: How the Alexander Technique Can Help Manage Migraines

Introduction

Migraines can turn even the brightest day into a stormy ordeal. For those who endure the throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and other debilitating symptoms, finding relief becomes a top priority. While various treatments exist, an intriguing approach that holds promise is the Alexander Technique. In this blog post, we will explore the connection between migraines and the Alexander Technique, shedding light on how this method can provide valuable support and potential relief.

Woman experiencing a migraine

Understanding Migraines

Before we delve into the Alexander Technique, let's briefly touch upon migraines. Migraines are severe headaches often accompanied by additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli. They can significantly disrupt daily life, leaving individuals desperate for effective solutions. The exact causes of migraines are not fully understood, but there are several factors that are believed to contribute to their occurrence. Here are some of the commonly recognized causes and triggers of migraines:

  1. Genetic factors: Migraines tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component. People with a family history of migraines are more likely to experience them.
  2. Neurological factors: Migraines are considered a neurological disorder involving abnormal brain activity. Changes in the brainstem and imbalances in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin, have been linked to migraines.
  3. Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormones, particularly estrogen, have been associated with migraines. Many women experience migraines during specific phases of their menstrual cycles, such as before or during menstruation, or during pregnancy or menopause.
  4. Sensory stimuli: Bright or flickering lights, strong smells (perfumes, smoke), loud noises, and certain patterns or textures can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.
  5.  Triggers related to lifestyle and environment: Certain factors in a person's environment or lifestyle can trigger migraines. These may include: 
  • Stress: High levels of stress or sudden changes in stress levels can trigger migraines.
  • Sleep disturbances: Irregular sleep patterns, lack of sleep, or excessive sleep can trigger migraines.
  • Environmental factors: Bright lights, strong smells, loud noises, and changes in weather or barometric pressure can trigger migraines in some individuals.
  • Certain foods and drinks: Alcohol (especially red wine), caffeine, chocolate, aged cheeses, processed foods containing additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), and foods with high levels of tyramine (e.g., aged meats and fermented foods) have been identified as common dietary triggers.
  • Skipped meals: Delayed or irregular meals can lead to low blood sugar levels, which can trigger migraines.
  • Dehydration: Inadequate hydration or significant fluid loss can contribute to migraines.

It's important to note that triggers can vary greatly between individuals. Identifying and avoiding personal triggers can be helpful in managing migraines. Additionally, some individuals may experience migraines without an identifiable trigger, which makes managing the condition more challenging.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is an educational method developed by F.M. Alexander in the late 19th century. It focuses on improving posture, movement, and coordination through conscious awareness. By retraining habitual patterns of tension and movement, the technique aims to enhance overall well-being and ease physical limitations and reduce the physical responses to stress and stressors.

How the Alexander Technique Benefits Migraine Sufferers

  1. Promotes Body Awareness: The Alexander Technique places great emphasis on developing a heightened sense of body awareness. Migraine sufferers often experience tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw, which can contribute to their symptoms. By cultivating increased awareness, individuals can recognize and release excessive tension, leading to a reduction in migraine triggers.
  2. Alleviates Muscular Tension: Poor posture and muscle tension are common factors that can exacerbate migraines. The Alexander Technique teaches individuals to release unnecessary muscular tension and realign their bodies. By learning to use their bodies more efficiently and effortlessly, migraine sufferers may experience a decrease in both the intensity and frequency of their headaches.
  3. Improves Posture and Ergonomics: Many migraine triggers, such as poor posture, sitting for prolonged periods, or using improper ergonomic setups, can strain the neck and shoulder muscles. The Alexander Technique helps individuals develop better postural habits and offers guidance on ergonomics in various settings, such as workstations, to minimize stress on the body. Correcting these factors can contribute to a decrease in migraine occurrences.
  4. Enhances Breathing Patterns: Stress and shallow breathing patterns often accompany migraines. The Alexander Technique emphasizes a reduction in interference to breathing, encouraging individuals to breathe more deeply and fully. This can reduce tension, promote relaxation, and alleviate the impact of stress on the body, ultimately helping to manage migraines more effectively.
  5. Reduces Stress and Anxiety:  Stress and anxiety are recognized as potential triggers for migraines. The Alexander Technique teaches individuals to respond more mindfully to stressors, promoting a calm and relaxed state of being. By learning to consciously release tension and manage stress, migraine sufferers may experience a reduction in the frequency and severity of their migraines.

Conclusion

While the Alexander Technique may not be a cure for migraines, it offers a holistic approach to managing and potentially alleviating the symptoms associated with this debilitating condition. By promoting body awareness, releasing tension, improving posture and ergonomics, enhancing breathing patterns, and reducing stress and anxiety, the Alexander Technique can significantly impact the well-being of migraine sufferers and reduce symptoms.

 

It is important to note that learning the Alexander Technique requires guidance from a qualified teacher or practitioner who can provide personalized instruction and feedback. If you're a migraine sufferer seeking relief, consider exploring this technique as a complementary approach alongside your existing treatment plan. With its emphasis on self-awareness and mindful movement, the Alexander Technique may hold the key to a more pain-free and fulfilling life for individuals battling migraines.

Man experiencing a migraine
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Stroke Rehabilitation: Unlocking Recovery Potential with the Alexander Technique

Introduction

Stroke is a life-altering event that can leave individuals with physical and cognitive challenges. Rehabilitation plays a vital role in helping stroke survivors regain independence and improve their quality of life. In addition to conventional therapies, the Alexander Technique offers a unique and effective approach to stroke rehabilitation. This blog post explores how the Alexander Technique can assist in the recovery process, promoting body awareness, movement re-education, and overall well-being for stroke survivors.

 

Elderly male stroke victims with walking-sticks

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational method developed by F. Matthias Alexander in the late 19th century. It focuses on improving body awareness, posture, and movement coordination. By teaching individuals to release muscular tension and adopt more efficient movement patterns, the technique aims to restore balance and coordination, leading to enhanced physical and mental functioning.

 

Alexander suffered a stroke himself  in 1947 at the age of 78 that left him in a coma for 12 hours and partially paralyzed his left side. His subsequent recovery through his technique, and resumption of his working life, was a surprise to his medical friends. He continued working until his death at the age of 86. 

 

 

This extract from Michael Bloch's biography on Alexander adds a little more insight:

 

"...he made a remarkable recovery. On 19 January 1948 he wrote in a steady hand to Irene Tasker, thanking her for good wishes on his seventy-ninth birthday. 'Yes, thank you, I am much better. McDonagh says the recovery ... is the most remarkable he has ever known from such serious trouble. He is also of the opinion that with rest and complete freedom from worry etc. I can in time regain my old condition of well-being.' 

 

...his recovery was remarkable. By the spring of 1948, he had resumed his work with the students of the training course; by the autumn, he was back to his normal routine of teaching. Alarmed at the speed of his recuperation, his physician McDonagh begged him not to over-exert himself, to remain calm at all times, and to moderate his former intake of wine and cigars - advice which F.M. had no difficulty putting into effect thanks to his mastery of 'inhibition'. A year after he had been struck down, there was little to show that he had undergone the experience except for a slight weakness on the left side of his body and face ... His retreat from the grave was an impressive tribute to his mastery of his own principles.

Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Stroke Rehabilitation

  1. Body Awareness and Mind-Body Connection: Stroke survivors often experience challenges in body perception and spatial awareness due to brain damage. The Alexander Technique helps individuals develop a heightened sense of body awareness, fostering a stronger mind-body connection. By paying attention to subtle sensations and movements, stroke survivors can regain a sense of control over their bodies and facilitate the recovery process.
  2. Posture and Balance Improvement: Stroke can disrupt balance and coordination, leading to challenges in maintaining an upright posture. The Alexander Technique emphasizes correct alignment, release of unnecessary tension, and efficient use of the musculoskeletal system. By learning to optimize posture and balance, stroke survivors can enhance their stability, reduce the risk of falls, and regain confidence in daily activities.
  3. Movement Re-Education: Stroke often affects motor control, resulting in altered movement patterns. The Alexander Technique promotes re-education of movement by helping stroke survivors identify and change inefficient habits. With the guidance of a qualified Alexander Technique teacher, individuals can learn to move with greater ease, efficiency, and reduced effort, facilitating the reacquisition of motor skills and promoting functional independence.
  4. Reduction of Muscle Tension and Pain: Muscle stiffness, spasticity, and pain are common challenges faced by stroke survivors. The Alexander Technique teaches individuals to release unnecessary muscular tension, promoting relaxation and improved comfort. By letting go of excessive tension, stroke survivors may experience reduced pain levels and enhanced physical well-being.
  5. Emotional and Psychological Well-being: Stroke recovery can be emotionally and psychologically challenging. The Alexander Technique emphasizes mindfulness and present-moment awareness, fostering a positive mindset and emotional resilience. By focusing on the process of learning and self-discovery, stroke survivors can cultivate a sense of self-empowerment and improve their overall emotional well-being.

Incorporating the Alexander Technique into Stroke Rehabilitation

To incorporate the Alexander Technique into stroke rehabilitation, it is essential to work with a qualified Alexander Technique teacher. These teachers can provide personalized instruction, hands-on guidance, and verbal cues tailored to individual needs.

 

Alexander Technique sessions typically involve gentle movements, hands-on guidance, and verbal instructions to help stroke survivors become aware of their movement patterns and release unnecessary tension. The technique can be applied to everyday activities such as sitting, standing, walking, and performing specific functional tasks, allowing stroke survivors to integrate the principles into their daily lives.

 

Roanne Weisman is an award-winning medical/science author of seven trade health books published by McGraw Hill, Harvard Medical School, and Health Communications, Inc. Here she talks about her recovery from a stroke using the Alexander Technique:

Conclusion

 Stroke rehabilitation is a complex and multifaceted process, and the Alexander Technique offers a valuable approach to support and enhance recovery. By promoting body awareness, movement re-education, posture and balance improvement, and reduction of muscle tension, stroke survivors can unlock their potential for recovery and regain a sense of control over their bodies. The Alexander Technique, when integrated with conventional therapies, provides a holistic and empowering pathway toward rehabilitation and a higher quality of life for stroke survivors.

Stroke victim walking unaided
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The Busy Person's 7 Step Guide to Effortless Posture

Introduction

In today's fast-paced world, maintaining good posture often takes a back seat in our busy lives. However, poor posture can lead to a host of physical discomforts, musculoskeletal issues, and reduced productivity. If you're constantly on the go and struggling to prioritize your posture, the Alexander Technique offers a practical and effective solution. In this blog post, we'll explore how even the busiest individuals can incorporate the principles of the Alexander Technique into their daily routines, promoting effortless posture and overall well-being.

Woman with good posture

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational method that helps individuals become more aware of their posture and movement/behaviour patterns. Developed by F. Matthias Alexander, it focuses on retraining the body and mind to move with greater ease and efficiency. By addressing habits that contribute to poor posture, such as slouching or tensing certain muscles, the Alexander Technique promotes a more free and balanced way of being. 

 

Improving posture doesn't require strength training; it primarily relies on behavioural adjustments. By modifying coordination and behavior, the postural muscles will naturally develop the strength required. Simply strengthening muscles in isolation doesn't bring about a behavioral transformation.

7 Steps to Better Posture

  1. Mindful Body Awareness: The first step in achieving good posture is cultivating mindful body awareness. Throughout your day, take brief moments to tune into your body. Notice any areas of tension, slumping, or misalignment. By simply acknowledging these patterns, you set the foundation for change and can begin to make conscious adjustments. As Alexander Teacher Mio Morales likes to say, "the observation is the win".
  2. Lengthen Your Spine: One of the fundamental principles of the Alexander Technique is allowing the spine to lengthen. This is achieved by allowing the neck muscles to release into length so that the head rotates forward over the atlanto-occipital joint (where your skull joins your spine). The traditional reminder in the Technique is to "let your neck be free, to let your head go forward and up". It's really a reminder to prevent the opposite, a tightening of the neck that pulls the head back and down, the most salient word is let. This simple adjustment can significantly improve your posture and help alleviate strain on your neck and back.
  3. Sitting with Awareness: If you spend a significant portion of your day sitting at a desk, it's crucial to maintain good poise to avoid developing aches and pains. It's important to recognise that sitting and standing are effectively the same thing for your spine/torso. You use the bony part of our bottom, the sit-bones on the underside of your pelvis to to support you in such a way that you want to think of sitting as standing up on your bottom. Maintain your poise as you make your way towards the chair by envisioning a gentle squatting motion until the chair naturally halts your movement. While it is acceptable to lean back against the chair's backrest, begin with proper support in a seated position, then gradually pivot backward from the hip joints while ensuring continuous contact with the sit-bones and keeping pressure off the tailbone (coccyx).
  4. Get a little help from Einstein: Your posture doesn't need to fight against gravity; instead, gravity offers everything necessary for maintaining good, effortless posture and serves as the practical foundation for the Alexanderian principle of Non-Doing (which is all about allowing). While most perceive gravity in the manner Newton initially proposed, it's important to note that although his equations remain applicable, the underlying theory is flawed. Gravity does not act as a direct force pulling between objects. Einstein's Theory of General Relativity reveals that it operates in a more counter-intuitive manner. To truly comprehend and embrace this concept, you must fundamentally grasp that the Earth is continuously accelerating upwards beneath you. It is through this perpetual dance of "surfing" the upthrust that you maintain balance and continually seek the upward support that gravity provides. Posture is not merely a fixed position; it is a dynamic movement. Believing that gravity pulls you downward is akin to teaching someone to swim by falsely claiming that water is attempting to drag them under, instead of teaching them about buoyancy.
  5. Movement Breaks: Sitting or standing for extended periods can lead to postural fatigue. Take regular movement breaks throughout your day to release tension. These mini-breaks not only support good posture but also increase blood circulation and boost your energy levels.
  6. Phone and Computer Ergonomics: In the digital age, our posture is often compromised by excessive phone or computer usage.  Optimize your workstation ergonomics by ensuring that your computer screen is at eye level, and your keyboard and mouse are within comfortable reach. Avoid hunching over your phone or laptop by raising them to eye level with a stand or using a laptop stand with an external keyboard. These adjustments encourage a more neutral and relaxed posture. However, it's important to note that physically follow your mental attention. Digital devices and furniture are inanimate objects incapable of direclty influencing your behavior. By cultivating a broader sense of awareness, you can diminish the impact of external factors on your actions.
  7. Mindful Posture Check-Ins: Set reminders throughout your day to check in with your posture. Use phone alarms, sticky notes, or digital apps to prompt you to evaluate your behaviour. Take a moment to adjust your posture consciously ("head forward and up"), releasing tension and reestablishing a more balanced and comfortable dynamic.

Conclusion

In a busy world where we often neglect our posture, the Alexander Technique offers a valuable approach to cultivating good postural habits. By developing body awareness, practicing mindful sitting and standing, prioritizing relaxation in support, and seeking professional guidance, even the busiest individuals can experience the benefits of improved posture. The Alexander Technique provides a unique approach to posture by focusing on releasing unnecessary tension and promoting natural alignment. Without an environment to function in, functional movement, including your posture, is meaningless. Just like water more than just supports a fish in swimming, let the Earth and yourself collaborate as a unified entity to maintain optimal posture.

Consider seeking guidance from a certified Alexander Technique teacher who can provide personalized instruction and hands-on guidance. Even a few sessions can equip you with tools and insights to improve your posture and overall well-being. Remember, investing time and effort in your posture today can have a profound impact on your long-term health and well-being. 

How the sit-bones support good posture
More than posture, look to exhibit poise.

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Relieve Text Neck: Discover the Power of the Alexander Technique.

Introduction

In today's digital age, our lives are intertwined with technology more than ever before. Whether it's working on a computer, browsing social media on our smartphones, or indulging in endless streaming, we spend hours hunched over screens. Unfortunately, this sedentary lifestyle often leads to the development of various posture-related issues, with "text neck" being a common problem. However, amidst the sea of potential remedies, one technique stands out for its transformative benefits: the Alexander Technique. In this article, we will explore how the Alexander Technique can help alleviate text neck and enhance overall well-being.

Woman using a mobile phone with text neck

Understanding Text Neck

Man using a mobile phone with text neck

Text neck is a modern-day condition characterized by neck and shoulder discomfort, stiffness, and pain caused by the prolonged forward bending of the neck while using electronic devices. This unhealthy posture places excessive strain on the neck muscles, leading to muscular imbalances, joint stiffness, and even chronic pain. Addressing this issue is crucial not only for immediate relief but also for long-term prevention. 

Enter the Alexander Technique

Woman using a mobile phone with text neck

Developed by F.M. Alexander in the late 19th century, the Alexander Technique is an educational method that teaches individuals to become more aware of their postural habits and movement patterns. It aims to improve coordination, balance, and overall alignment to relieve tension and promote optimal functioning of mind/body unity. 

Principles of the Alexander Technique

  1. Inhibition: With increased self-awareness, learn to pause before reacting to the urge to lean forward. This moment of conscious inhibition allows you to interrupt habitual patterns and choose a more optimal posture.
  2. Direction: The Alexander Technique emphasizes directing your body towards a more balanced alignment. Allow the back of your neck to lengthen by letting your head rotate forward over the Atlanto-occipital joint (where you skull joins your spine), whilst coordinating your whole spine to stay back and lengthen. The classic Alexander catechism is "let your neck be free, to let your head go forward and up, to let your back lengthen and widen". Be mindful that the most important word in this phrase is let. This redirection helps you achieve a more balanced posture.
  3. Non-doing: Rather than forcing your body into a fixed position, the Alexander Technique encourages a state of non-doing—a relaxed state where you let go of unnecessary muscular tension and allow natural alignment to emerge.

Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Text Neck

  1. Enhanced Body Awareness: One of the primary principles of the Alexander Technique is developing conscious awareness of one's body alignment and posture. By learning to observe and correct harmful habits, individuals can identify the root causes of their text neck and make the necessary adjustments to alleviate strain. This increased awareness helps prevent the recurrence of text neck symptoms and promotes healthier habits in using electronic devices.
  2. Improved Posture and Alignment: The Alexander Technique emphasizes the natural alignment of the body, which promotes a balanced and upright posture. Through gentle guidance and hands-on instruction from a qualified Alexander Technique teacher, individuals can rediscover the optimal alignment of their spine, head, and neck. This improved posture not only reduces the strain on the neck muscles but also enhances overall body coordination and balance.
  3. Release of Tension: Text neck often leads to muscular tension and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. The Alexander Technique offers practical tools and techniques to release tension, allowing the muscles to relax and regain their natural elasticity. By learning to let go of unnecessary muscular effort and promoting effortless movement, individuals can experience relief from chronic pain and discomfort associated with text neck.
  4. Mind-Body Connection: The Alexander Technique recognizes the inseparable connection between the mind and body. By cultivating mindfulness and mental clarity, individuals can become more attuned to the signals their body sends. This heightened mind-body connection enables them to make conscious choices about their posture, movement, and technology usage, leading to healthier habits and reducing the risk of future text neck problems.
  5. Long-Term Prevention: While the Alexander Technique provides immediate relief for text neck symptoms, it is a lifelong learning process that empowers individuals to take charge of their own well-being. By integrating the principles of the technique into daily life, individuals can prevent text neck and other postural issues from recurring, promoting overall physical and mental health. 

Conclusion

 

In a world where digital devices dominate our daily lives, it is essential to address the adverse effects they have on our bodies. The Alexander Technique offers a holistic approach to relieving text neck by enhancing body awareness, improving posture, releasing tension, and promoting the mind-body connection. By incorporating the Alexander Technique into our lives, we can rediscover a healthier relationship with technology, alleviate text neck, and pave the way for improved well-being in the long run.

Woman using a mobile phone with good posture
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The Busy Person's Guide to Doing Constructive Rest in the Alexander Technique

Introduction

In our fast-paced, hectic lives, finding moments of calm and relaxation can be a challenge. However, taking care of our physical and mental well-being is essential, especially when it comes to managing stress and maintaining good posture. One valuable practice that can help achieve these goals is Constructive Rest, also known as the semi-supine procedure, in the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we'll explore what the semi-supine procedure entails and how busy individuals can incorporate it into their daily routines. 

Woman doing Alexander Technique Semi-Supine procedure.

What is the Semi-Supine Procedure?

The semi-supine procedure is a simple yet powerful technique used in the Alexander Technique. It involves lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, with your head resting on a yoga block or book. Ensure you have length along the back of your neck from having your head rotated forward over the Atlas joint (where your skull joins your spine). This position allows the body to release tension, rebalance, and restore optimal alignment. By practicing the semi-supine procedure, you can experience numerous benefits, including reduced muscle tension, improved posture, enhanced body awareness, and increased overall well-being.

Making Time for the Semi-Supine Procedure

Now, let's discuss how busy individuals can incorporate the semi-supine procedure into their daily routines: 

  1. Start with Short Sessions: Begin by allocating just 10-15 minutes for your semi-supine practice. It's better to start small and make it a consistent habit than to set unrealistic expectations that you might struggle to maintain.
  2. Choose a Convenient Time: Find a time of day when you can comfortably dedicate a few minutes to yourself without interruptions. This could be early morning, during a lunch break, or before going to bed. Experiment with different times to see what works best for you.
  3. Create a Relaxing Environment: Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can lie down without distractions. Use a yoga mat or a firm but comfortable surface. You may also want to dim the lights or play soft, calming music to enhance the relaxation experience.
  4. Set Reminders: In the beginning, it can be helpful to set reminders on your phone or calendar to prompt you to practice the semi-supine procedure. As it becomes a habit, you may find that your body naturally craves this restorative practice.
  5. Practice Mindfulness: During your semi-supine session, allow yourself to be breathed without interference, and scan your body for areas of tension or discomfort. Allow your body to sink into the surface beneath you, letting go of any unnecessary muscular effort. Use this time to cultivate a sense of mindfulness and release mental stress as well. Avoid trying to overly physically achieve anything, let changes happen as a by product of a down-regulated and quieter nervous system. Through the concept of psycho-physicality in the Alexander Technique, that the body and mind is a single functional entity, by working on the conditions of your mind and nervous system, that will be displayed through your physicality.
  6. Incorporate Regularity: Consistency is key. Aim to practice the semi-supine procedure at least a few times a week. Over time, you may gradually increase the duration of your sessions as you become more comfortable and familiar with the technique.

Benefits Beyond the Practice

 Integrating the semi-supine procedure into your routine can have positive effects that extend beyond the practice itself and offers a range of benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Here are several advantages of incorporating this technique into your routine:

  1. Relaxes and releases tension: Semi-supine helps to release accumulated muscular tension throughout the body, allowing for a deep sense of relaxation. It promotes a state of physical ease and mental calmness.
  2. Improves posture and alignment: By lying down in a balanced and supported position, semi-supine helps to realign the body and improve overall posture. It allows for a natural lengthening and decompression of the spine, leading to a more upright and effortless posture in everyday activities.
  3. Enhances body awareness: Practicing semi-supine cultivates a heightened sense of body awareness. By paying attention to the sensations and movements within your body, you develop a greater understanding of your habitual patterns of tension and can learn to release and change them.
  4. Reduces stress and anxiety: The relaxed state induced by semi-supine promotes the release of physical and mental stress. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a reduction in anxiety, a decrease in heart rate, and an overall sense of well-being.
  5. Improves breathing and respiratory function: During semi-supine, the expansion of the ribcage and the natural lengthening of the spine facilitate improved breathing mechanics. This can lead to increased lung capacity, better oxygenation, and a more efficient respiratory system.
  6. Enhances body-mind coordination: The Alexander Technique emphasizes the integration of mind and body. By practicing semi-supine, you develop a heightened sense of coordination and learn to move with greater ease and efficiency in all activities.
  7. Alleviates back, neck, and joint pain: By relieving muscular tension, improving posture, and encouraging proper body alignment, semi-supine can help alleviate chronic back, neck, and joint pain. It provides a gentle and supportive environment for the body to reset and heal.
  8. Increases energy and vitality: The release of tension and the restoration of natural alignment in semi-supine can lead to increased energy levels and a sense of vitality. It allows for efficient movement and a more effortless engagement in daily tasks.
  9. Enhances performance in various activities: Whether it's playing a musical instrument, participating in sports, or engaging in any other physical activity, practicing semi-supine in the Alexander Technique can enhance performance by improving body awareness, coordination, and overall physical ease.
  10. Supports overall well-being: The benefits of semi-supine extend beyond the immediate physical effects. By promoting relaxation, reducing tension, and improving body-mind integration, it supports a sense of overall well-being and a more balanced and harmonious approach to life.

Remember that learning the Alexander Technique from a qualified teacher is essential to fully experience and benefit from the practice of semi-supine. They can guide you in refining your technique, addressing individual needs, and maximizing the advantages of this method. 

Conclusion

In the midst of a busy lifestyle, finding ways to prioritize your well-being is crucial. The semi-supine procedure in the Alexander Technique offers a simple yet effective method to restore balance, reduce tension, and enhance body awareness. By dedicating a few minutes each day to this practice, you can experience the numerous benefits and create a positive impact on your overall physical and mental health. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury but a necessity, and the semi-supine procedure can be a valuable tool on your journey to well-being.

Man doing Alexander Technique Semi-Supine procedure.

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Nurturing Pregnancy: Exploring the Transformative Power of the Alexander Technique

Introduction

Pregnancy is a miraculous and transformative journey that brings joy, anticipation, and profound changes to a woman's life. Throughout this extraordinary period, it is essential to prioritize physical and emotional well-being. One holistic approach that has garnered attention and shown remarkable benefits is the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we will delve into how the Alexander Technique can support and enhance the pregnancy experience, promoting better alignment, relaxation, body awareness, and overall harmony. 

Pregnant woman

1. Embracing Optimal Alignment and Posture

During pregnancy, the body undergoes remarkable changes to accommodate the growing baby. As the baby develops, a woman's ligaments experience increased relaxation (caused by the hormone known as relaxin), and the additional weight of the baby tends to shift forward and downward, causing a tilting of the pelvis. Consequently, pregnant mothers often experience a reduction in the length and strength of their lower back. This excessive pelvic tilting can also lead to discomfort in the pelvic region, such as Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD). As the center of gravity shifts and the body adjusts, maintaining proper alignment and posture becomes crucial. The Alexander Technique provides invaluable tools for achieving and sustaining optimal alignment, reducing strain on the spine, and minimizing discomfort. By learning to align the body efficiently, pregnant individuals can alleviate pressure on the back, pelvis, and other vulnerable areas, leading to improved overall posture and enhanced well-being.

2. Enhancing Body Awareness

The Alexander Technique fosters a deep sense of body awareness, which is particularly valuable during pregnancy. By cultivating mindfulness and conscious movement, individuals can develop a profound understanding of their changing bodies. This increased body awareness allows expectant mothers to adapt gracefully to their evolving physical state, promoting better balance, coordination, and self-care. As a result, pregnant individuals can move with greater ease and confidence, responding to the body's needs and maintaining a sense of harmony throughout pregnancy. 

 

3. Managing Pain and Discomfort

Pregnancy can bring about various discomforts, such as back pain, pelvic pain, and joint discomfort. The Alexander Technique offers effective pain management strategies by addressing the root causes of physical discomfort. Through improved body mechanics, gentle exercises, and enhanced awareness, individuals can alleviate strain on the body and reduce muscle tension. By developing a mindful approach to pain management, pregnant individuals can find relief naturally, promoting a more positive pregnancy experience.

4. Cultivating Relaxation and Emotional Wellbeing

Pregnancy can be accompanied by heightened stress levels and emotional fluctuations. The Alexander Technique emphasizes relaxation and mindfulness as essential components of well-being. By incorporating relaxation techniques and breath awareness exercises, expectant mothers can cultivate a sense of calmness, reduce anxiety, and promote emotional balance. The technique's focus on being present in the moment helps individuals embrace the transformative nature of pregnancy and connect with their bodies and growing babies on a deeper level.

 

5. Preparing for Labor and Childbirth

The Alexander Technique can be particularly beneficial in preparing for labor and childbirth. By developing body awareness, learning to release tension, and practicing mindful breathing, individuals gain valuable tools to navigate the intensity of labor more effectively. The technique helps individuals cultivate a positive mindset, enabling them to approach childbirth with confidence, resilience, and a sense of empowerment. 

6. Postpartum Help

What you learn with the Technique during your pregnancy will also be helpful when feeding and caring for your new baby, as the Alexander Technique is an important tool in learning how to manage the enjoyable yet demanding tasks of parenting. Learning to look after yourself while carrying, washing, feeding, bedding, or lifting your baby, will equip you with better coping skills and make the extra demands on your body more manageable.

Conclusion

Pregnancy is a time of immense physical and emotional changes, and the Alexander Technique offers a holistic and transformative approach to support expectant mothers on their journey. By embracing optimal alignment, enhancing body awareness, managing pain and discomfort, cultivating relaxation, and preparing for childbirth, pregnant individuals can experience a more harmonious and empowered pregnancy. The Alexander Technique empowers expectant mothers to navigate this incredible period with grace, mindfulness, and a profound connection to their bodies. Consider exploring this gentle yet powerful technique to enhance your pregnancy experience and nurture your well-being.

Pregnant woman using the Alexander Technique to walk with good posture

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Breathing Freely: The Empowering Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Asthma Sufferers

Introduction

Living with asthma can be challenging, with symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness affecting everyday activities and overall well-being. While medical treatments are essential, there is a complementary approach that can significantly benefit individuals with asthma: the Alexander Technique. This holistic method focuses on improving body alignment, reducing tension, and enhancing body awareness, enabling individuals to manage their asthma more effectively and breathe with greater ease. In this article, we will explore the transformative benefits of the Alexander Technique for asthma sufferers.

Woman experiencing asthma
It's possible to reduce how often you need an inhaler with the Alexander Technique

Benefits of the Alexander Technique for Asthma

  1. Enhancing Breathing Technique: Asthma directly affects the airways, causing them to become inflamed and constricted, making it difficult to breathe freely. The Alexander Technique offers asthma sufferers valuable tools to improve their breathing technique. By releasing unnecessary tension in the neck, shoulders, and chest, individuals can create more space for their lungs to expand and enhance their respiratory capacity. The technique also emphasizes diaphragmatic breathing, which encourages a relaxed and controlled breath pattern, reducing breathlessness and promoting efficient airflow. By incorporating these principles, individuals with asthma can improve their overall breathing technique and experience a greater sense of control over their breath. Interestingly, before FM Alexander, the originator of the Technique, moved to the UK from Australia, he was known as the Breathing Man, such was the emphasis he placed on it's importance.
  2. Postural Alignment and Lung Capacity: Posture plays a significant role in respiratory function, and poor posture can limit lung capacity and exacerbate asthma symptoms. The Alexander Technique addresses postural habits that may restrict breathing and hinder optimal lung function. Through gentle guidance and body awareness exercises, individuals learn to align their spine, relax the muscles involved in breathing, and create a more open and spacious chest cavity. Improved posture and increased lung capacity allow for better airflow, reducing breathlessness and enhancing overall respiratory function.
  3. Managing Stress and Anxiety: Stress and anxiety can trigger asthma attacks and intensify symptoms. The Alexander Technique offers practical techniques for managing stress and promoting relaxation. By cultivating mindfulness and present-moment awareness, individuals with asthma can reduce anxiety and tension, which can contribute to asthma flare-ups. The technique encourages releasing unnecessary muscle tension, allowing for a state of calm and ease. By incorporating stress management strategies from the Alexander Technique into their daily lives, individuals can reduce the impact of stress on their respiratory system and improve their ability to cope with asthma triggers.
  4. Developing Body Awareness: Asthma can create a disconnect between individuals and their bodies, as they may become hyper-focused on their breathing difficulties. The Alexander Technique fosters a profound sense of body awareness, enabling individuals with asthma to become more attuned to their physical sensations and responses. By developing conscious body awareness, individuals can recognize and release patterns of tension that may exacerbate asthma symptoms. This heightened body awareness empowers individuals to make subtle adjustments in their posture, movement, and breathing, allowing for increased control and a greater sense of well-being.
  5. Self-Care and Empowerment: The Alexander Technique promotes self-care and empowers individuals with asthma to take an active role in managing their condition. By learning practical skills and techniques, individuals can apply the principles of the technique in their daily lives. They become equipped with tools to recognize and respond to early signs of tension or breathlessness, allowing for proactive self-management and prevention of asthma exacerbations. Through regular practice, individuals can develop a greater sense of control over their condition, leading to improved confidence and a more positive outlook.

Conclusion

The Alexander Technique provides asthma sufferers with a holistic and empowering approach to managing their condition. By improving breathing technique, addressing postural alignment, managing stress, developing body awareness, and promoting self-care, this technique offers valuable tools for individuals to breathe more easily and effectively manage their asthma. By incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique into their daily lives, individuals with asthma can experience a greater sense of control.

Woman breathing freely with the Alexander Technique

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Managing Symptoms of ME/CFS and Long COVID with the Alexander Technique

Introduction

Living with conditions like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) or experiencing prolonged symptoms after recovering from COVID-19 (commonly referred to as Long COVID) can be incredibly challenging. These conditions often lead to various physical and mental symptoms, including fatigue, pain, muscle tension, and postural issues. In the search for effective coping mechanisms and therapies, one approach that has shown promise is the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we will explore the benefits of the Alexander Technique for individuals dealing with ME/CFS and Long COVID, highlighting how it can provide relief, improve overall well-being, and support the path to recovery. The Alexander Technique makes no claim to be a cure for MECFS or Long COVID, but by learning to move and think more efficiently it can help sufferers to get the best out of what they have available to them.

 

As someone who has personally lived with MECFS for 14 years, I cannot imagine a life without the invaluable presence of the Alexander Technique. MECFS wasn't the reason I started Alexander lessons, or went on to become a teacher. I was coincidentally diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (triggered by Epstein-Barr virus) mere months before starting the three year training course, and deciding to continue with my decision to train as an Alexander Teacher is one of the best decisions I've ever made. While we eagerly anticipate the medical field's increased dedication to discovering a cure (recent progress has been promising, if slow and underfunded), the Alexander Technique equips you with essential self-care abilities to navigate the current circumstances optimally. Even if a cure becomes available, you will retain these skills, which can be applied to various aspects of your life.

woman with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The Alexander Technique can help maximize available energy.

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational method developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander in the late 19th century. It focuses on retraining the body and mind to achieve better posture, coordination, and movement patterns. The technique emphasizes self-awareness, mindfulness, and conscious control of one's own actions and reactions. By recognizing and eliminating harmful habits of posture and movement, individuals can experience improved physical and mental functioning.

Benefits for ME/CFS and Long COVID Sufferers:

  1. Enhanced body awareness: ME/CFS and Long COVID often lead to a disconnection between mind and body. The Alexander Technique encourages individuals to cultivate a heightened sense of body awareness. By learning to observe their movements and postural habits, sufferers can develop a better understanding of how to move with greater efficiency and reduce unnecessary tension or strain.
  2. Reduction in muscle tension and pain: ME/CFS and Long COVID sufferers commonly experience muscle tension and pain due to prolonged illness or inactivity. The Alexander Technique teaches individuals to release excess muscular tension and promote proper alignment. As a result, it can help alleviate pain and discomfort, allowing for greater ease of movement.
  3. Improved breathing patterns: Breathing difficulties are a common symptom of both ME/CFS and Long COVID. The Alexander Technique places significant emphasis on optimal breathing, teaching individuals to restore natural breathing patterns and increase respiratory efficiency. Proper breathing not only enhances oxygenation but also aids in stress reduction and overall relaxation.
  4. Enhanced energy management: Fatigue is a primary symptom of ME/CFS and Long COVID. Through the Alexander Technique, individuals can learn to conserve and manage their energy more effectively. By practicing conscious movement and body alignment, patients can reduce the physical and mental strain associated with everyday activities, helping them conserve energy and reduce fatigue.
  5. Stress reduction and emotional well-being: Living with chronic illness can lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety. The Alexander Technique incorporates mindfulness and conscious awareness, which can help individuals manage stress more effectively. By learning to let go of unnecessary tension and cultivating a calm and centered state of mind, patients may experience improved emotional well-being and a greater sense of control over their condition.
  6. Constructive Rest: Also known as Semi-supine position, this simple lying down procedure is a core tool in the Alexander Technique, and as it's name suggests, however fatigued you are feeling, it's empowering to know that there's still something constructive, however small, you can be doing to aid your condition.

Conclusion

For individuals grappling with ME/CFS or experiencing lingering symptoms after Long COVID, the Alexander Technique offers a holistic and empowering approach to managing their condition that will compliment any other treatments they may be receiving. By focusing on body awareness, posture, and movement, this technique can provide relief from symptoms such as pain, muscle tension, and fatigue. Moreover, the Alexander Technique fosters a sense of self-care, promoting emotional well-being and stress reduction. As with any therapeutic approach, it is essential to consult with qualified Alexander Technique practitioners who have experience working with ME/CFS and Long COVID patients to ensure personalized and appropriate guidance on the journey toward healing and recovery.

 


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Finding Calm in Chaos: The Alexander Technique for Effective Stress Management

Introduction

In our fast-paced and demanding world, stress has become an all-too-common companion. It affects our physical well-being, mental health, and overall quality of life. If you're seeking a holistic and practical approach to managing stress, the Alexander Technique offers valuable tools to help you navigate the challenges and find inner calm. In this blog post, we'll explore how the Alexander Technique can become your secret weapon in combating stress and fostering a healthier, more balanced life.

Woman dealing with office stress

Understanding Stress

Before we delve into the Alexander Technique's stress management benefits, let's briefly understand stress. Stress can arise from various sources—work pressure, personal relationships, financial concerns, or even self-imposed expectations. It triggers physiological responses in our bodies, such as increased heart rate, tense muscles, and shallow breathing. Prolonged stress can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, insomnia, and weakened immune function.

The Alexander Technique Approach

The Alexander Technique takes a unique mind-body approach to stress management, helping you develop self-awareness and conscious control over your responses. By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of stress, it empowers you to break free from the cycle of tension and restore harmony within yourself. 

  1. Body Awareness and Relaxation: At the core of the Alexander Technique lies body awareness. By practicing the technique, you'll learn to observe and release unnecessary muscular tension, promoting relaxation and ease in the body. Through gentle movements and guided awareness, you'll rediscover the joy of letting go and embracing a more balanced physical state. Relaxation becomes your ally in managing stress, allowing you to respond to challenges with greater composure.
  2. Mindful Posture and Breathing: The Alexander Technique emphasizes the importance of mindful posture and conscious breathing. By aligning your body and releasing unnecessary muscular effort, you create an optimal foundation for resilience and well-being. With each conscious breath, you invite relaxation and clarity into your mind, reducing the impact of stress on your body and promoting mental calmness.
  3. Reducing Excess Effort: Stress often prompts us to exert excessive effort and tension, both physically and mentally. The Alexander Technique teaches you to identify and let go of these patterns, helping you conserve energy and approach tasks with efficiency rather than strain. By embracing a balanced and effortless approach, you'll enhance your productivity while reducing the toll stress takes on your body and mind.
  4. Mind-Body Integration: One of the unique aspects of the Alexander Technique is its emphasis on mind-body integration. By developing awareness of your body, thoughts, and emotions, you'll uncover the interconnectedness between them. This awareness allows you to consciously respond to stressors, recognizing and addressing patterns that contribute to stress. With practice, you can develop a resilient and adaptable mindset, fostering a positive outlook and reducing the impact of stress on your overall well-being.
  5. Self-Care and Prevention: The Alexander Technique equips you with practical tools for self-care and stress prevention. By incorporating its principles into your daily routine, you create a foundation of well-being that supports you in managing stress proactively. Whether it's taking short breaks to release tension, practicing gentle movements, or applying conscious breathing techniques, you'll have an arsenal of techniques to draw upon, helping you navigate stress with grace and resilience.

Conclusion

In a world filled with constant demands and pressures, managing stress effectively is vital for our health and happiness. The Alexander Technique provides a holistic approach to stress management, offering a path to self-awareness, relaxation, and mind-body integration. By incorporating its principles into your life, you'll discover a renewed sense of balance, clarity, and well-being. Embrace the Alexander Technique as a powerful tool for navigating the chaos

Man coping with office stress

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Parenting and the Alexander Technique: Finding Balance and Connection

Introduction

Parenting is an incredible journey that brings immense joy and fulfillment, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. As parents, we strive to provide the best care for our children while navigating the demands of daily life. In this pursuit, many parents have found the Alexander Technique to be a valuable resource for enhancing their parenting skills and improving their overall well-being. Nearly half of mums and dads (43 per cent) who have ever suffered from back or neck pain, found their pain increased after having children. New mothers are particularly affected, with over twice as many women (57 per cent) suffering fresh aches and pains since becoming a parent, as men (27 per cent).  In this blog, we will explore the principles of the Alexander Technique and how they can positively influence our approach to parenting.

Woman calmly parenting with the aid of the Alexander Technique

What is the Alexander Technique?

 The Alexander Technique is an educational method developed by F. Matthias Alexander in the early 20th century. It focuses on improving awareness, alignment, and movement to promote better coordination, balance, and poise. The technique is based on the understanding that our physical and mental well-being are interconnected, and by improving our overall coordination, we can enhance our quality of life.

  1. Developing Mindful Presence: One of the fundamental aspects of the Alexander Technique is cultivating mindful presence. As parents, it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of responsibilities and worries, which can hinder our ability to be fully present with our children. By practicing the Alexander Technique, we learn to quiet the mind, let go of unnecessary tension, and focus on the present moment. This enables us to truly connect with our children, listen to their needs, and respond with greater sensitivity and patience.
  2. Improved Body Awareness: Parenting often involves physical demands such as carrying, lifting, and playing with our children. Without proper body awareness, these tasks can take a toll on our physical well-being. The Alexander Technique teaches us to observe our body alignment and movement patterns, allowing us to make conscious adjustments to prevent strain and tension. By incorporating the principles of the technique, we can move with greater ease and efficiency, reducing the risk of injury and fatigue.
  3. Stress Reduction: Raising children can be stressful, and stress can negatively impact our parenting skills and overall well-being. The Alexander Technique emphasizes the release of unnecessary muscular tension, promoting a state of relaxation and calmness. By applying this technique in our daily lives, we can manage stress more effectively and maintain a sense of balance, which in turn allows us to respond to our children's needs in a more composed and compassionate manner.
  4. Modeling Healthy Behavior: Children learn by observing and imitating their parents. As parents, our behavior and habits greatly influence our children's development. By practicing the Alexander Technique, we become role models for our children in terms of posture, movement, and emotional regulation. When children witness their parents moving with grace and ease, they are more likely to develop healthier movement patterns themselves. Moreover, by managing stress and responding to challenges calmly, we teach our children valuable skills for navigating their own lives.

Conclusion

Parenting is a journey that requires continuous learning and adaptation. The Alexander Technique offers a holistic approach to parenting, enabling us to cultivate mindful presence, improve body awareness, reduce stress, and model healthy behavior for our children. By incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique into our parenting practices, we can enhance our connection with our children, promote their well-being, and find greater balance and joy in our own lives as parents. So, let us embark on this transformative journey and discover the profound impact it can have on our parenting experience.


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The Alexander Technique: A Path to Age Gracefully, Restore Balance, and Overcome the Fear of Falling

Introduction

Aging is a natural part of life, and as we grow older, maintaining our physical balance becomes increasingly crucial. The fear of falling can be a significant concern for many seniors, impacting their confidence, independence, and well-being. Unfortunately, falls are a prevalent concern among the elderly, with a significant number of individuals experiencing falls each year.

 

According to statistics, approximately one in three people over the age of 65 will fall annually. This number rises to one in two for those over 80. Notably, a significant proportion of these falls result in medical treatment. However, there is a powerful tool that can help address these challenges and promote graceful aging: the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we will explore how the Alexander Technique can assist in maintaining balance, reducing the fear of falling, and enhancing the overall quality of life as we age. 

Elderly couple maintaining balance and coordination with the Alexander Technique.

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational method that teaches individuals to improve their posture, movement, and overall coordination. Developed by F.M. Alexander in the late 19th century, this technique focuses on releasing unnecessary tension and improving posture and poise. By becoming aware of harmful habits and learning to move with greater efficiency, you can experience a range of benefits, particularly as you navigate the aging process, and improve overall physical functioning.

Balance and Aging

Maintaining balance is crucial for people of all ages, but it becomes especially vital as we grow older. Age-related changes such as muscle weakness, joint stiffness, and decreased sensory perception can affect our balance and increase the risk of falls. The Alexander Technique can play a pivotal role in addressing these issues by enhancing body awareness and coordination.

 

Balance is a complex interplay between multiple systems in the body, including vision, proprioception (the sense of body position), and vestibular function (the inner ear's role in balance). With age, these systems may deteriorate, leading to compromised balance and an increased risk of falling. 

 

The Alexander Technique's approach to balance involves optimizing the coordination of the head, neck, and spine, which creates a solid foundation for movement. By learning to release tension and move with greater ease, you can improve your balance, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

 

Research conducted by Lesley Glover and Jane Clappison at the University of Hull, as published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, demonstrated that elderly individuals who participated in Alexander Technique sessions experienced improvements in balance. The participants reported enhanced body awareness, improved posture, and increased stability, with one participant commenting “I never thought I could do that!”.  These findings suggest that the Alexander Technique can positively impact balance by promoting better coordination, body alignment, and proprioceptive awareness.

Overcoming the Fear of Falling

In addition to physical impairments, the fear of falling can significantly impact your quality of life, leading to decreased mobility and social engagement. After experiencing a fall or witnessing falls among peers, the fear can become deeply ingrained and limit daily activities. However, studies conducted by Glenna Baston and Sarah Barker at the University of South Carolina shed light on how the Alexander Technique can alleviate this fear.

 

Their research involved a group of elderly participants and results showed a remarkable improvement in Functional Reach (a clinical measure of balance) and a significant reduction in fear of falling among the participants after just a two week trial period of the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique enabled them to develop a greater sense of confidence, body awareness, and improved overall balance, all of which contributed to a decreased fear of falling.

 

Through Alexander Technique lessons, participants learn to recognize and let go of unnecessary muscular tension that contributes to a sense of insecurity and imbalance. They also develop a better understanding of their body's capabilities and limitations, which leads to increased self-assurance. By practicing the technique's principles, students gain a renewed sense of control over their movements, reducing the fear of falling and allowing them to engage in daily activities with greater freedom and confidence.

Promising Findings

A detailed study performed by Ronald Dennis, and published in the Journals of Gerontolgy, evaluated the effects of the Alexander Technique on balance and mobility in elderly individuals. The study revealed that participants who engaged in Alexander Technique sessions demonstrated significant improvements in balance, walking speed, and overall mobility. The participants reported feeling more secure on their feet and experienced fewer falls during the study period.

Enhancing Quality of Life

Beyond the physical benefits, the Alexander Technique can significantly enhance the overall quality of life as we age. By improving posture, breathing, and coordination, you can experience reduced pain, increased mobility, and improved vitality. The technique promotes a sense of mindfulness and present-moment awareness, enabling you to engage more fully in your daily activities and maintain a positive outlook on life.

Conclusion

Aging gracefully is a journey that requires a proactive approach to maintaining physical balance, reducing the fear of falling, and embracing our changing bodies. The Alexander Technique has emerged as a promising approach, offering elderly individuals an opportunity to improve their posture, coordination, body awareness, and overall stability. The research conducted by Lesley Glover, Jane Clappison, Glenna Batson, Sarah Barker, and Ronald Dennis demonstrates the efficacy of the Alexander Technique. By improving body awareness, releasing tension, and enhancing overall coordination, individuals can navigate the aging process with greater confidence and vitality. If you're interested in improving your balance, overcoming the fear of falling, and promoting overall well-being as you age, exploring the Alexander Technique may be a transformative step towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.


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Enhancing Your Gym Experience with the Alexander Technique

Introduction

In the pursuit of physical fitness, many of us frequent the gym regularly, engaging in various exercises to improve our strength, flexibility, and overall well-being. While the gym can offer tremendous benefits, it is essential to approach our workouts mindfully to prevent injuries and maximize efficiency. One method that can greatly enhance our gym experience is the Alexander Technique. In this blog, we will explore the Alexander Technique and how its principles can positively impact our workout routines, leading to improved body awareness, posture, and movement.

Woman enjoying a gym workout with the Alexander Technique

Understanding the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is an educational method developed by F. Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor, in the late 19th century. It focuses on improving the coordination and balance of the body by addressing habitual movement patterns and postural imbalances. The technique emphasizes the mind-body connection, teaching individuals to become more aware of their movement and posture in everyday activities.

Benefits of the Alexander Technique at the Gym

  1. Enhanced Body Awareness: The Alexander Technique cultivates a heightened sense of body awareness, allowing individuals to recognize tension, misalignments, and inefficient movement patterns during their workouts. By becoming more attuned to their bodies, gym-goers can adjust their form and technique, preventing strain and injury.
  2. Improved Posture: Poor posture is a common issue that can negatively impact gym performance and increase the risk of injuries. The Alexander Technique emphasizes the alignment of the head, neck, and spine, promoting an optimal posture that minimizes stress on the muscles and joints. By incorporating these principles, individuals can achieve better alignment, stability, and balance during their exercises.
  3. Efficient Movement: The technique encourages a conscious and deliberate approach to movement, helping individuals eliminate unnecessary tension and effort. By practicing the Alexander Technique, gym enthusiasts can learn to move with greater ease, conserve energy, and execute exercises more efficiently. This can lead to improved workout performance and reduced fatigue. as a general guide, it's better to strengthen movement rather than muscles.
  4. Injury Prevention: Through increased body awareness and improved alignment, the Alexander Technique can significantly reduce the risk of gym-related injuries. By learning to move mindfully and without excess tension, individuals can protect their joints, muscles, and ligaments from strain and overuse. This proactive approach to injury prevention is invaluable for long-term gym-goers.
  5. Mind-Body Integration: The Alexander Technique emphasizes the integration of mind and body, promoting a sense of unity and connection during workouts. By cultivating a focused and present mindset, individuals can enhance their exercise experience, attaining a deeper level of concentration, motivation, and enjoyment.

Incorporating the Alexander Technique into Your Gym Routine

  1. Start with Body Awareness: Begin your workout by taking a few moments to check in with your body. Pay attention to your posture, breathing, and any areas of tension or discomfort. Use this awareness to make adjustments and find a balanced and relaxed posture before beginning your exercises.
  2. Focus on balance and support: Throughout your gym session, pay attention to your alignment. Ensure that your head is balanced on top of your spine, your shoulders are relaxed, and your hips are aligned with your feet. Maintain a lengthened spine and avoid unnecessary tension in your muscles. A catchphrase you'll hear a lot in the Alexander Technique is "head forward and up", this is a good reminder not to be pulling on your neck muscles such that your head gets pulled "back and down", doing so is a sign of poor coordination.
  3. Move with Consciousness: During each exercise, maintain a mindful approach to movement. Focus on executing the exercise with efficiency and precision, avoiding any unnecessary muscular effort or excess tension. Allow your body to move freely and naturally, without straining or forcing movements. In fact, movement is thought!
  4. Use Free Weights: Weight machines lack the ability to stimulate full body coordination and activate essential balance mechanisms, which is their drawback. Opting for free weights is a superior choice. Be clear about the movement your're creating and utilize a mirror if necessary. Remember, the primary focus should be strengthening movements rather than individual muscles.
  5. Take Breaks for Body Reflection: Periodically pause between sets or exercises to reflect on your body's response. Observe any areas of tension or discomfort and make the necessary adjustments to promote relaxation and proper alignment.
  6. Seek Professional Guidance: Consider seeking guidance from an Alexander Technique teacher who can provide personalized instruction and guidance on incorporating the technique into your gym
Man doing bench press using the Alexander Technique

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Relieving Back Pain with the Alexander Technique: Insights from the ATEAM Clinical Trial

Introduction

Back pain is a common and debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While there are various approaches to managing back pain, one particular method has shown promising results: the Alexander Technique. This holistic approach to movement and posture has gained recognition for its ability to alleviate back pain and promote long-term relief. In this article, we will delve into the benefits of the Alexander Technique for back pain, with a specific focus on the notable ATEAM clinical trial conducted in 2008.

 

Woman experiencing back pain
The Alexander Technique is clinically proven for back pain relief.

Understanding the ATEAM Clinical Trial

In 2008, the ATEAM (Alexander Technique for chronic and recurrent back pain) clinical trial was conducted in the United Kingdom. Led by a team of researchers, the trial aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique in relieving chronic and recurrent back pain. The study involved 579 participants who were randomly assigned to one of four groups: Alexander Technique lessons, massage therapy, exercise therapy, or standard care provided by their general practitioners. 

Key Findings of the ATEAM Trial

 The ATEAM clinical trial yielded compelling results, highlighting the benefits of the Alexander Technique for individuals with chronic back pain. Here are the key findings:

1. Long-Term Pain Relief:

Participants who received Alexander Technique lessons experienced significant and long-lasting pain relief compared to those in the other groups. The Alexander Technique group reported reduced pain and disability at the end of the trial and continued to experience these benefits even one year later. This indicates that the Alexander Technique has the potential to provide lasting relief for individuals suffering from chronic back pain.

2. Improved Function and Quality of Life:

In addition to pain reduction, participants who practiced the Alexander Technique reported improved physical functioning and quality of life. They demonstrated better overall functionality in performing daily activities, such as walking, sitting, and bending. This improvement in function is crucial for individuals seeking to regain control over their bodies and enhance their overall well-being.

3. Enhanced Self-Management Skills:

One of the distinguishing aspects of the Alexander Technique is its emphasis on body awareness and self-management. Participants in the Alexander Technique group learned skills to recognize and prevent harmful movement and postural habits that contribute to back pain. By cultivating body awareness, individuals were empowered to take an active role in managing their condition, allowing them to make conscious adjustments to movement and posture in their daily lives.

 

4. Reduced Healthcare Utilization:

The study also found that individuals who received Alexander Technique lessons had significantly fewer visits to healthcare practitioners for their back pain compared to the other groups. This suggests that the Alexander Technique's long-term benefits not only contribute to pain reduction but also result in reduced healthcare costs associated with back pain management. 

Conclusion

The ATEAM clinical trial provided valuable insights into the effectiveness of the Alexander Technique for individuals suffering from chronic and recurrent back pain. The findings demonstrated that the Alexander Technique not only offers significant and long-lasting pain relief but also improves functionality, quality of life, and self-management skills. This holistic approach empowers individuals to take control of their bodies, develop body awareness, and make conscious adjustments to movement and posture.

 

If you are dealing with back pain, exploring the benefits of the Alexander Technique could be a worthwhile endeavor. Consulting a certified Alexander Technique teacher can provide you with the necessary guidance and support to learn this approach effectively. By incorporating the principles of the Alexander Technique into your daily life, you can experience relief from back pain, improve your overall well-being, and take an active role in managing your condition.


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Attention Guitarists!

Are you ready to take your playing to new heights?

Introducing the Alexander Technique, as taught in all major music colleges worldwide — an invaluable tool that will transform the way you approach your instrument and enhance your musical journey like never before.

 

Imagine effortlessly gliding your fingers across the fretboard, with improved posture, fluidity, and coordination. The Alexander Technique is a powerful practice designed specifically for musicians like you, aiming to optimize your performance, prevent injuries, and unlock your true potential.

 

Here's why the Alexander Technique is a game-changer for guitarists:

  1. Master your posture: Discover the secret to optimal alignment, balance, and relaxation while playing. By understanding how your body moves and functions, you'll develop a natural and balanced posture that enhances your technique, reduces tension, and allows for greater endurance during those marathon jam sessions.
  2. Enhance your technique: Unleash your technical prowess and finesse by honing your body awareness. Through the Alexander Technique, you'll gain a deep understanding of how your body moves, allowing you to eliminate excess tension and refine your finger movements for greater precision, speed, and control.
  3. Prevent and recover from injuries: As a guitarist, your body is your instrument, and it deserves the utmost care. The Alexander Technique provides you with invaluable tools to prevent common playing-related injuries such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and back pain. By improving your body mechanics and promoting healthy movement patterns, you'll reduce strain and minimize the risk of chronic issues that can hinder your playing.
  4. Unlock your musical expression: Break free from limitations and tap into your full artistic potential. By cultivating a mind-body connection, the Alexander Technique allows you to unleash your creativity and musical expression. Experience a newfound sense of freedom and confidence as you explore the full range of musical possibilities, expressing yourself authentically through your guitar.
  5. Boost your performance: Whether you're a solo performer, part of a band, or play for your own pleasure, the Alexander Technique will elevate your stage presence and captivate your audience. With improved posture, enhanced breathing, and a focused mind, you'll exude confidence, charisma, and a magnetic stage presence that will leave your listeners spellbound.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to revolutionize your guitar playing and elevate your musical journey. Join the countless guitarists worldwide who have unlocked their full potential through the Alexander Technique.

 

Take the first step toward becoming the guitarist you've always dreamed of being. Embrace the power of the Alexander Technique today and unlock a world of possibilities for your music.

 

Effortless Guitar book available from Amazon.

 

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Air Hunger

Air hunger is often linked to anxiety, which is something to be addressed in it's own right, but here I discuss how focusing on the wrong sensations can exacerbate it.

 

An edited transcript can be found below the video.

 

Let's discuss air hunger, it's a topic that's come up a few times of late for me in my private teaching,  and a couple of people left comments on a previous breathing video I did saying that how they experienced air hunger.  I'll link to that video anyway because you'll find that useful. the breath exercise within it basically that was long out breaths are useful, so you do a nice long out breath, pause, and then release. You don't actively breathe in, you just release the tension it takes to hold the air out and let the in-breath come, and that's just a nice way to get the rib cage moving, and calm down your nervous system. That's something long out breaths do, they kick in your parasympathetic nervous system.

 

An observation I've made around air hunger, and this is a behavioral thing that we could see broadly fits in to the Alexander idea of end-gaining, trying to achieve an end result while not being mindful of how you achieve it; what I noticed is there are some sensations people tend to focus on in their breathing which they use to sense that they are breathing. The problem with it is it's a bit of a mirage and it's it's not the real thing, it's not what's actually causing you to breath. Those senses are the sensation of air passing through your nose, that sensation of cold air, a touch sensation if you like, but also the sound so you get, this very obvious gulping and grasping for air, trying to get air, and when you hear that sound and feel that sensation it kind of scratches an itch.

 

The thing with it is it's an end result, it's not the thing itself, that sensation is a byproduct, not the thing you actually want,  and if you're distracted from the thing you want you may not be getting the confidence you're looking for that you're getting air.

 

So what causes air to come in and out and create those sensations? Well, it's basically movement. Movement of the rib cage is generating that, so what you want to be aware of is that you have free movement, if you've got free movement in the rib cage it doesn't matter what's happening with the nose.  What happens is as you breathe out the rib cage comes in and the diaphragm releases up, so there's less volume. Because there's less volume in the lungs, to equalize the pressure, air comes out to equalize the pressure with the external air. And as you breathe in the rib cage moves out and the diaphragm moves down, creating greater volume, so it would be a lower pressure, but it isn't because we equalize the pressure by air moving back in.

 

So basically your movement generates movement of the air in and out. Now, the thing is, as long as your trachea isn't closed, the air in your lungs is directly connected to the air outside, so there's the same air in your lungs as outside. It's like a fish in water, you know the water goes through its gills, it's part of its environment. We're immersed in air, we're immersed in our environment, and we kind of envelop our environment, we bring the environment of the air inside us with the lungs, we envelop it, but it's directly connected. So feel like you're part of your environment,  feel immersed in that air, and there's actually a lot more air in your lungs than you realize. It takes a while for the gaseous exchange to happen, obviously the air in your lungs does change its combination of gases, that's the point, we absorb oxygen and then we blow out the excess carbon dioxide, and then bring more air in, but it's always in flow,  and it takes a while.

 

If you want to get a sense of how long that may take, what you can do is breathe out as far as you can and then pause indefinitely. When you breathe out as far as you can your lungs don't collapse, there's still space in there, and there's actually more than 50% of your full lung capacity still left in there. So there's loads of air in there and it takes a while for that air to be absorbed, the oxygen to be absorbed. Now there's a part of your brain that monitors your blood oxygen levels, and after a while it will monitor that's getting a bit low and you'll instinctively know that's long enough to be holding your breath out, and you relax and air will just get drawn back in again.  But if you can get confident in doing that, realizing, actually I've held my breath out nearly 10 seconds here,  I was fine. Alright, I wanted at the end of that 10 seconds for another breath to come, to release the holding out, but that's a long time, seconds 10 seconds, to be holding your air out.

 

So while you're breathing normally there's plenty of air in there,  always look for the freedom of movement in your rib cage. When you're doing these breathing exercises have your hands on your rib cage to feel the movement of your rib cage, and if you can sense movement, air is happening and you're not looking for that sensation through the nose. Ignore that sensation, it's a byproduct, it's irrelevant to our needs for breathing, it just doesn't matter, and the more you can disassociate yourself with that sensation, I think,  from talking to my clients recently, it has diminished the sensation of air hunger, of that slight panic.

 

So see if you can tune in to that movement, get more confidence that actually you're fine with the air you've got by doing the held out breaths, and associate breathing much less with sensation in the mouth or nose, and the sound you hear from it, and relate it instead to movement of the rib cage. And relate it to the fact that you're immersed in air all the time, there's nothing you can do about it, it's always there in us, it's flowing all the time. You're a "fish in water", that's a phrase I use a lot lately, mostly I started using it in terms of posture, but actually it's true of our breathing as well, and all functionality. I use that phrase to mean that our functionality has no basis unless it has an environment in which it operates. A fish has no practical functioning out of water, and we have no practical functioning without the air we're immersed in., and in relation to posture, the up-thrust of the ground underneath us. Give it a go, watch the previous video and let me know if it helps, experiment with it.

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Why Do I Feel Tight When I Stand In A Correct Posture?

I've answered a question on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything, but I keep my eye out for questions on posture and ergonomics. This is the question I responded to: 

Why do I feel tightness in my neck and shoulders when I stand in a straight correct posture?

We need to question if there's such a thing as a “straight correct posture", as a misunderstanding about this could well be the cause of the tightness you're experiencing.

 

The overwhelming view in the public consciousness is that posture is a shape, one that you “hold", but it isn't. Posture is a balancing act, which means it's a movement. The skeleton is an extremely unstable structure, the benefit of which is fantastic mobility. The greater the stability, the less the mobility. The more you try to stabilize yourself through intentionally holding a "correct alignment" the more immobile you become, and the more tense you become.

 

Posture isn't a position or an alignment, it's a behaviour, which is why I much prefer the word poise, it better encompasses that.

 

Not only do you not need to hold a correct posture, you don't need to fight gravity in an attempt to gain good posture. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, gravity is the only reason it's possible to have good posture, and is aiding it, not opposing it. We use the earth's surface like a fish uses water, it supports us. Without going fully into Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which supersedes Newtons laws on gravity, scientific consensus is that gravity isn't a force that pulls you down, but an effect caused by massive objects curving space time. The by-product of that is that the massive object e.g. Earth, pushes back up under your feet. You're not being pulled down, you're being pushed up, and you "surf" that upthrust by allowing yourself to subtly move through your innate balance mechanisms so you can keep re-finding the support it provides. By holding a fixed posture you interfere with that mechanism. This highlights that posture exercises are mostly unhelpful as it's about coordination, not strength. By strengthening your coordination the postural muscles will attain the functional strength they need, but strengthening muscles without consideration of coordination, your innate balancing skills,  won't guarantee an improvement of your coordination, and may encourage rigidity.

How gravity helps your posture by pushing you up.
accelerating in zero G at 9.8ms² is the same as standing on the Earth

Standing on Earth is indistinguishable as an experience to being in rocket in interstellar space accelerating at 9.8ms². Why that number? Because that's 1G, Earth's Gravity, which is measured in acceleration.

 

You no more need to "do" good posture than a fish needs to do buoyancy, it's our naturally evolved state to take advantage of our environment.

 

Unfortunately a lifetime of habits, sedentary lifestyles and reacting to a "modern" environment none of us were evolved for, has left many without the coordination to stand on planet earth freely and without effort. Undoing those habits, and doing less, not more, is the key to refinding your poise.

 

The Alexander Technique is one of the best ways to retrain your coordination to improve your posture/poise. 

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Does Lying On Your Back Improve Your Posture?

I've answered another question on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything, but I keep my eye out for questions on posture and ergonomics. This is the question I responded to: 

Does lying on your back on the floor daily for 20 minutes improve your posture?

It can be an aid in improving your posture, but it's not the full picture.

 

In the Alexander Technique we use lying down with your feet flat on the floor and knees raised as a useful "Constructive Rest" (also known as semi-supine). But you have to take into account that your posture is an activity, so as much as a Constructive Rest can help release some of the postural tensions we accidentally and habitually hold, ultimately it's your behaviour in activity that you need to re-educate. Lying down is helpful, but not transformative. 

 

Posture is about coordination, and no amount of lying down is going to improve coordination.

 

The only reason your posture needs improving (ruling out pathology for now) is because you've created interference in your your natural functioning. Your posture is a natural by-product of your environment and evolution, you don't actually need to do good posture anymore than a fish needs to do buoyancy. You need to learn to prevent the habits that take you away from that. Posture isn't a fixed position, but a balancing act, the more you try to hold a fixed position the more you interfere with that balancing act, and the more tired you get from trying to hold a fixed position.

  

Instead of the word posture I prefer to use poise, which is as much a mental attitude, and far better encompasses coordination and behaviour, rather than just an ideological shape to be achieved. 

Alexander Technique semi-supine, AKA Constructive Rest
A useful tool for better posture, but not the answer.
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What Type of Office Chair is Good for Posture?

I've answered a question on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This is the question I responded to: 

What Type of Office Chair is Good for Posture?

 

No chair is specifically good for posture, it's not the chair that does the posture, but you. The question isn't about the chair, but about you, your behavior. 

 

Despite being a billion dollar industry you might be surprised to learn that there's no scientific basis for ergonomics, and the reason for this is that using yourself with poise has little to do with inanimate objects.

 

That said, some chairs are distinctly unhelpful in their design, so you'll obviously want to avoid those. In my opinion, that would include any chair with a mesh seat that doesn't provide a solid base for the sit-bones on the underside of your pelvis. A piano stool is as functional as a seat needs to be to allow you to have the same poise/posture in sitting as you do in standing (assuming you're capable of such in standing). For the spine, sitting and standing are essentially the same thing, you don't "sit down", but "stand up" on your bottom, using your sit-bones as the new "heals" to support you. 

 

Like standing, sitting is an activity for your spine/torso, an act of not falling over, which is a movement. Posture isn't a position, it's a movement.

 

Office chair
This inexpensive office chair is perfectly adequate.

My guess is that you're not actually asking about sitting anyway, but reclining against a backrest. I very much distinguish between the two, sitting is an activity and reclining is being at rest. A legitimate question might be is it even possible to have a posture when at rest?! If you're well supported in being at rest does it matter what you're posture/shape is?

 

The main thing to ensure when reclining is that you hinge the whole spine back from the hip joints whilst maintaining contact with the sit-bones, and not rolling back onto your coccyx. 

 

I have an office chair which I bought from Amazon for about £80, and it's perfectly functional. Don't needlessly waste money on expensive furniture when a little self awareness and common sense is the answer.

 

 

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My Journey to Effortless Guitar

I was 14 years old when my parents bought me a nylon string classical guitar to replace the piano lessons I had refused to continue with because I was so nervous during the grade exams. For some inexplicable reason my school wouldn't allow music lessons if you didn't take the exams. The guitar was 2nd hand, cheap, and actually really nice, lovely sound. But I wasn't to discover that for three more years because the sight of all those frets and strings, no fret markers, left me totally confused. The Internet may have officially been born the year before, but it would be fifteen years or so before it caught on in any meaningful way to the public, and with no friends who played it sadly ended up in the attic gathering dust.

 

Three years later a friend complained to me that the guitar his parents had bought him was too awful to play on. I told I had one in the attic I thought would be better and to come over to check it out. He tuned it, which was a marvel to me in itself, and strummed an open E chord, I was impressed. Asking him to show me how he did that I managed to reproduce the same results. I didn't lend him the guitar, the journey had begun. Luckily my friend seemed to understand, so no bad feelings.

 

With a year left until I finished Secondary school (equivalent of High School in America) I took classical guitar lessons, which I really enjoyed. At the same time the usual teenage obsession with music was as strong as ever, but now morphing away from the Ska and Mod culture I'd started out with into Classic Rock. It was soon obvious after delving into the likes of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Queen, ACDC, The Doors, Hendrix and Pink Floyd, I was going to need an electric guitar. And so the obsession deepened, and not just with classic rock, but the history of the guitar. I bought best of compilations from all the greats, Robert Johnson, Django Reindhart, Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, Wes Montgomery, Segovia.

 

Seeing my interest undiminished my parents thankfully didn't put up any resistance into getting my first electric guitar. They had almost no interest in music themselves, something I found odd, but they were happy that I had an interest in something. We were living in Germany at the time, so with the aid of a very helpful sales assistant that lead to the purchase of an inexpensive, but surprisingly good Strat style guitar made by Marathon, a German company.

 

I have to admit that my self taught electric guitar progress wasn't as good as I'd hoped given I thought I was making reasonable progress with the classical guitar. I put this down to being a lefty playing right handed, holding and using a pick was frustratingly fiddly and clumsy for me, and I couldn't see the additional tension that encouraged in me.

 

After leaving school and going to college to study electronic engineering and music technology, the opportunity to play in bands finally arrived, but with guitar players being two a penny, and an invitation to start a band on bass, I switched to playing bass. Much better to play bass in a band than guitar in the bedroom, and I had John Paul Jones and Geddy Lee to look up to as musical heroes, and I enjoyed ditching the pick in favour of fingerstlye. In true punk style I joined the band first then went shopping for a bass and got lucky with a fantastic Japanese Fender Jazz Bass for the price you'd spend on a Squire these days.

 

It was at this point I started to really struggle with the physicality of playing. At the time I put it down solely to the dimensions of the bass guitar, but truth be known, in hindsight, I was a very tense young man, physically and emotionally, and bringing that to the bass guitar would leave my hands and arms aching and in need of rest after rehearsals and gigs. Maybe it was the resilience of youth, but luckily this never lead to long term injury from playing bass. Along the way I also upgraded my Marathon (well, I had to, a friend dropped it and put a crack down the length of the neck) to a Fender Strat Plus Deluxe with financial help from my mother and bar work evenings and weekends. It was a modern guitar to me, and well, Jeff Beck!

 

During a summer break from college I spent nearly two months obsessively learning and practicing classical guitar, progress was good but something snapped in me, what can I say, rock and blues held a bigger piece of my heart. I put the classical guitar away and never played it again. Years later I sold it to a teenage Alexander Technique student of mine for next to nothing, I knew it was going to a good home.

 

No interest in blues goes by without an obsession with Stevie Ray Vaughan, and with the bass playing strengthening my hands, and Stevie's use of 13 gauge strings (more on that in a later chapter), 11s in standard tuning became my default gauge. Again, in hindsight I feel this was in part a way to disguise the excess tension I played with.

 

Just as I was about to graduate from college I had my first long-term playing related injury. I was in the middle of an Albert King two tone style bend when I felt a ping in my fretting hand elbow, and pain! After weeks of rest the problem hadn't resolved. I could play a little but absolutely could not perform any string bends without severe pain in my elbow. The doctor and physio I went to see could find no issue with my elbow, I was at a loss with what to do.

 

For pragmatic purposes I sold my bass and bought an Epiphone Emperor Regent and started learning some jazz chord melody as that would avoid string bending, but I was limited with only being able to play for up to half an hour before the pain became too much. Added to that, a new career in IT for investment banks and stock brokers kept me busy, and so for the next 4 years my guitar playing slid into the background, sometimes going months without playing at all.

 

But the career in IT lead to it's own problems, that underlying tension I was still oblivious too was contributing to repetitive strain injury in my right wrist and pain in my upper back. Ironically this lead to my first breakthrough in getting back to the guitar. I'd frequent physios and osteopaths (similar to chiropractors) regularly, and in an early session my neck was manipulated in a way that released pressure on the nerve that was causing my elbow problem. In others words, I never had an elbow problem! This was also my first sense of how inter-related the body is. Obviously I was delighted and wanted to get back to playing guitar. I don't know about anyone else but the guitar isn't just about the music, it's also a kind of security blanket and stress relief, a way to lose yourself away from the stress of daily living.

 

Unfortunately I soon discovered that any attempt to string bend would bring the symptoms back. I had a piece of the puzzle, that I was consistently doing something to myself when I performed a string bend, but to be honest, I had no idea what that might be. It hadn't even occurred to me to watch myself in the mirror in a way I would later discover FM Alexander did to observe what he was doing that was unhelpful to good coordination.

 

As chance would have it I heard that guitar teacher Shaun Baxter offered private lessons on guitar ergonomics. If you're not familiar with Shaun his monthly column in UKs Guitar Techniques magazine reached almost legendary status with many of us buying the magazine for his column alone. Shaun spotted the problem straight away, every time I bent a string I'd lift my left shoulder and pull my head down towards my left shoulder creating tension in my neck. This muscular tension was clearly what was impinging on the nerve that fed to my elbow, and I'd later realise the behaviour was in part due to an unconscious belief that playing guitar should be hard. My bending mechanics needed to be addressed too, I wasn't leveraging the muscles of the forearm to rotate the wrist effectively. Shaun probably doesn't remember this one-off lesson, but it was pivotal for me. And in an amusing moment Shaun gave me a withering look when I mentioned how Hendrix performed a certain technique  (I forget now, but probably related to string bending or vibrato). In that one look it was made abundantly clear that our guitar heroes often perform well despite their technique, not because of it, and to be careful of what you imitate. Many years later a student of mine mentioned that Shaun, as their guitar teacher, had originally recommended the Alexander Technique to them, but for whatever reason he hadn't mentioned it to me on that day, so I was still none the wiser about it's existence.

 

I now felt I was back on track and could get back to practicing and playing. I looked around somewhat unsuccessfully to find others to form a band for a few pub gigs, and settled on attending local blues jams instead, perfect for juggling with a full-time IT career. I also started writing songs with a work mate with the view to performing at open mic nights, but unfortunately his work moved him to New York for a few years.

 

Although my guitar playing seemed to be back on track I was still struggling with repetitive strain issues and back pain from sitting at a computer all day at work. Luckily it didn't seem to effect guitar specific mechanics in terms of discomfort when playing, but I would eventually come to recognise that my technique and performance was being severely hampered by excess tension. The regular trips to various physios, osteopaths and chiropractors continued. And although I'd made the connection that the way I was string bending was the cause of my elbow pain, I still couldn't see what I was doing different to anyone else when sat at a keyboard. On one occasion I called out in an open plan office and asked how many people were suffering pain from computer work, and about 15 people put their hands up, so it seemed I wasn't alone.

 

Eventually a chance meeting with a ballerina at a friend's party brought the Alexander Technique onto my radar. Why I thought the poor girl needed to hear about my aches and pains I don't know, but she was surprisingly interested and asked if I'd heard of the Alexander Technique, which obviously I hadn't. She seemed quite taken with it and did her best to explain it (anyone who's experienced AT knows how tricky this can be). I was intrigued enough, even if there was an element of clutching at straws at the time, to look it up on whatever the dominant search engine was at the time. I wish I could remember who's website I stumbled across, but the penny finally dropped, there was a logical solution to my problems, I needed to learn to prevent the behaviours that was leading to them, and that also gave me a sense of agency and empowerment.

 

And so I started Alexander lessons with a local teacher, the advantage of living in London where AT teachers are more common. The results were remarkable, and in the space of about 3 months my work related issues were largely gone.  Despite that I continued lessons anyway as I enjoyed them so much, especially with regards to stress management given the nature of my work.

 

Eventually I let the lessons go, but a seed had been sown. I didn't stop as such, but work demands, long hours, meant I had to keep cancelling lessons, but I continued to work on myself from what I'd learned, and I applied that to my guitar playing the best I could even though there were aspects of guitar technique I still didn't fully understand. I also maintained a sense of machismo that I wanted to fight with the guitar, I didn't want it to be easy. I continued with 11 gauge strings enjoying the extra physicality of my relationship with the guitar.

 

About this time I was in a road accident, a truck mounted the pavement and hit me in the head with the bar the wing mirror is mounted on. It was like being hit in the head by an elephant wielding a baseball bat. Not only was I knocked out cold, and received a classic boxers cut to my left eyebrow splitting it in two, but it caused some damage to nerves in my neck that fed to my right hand.

The truck didn't even stop! To this day I have to work around this injury with the help of the Alexander Technique, but in an analogy I picked up from guitarist Chris Brooks discussing his own playing injuries, like a singer singing above a cold, I can play and manage this injury. If it's really playing up and fine motor control is being adversely affected, it's usually just a sign I'm too tired so it wouldn't be a constructive practice session anyway.

 

And then another series of events changed my path. In 2008 the global financial credit crunch caused me to lose my job, and my father became terminally ill. I nursed my father the best I could until he passed 6 months later, only to find there was still no work available, especially as I had very niche IT skills related to finance. It was then that I decided to use my father's inheritance for a complete change in direction in my life, and still being completely enamoured by the Alexander Technique enrolled in the 3 year full-time training course.

 

Those 3 years were transformative in my own self development, but for the first 2 years I didn't really focus a huge amount on my guitar playing with regards to the Alexander Technique. I still played, and I know the Alexander Technique was helping, but it wasn't a big focus for me at the time. My final year of study coincided with the birth of my first daughter, and an overwhelming sense that the world most definitely didn't need, or want, another Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabe. I started to hate my playing, and so I stopped and focused on my new family, and the training course.  This was also inspired by a fellow trainee who played cello, who in a desire to develop a whole new relationship with her instrument through the Alexander Technique decided to stop playing in her final year to lose the sense of familiarity and build back better later.

 

The guitar bug never really leaves you does it?

 

After a year or so I picked the guitar back up and was shocked at how much ability I'd lost. With no callouses, and weaker hands, I had to restring with 9 gauge strings. But I also realised something else, my sense of machismo was gone, I simply no longer wanted to fight with the guitar. This was a direct outcome of my Alexander experience, wanting to find more ease in all my activities. And so I've rebuilt my technique on that basis, using my experience of the Alexander Technique as a qualified teacher to observe these qualities in other great players, as well as recognising good technical advice from a range of great YouTubers.

 

In time I thought it would be fun to create a landing page on my professional website specifically for guitar players, and so I came to help other players, and learn more in the process of doing so, and here we are ...

Effortless Guitar book, the Alexander Technique for guitar and bass players
Available on amazon.com soon
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Is There Anything I Can Wear to Correct My Bad Posture?

I've been busy again answering questions on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This is the question I responded to:

 

Is there anything I can wear to correct my bad posture?

 

Yes and no. But mostly no, overwhelmingly so.

 

The first thing we have to question, or define, is what posture is in the first place, because if the underlying premise is flawed, so will be the solution. 

 

The common view is that posture is a position, an alignment, and the majority of companies who provide wearable posture solutions appear to hold this view as well, but it's flawed, to the point of actually being an impediment to healthy functioning.

 

Posture is a balancing act, a movement, and if you try to hold a position against that natural movement  you generate excess and unhelpful tension. The skeleton is an inherently unstable structure, and thankfully so, there's a trade off between mobility and stability, and human evolution has opted for wonderful mobility. If you want to be stable, be a tortoise. In order to stop toppling over we have to continually adjust and readjust to refind the support from the ground. You've no doubt seen articles on posture that show a plumb line connecting the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. The usual premise is that for good posture you're supposed to achieve this plumb line, but you're not. The picture can still be useful though as long as you interpret that picture as being an idealised line around which you wobble. Yes, with skill that movement can be minimal. Compare a well coordinated adult to a toddler who still displays a very pronounced wobble, but the aim isn't to eliminate it. Simply using your arms changes the whole balance mechanism, so you need to keep adjusting your posture.

 

 

wearable posture corrector
I'm unconvinced, more likely to interfere with your natural functioning

This movement is innate, not something you need to think about, but you don't want to interfere with it either, and trying to achieve and hold an idolised posture will interfere. A more constructive word to use instead of posture is poise. Poise is a quality, you recognise it when you see it in others, and the problem with wearable posture solutions is they make no attempt to address poise, only posture. Poise is a quality of mind, a presence, including being present to the support your environment gifts you to aid your "posture". As counter-intuitive as it is for most, you aren't being pulled down by gravity (this is a longer conversation, but it's to do with Einstein's Theory of General Relativity), but pushed up by the ground, you "surf" that upwards thrust, and you do so by being dynamic, not by being in a fixed position. It's the by-product of millions of years of evolution, you don't need to do good posture any more than a fish needs to do buoyancy, you need to prevent interference and behaviours that lead to poor posture. If a posture corrector isn't addressing your mind, your thinking, it has no value. 

 

Whilst most wearable posture solutions attempt to encourage a fixed position, there are some interesting electronic devices that connect to the skin on your upper back and sense your position in time and remind you when you've spent too long out of "alignment" with a vibration. The problem is that this only has value if you know how to experience poise, rather than mere posture, or a held position, in the first place. And if you do, you'll register the mild discomfort from being out of "alignment" for too long anyway, so the device is somewhat redundant. 

 

Why expect inanimate objects to take responsibility for you in the first place? Better to have agency and be self empowered to look after yourself. In my opinion one of the best ways to do that is through Alexander Technique lessons which is famous for it's ability to improve posture and poise.

 

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What Are Some Ways To Fix Poor Posture and Back Pain?

This is the latest question I've answered on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything:

 

What are some ways to fix poor posture and back pain without having to see a doctor or chiropractor?

 

Look into the Alexander Technique.

 

It can be tricky to learn from a book, although possible if you put the time in and have the self motivation. It's much easier to learn from an accredited teacher, but maybe start with a book, it may be enough, and will at least pique your curiosity and see if it's something you're drawn to.

 

It's aim is to prevent the habits and behaviours that cause poor posture in the first place. You don't need to do good posture, but prevent poor posture. Trying to do good posture usually results in unsustainable effort and is usually based on a misunderstanding that posture is a position, when in fact, it's a movement, a balancing act as you spontaneously refind the support that the ground is offering you. It's a dynamic and unstable equilibrium. It's the trade off for our exceptional mobility. It's about coordination rather than strength.

 

Girl with good and poor posture
Prevent poor posture and good posture will do itself

You no more need to do good posture than you need to do blinking or breathing. You will be blinked, you will be breathed, you will be poised. Poise has far more value than mere posture, it's a quality, not just a shape, a quality of mind and thinking in activity.

 

The advantage of the Alexander Technique is it empowers you instead of leaving you as a passive patient, it's a tool for growth and self learning, not just physically, but mentally as well, great for stress management. Poor posture is often a sign of habituated poor stress management.

 

With regards to back pain, a gold standard randomised study funded by the NHS in the UK, and performed by Southampton Universtity, showed clinically significant results which were published in the British Medical Journal, and is recommended by backcare.org.uk and Dentists Provident, the main health insurers for the dental profession in the UK.

 

 

You can read more about the Alexander Technique here ...

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Why Online Lessons are Effective

The Alexander Technique is usually thought of as one-to-one manual hands-on guidance, often perceived as a therapy. But we're called teachers for a reason, and the history of the Technique shows that even the originator, F.M.Alexander, didn't always teach with manual guidance.

 

An edited transcript is available under the video.

Hi there,  So today I thought we would discuss why online Alexander lessons are effective.

Now, you may be aware that traditionally the Alexander technique is taught in person,

and obviously that there's a long tradition of that, but what many people don't realize is there are other traditions of which online teaching falls into that category.

 

I am an Alexander Technique teacher, and yes I do teach online, so I'm aware this may seem like a marketing spiel, and I'll just have to live with that, so be it, but I thought you might be interested anyway, and there's obviously some benefits to online teaching. Lockdown having been and gone, thankfully, hopefully, but that provides a good context of why teaching online was quite popular at the time, but it can still be useful, because there's not always a teacher near you.

 

So where does this all begin? The Alexander technique is traditionally thought as being taught in person one-to-one, usually with a lot of hands-on guidance, but that's not how it started. Alexander himself, of course, worked on himself, I think we should always remember that. The Alexander Technique started by FM Alexander, Frederick Matthias Alexander, working on himself, and obviously he wasn't putting hands on himself. And he always said of his work it was about thinking, he often talked about quickening the conscious mind. So if no one guided him with hands-on guidance, what did he do to improve his own coordination? Or use as we say in the Alexander Technique. How did he achieve that through thinking? That's the question we want to answer, to see if we can reapply that process he applied to himself, to show you how you can apply that process to yourself, and follow in his footsteps. I think one of the advantages of that for me personally, is you really own your own journey that way, I think that's a good thing to feel very empowered by that.

 

Now, not only did he not put hands on himself, it's claimed by his brother AR Alexander (yes they're known as FM, Frederick Mathias, and AR, Albert Redden) that FM never put hands on him, never taught him through hands-on guidance, only verbally. And then went on to become a well-known teacher in his own right, and in fact AR isn't alone in that because although AR went on to teach, having been taught by his brother verbally, Alexander himself didn't just teach AR verbally, he also taught predominantly verbally until he moved to London. So all his early teaching was pretty much done all verbally, and the interesting thing about that is when he came to London he came with a letter of introduction by  J.W. Steward Mackay, a well-known established surgeon of the time in Australia, and he provided FM with this letter of introduction to London because he was so impressed with his work.  I think he potentially even suggested he go to London and start promoting his work further a field, and  he did that on the basis that Alexander was teaching mostly verbally at the time possibly entirely verbally at the time.

 

So the Alexander Technique is born out of a verbal tradition actually, not a hands-on tradition. Later on Alexander did go on to develop a hands-on modality for various reasons, and it's fantastic to have both at our disposal, it doesn't have to be one or the other,  pros and cons of both. Maybe I could get into another video on the pros and cons, but at the moment I just want to talk about why why online teaching is effective, and it's effective because it's it's based on how Alexander originally taught.

 

Later on Marjorie Barstow, who was Alexander's niece and was one of the first trainees on his first training course, she went on to develop group teaching, and was very successful with it,  and although it's not quite the same there is that parallel with group teaching that you can't always be there with a hands on someone, you've got a large group of people. She started researching and looking into this way of teaching around  1971 because she was offered an opportunity to teach a lecture, I think at a drama school, I can stand corrected on that I'm not sure of the exact institution, and obviously she couldn't just work one-to-one, she had a whole class and she was asked to produce a curriculum and do a whole semester. So there's a lot of overlaps there between  group settings and one-to-one verbal or online, because although, yes you can go around and give some a bit of guidance, for the most part you're talking to a group of people, and you're asking that group people to make observations of other people, which is useful in itself. Group settings can be a nice environment to start learning as well because sometimes we can observe things better than others than we see it in ourselves, and we can learn from that. That tradition is well 50 years old,  over 50 years of group teaching that Marjorie Barstow really went out of her way to establish. In fact, FM Alexander had already started doing that, only in small amounts I think, it wasn't his main thing, but we know from Frank Pierce Jones, who was trained by AR, he wrote in one of his books how Alexander gave a group

chat, a group lesson, a mixture of children and adults, and seemed to be quite enjoying the experience, making jokes, and not feeling in any way that he was he was doing a disservice to his clients. It wasn't something he did much of I believe, but he did do it, he didn't frown on the idea if he was prepared to do it himself.

 

So there are many ways to to teach the Alexander Technique and there are pros and cons for both, and all. So that is why I don't think you should feel you're missing out by having Alexander lessons online. If you have the opportunity to see someone in person it's always wonderful to take the opportunity,  and you can mix it up as well, there's nothing wrong with doing that. I've certainly had clients do that, certainly through lockdown I had clients that started with online lessons and then when lockdown ended we started doing in person lessons, which they love, but because of convenience sometimes we would still do online, because they might have actually been on the other side of town to me. I live in London,  if they're in South London, I'm in North London, sometimes I go let's just do today online, the convenience, that's obviously one of the upsides. I think that pretty much covers what I wanted to say, that basically there's a long tradition of it, it's not a new thing to be teaching online, alright the online mechanism is new but the process of teaching verbally is certainly not new at all,  well  established by the the man himself, Alexander. So don't feel like you're getting short changed by having an online lesson.

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Better Stretching

Have you ever wondered why your stretches aren't as effective as you'd hoped?

 

I've chosen not to offer you specific stretches to do here as it would miss the point, you may already have some favorites you already use, and there are plenty to be found online, and for the most part they're all absolutely fine. What I want to discuss is the how of stretching, rather than what stretches to do. Stretching is generally avoided in the Alexander Technique, but people are inclined to do them anyway, and it can still help you to do them more constructively.

 

There's a legitimate question in sports science about the need to stretch, with little evidence to support it. As far back as 1941, Thomas Cureton, sometimes known as “the father of physical fitness”, performed research that lead to the conclusion that increased flexibility did not improve physical performance. Subsequent systematic reviews and meta-analysis continues to confirm this. In 2016 a systematic review performed by an international university research team found 119 performance measures where stretching before activity made performance significantly worse, and 145 measures where the results were ambiguous. Only 6 measures were found to have improved after stretching. A study at Simon Fraser University on 1,398 runners, where half were instructed to stretch before running, and the other half not to, showed that the injury rates for both groups was the same. Another international research team looked at whether stretching after activity aided recovery and found no affect either way, neither positive or negative.[ Research originally curated by Jonathan Jarry M.Sc. for The McGill Office for Science and Society.]

 

Stretching appears not to improve injury prevention, or performance, and can make performance worse if done before the activity. The general rule in sports is to warm up before playing and “stretch” after (FIFA’s warm up program specifically recommends not stretching), but a stretch’s real value is in bringing awareness to any habitual tension you are holding, and once aware you can work on releasing it. It’s best to think of stretching as an exploration rather than an imposition and a way of improving body awareness.

 

The overwhelming majority of people I've spoken to have a misconception of what stretching actually entails. Without intending to, it's very common to invoke the stretch reflex (or myotatic reflex as it's medically known), and in doing so prevent the muscle, or muscles, from releasing. The likelihood is that every time you stretch, your are, in fact, tightening. 

 

The problem arises because of a common false assumption; that the purpose of a stretch is to mechanically bully muscle fibers into length. The human organism as a whole interprets this as an attack and protects itself by tightening the muscles being stretched.

 

A more mindful approach is required.

Woman stretching her legs
Stretching isn't as beneficial as most assume.

What makes a muscle tighten beyond a conscious, or subconscious signal to do so? There are four main reasons, two of which are mechanically related, and two related to the central nervous system. A period of sustained exercise will lead to muscle tightness and can be simply remedied with rest, there's no need to actually stretch. I've heard musicians called the athletes of small muscles, prolonged playing/practicing requires adequate rest afterwards. In a related manner, poor posture and habitual lack of mechanical advantage leads to chronic tightening as the muscles are overworked. The muscles will adapt accordingly if mechanical advantage is re-established as a habit, although the process can be helped along with gentle stretching to speed up the process depending on how chronic the situation is. It's a natural response for muscles to tighten around an injury, especially an acute one. This is desirable in the early stages of healing, but it's not uncommon for the tightening to become habituated long after the protection it provides to the injured area is required, becoming chronic and leading to secondary issues. Encouraging greater coordination and mobility in the area will often suffice, but again, stretching can bring some awareness to the area and help the process along, especially if it's quite an old injury. Finally there's the overall condition of the nervous system, your stress response. That frisson of the  nervous system has an outer manifestation of tighter muscles generally, but commonly associated with tight neck and shoulders. In all cases, to get muscles to release the signal to tighten needs to be inhibited. This can be achieved as an act of will, and also as a by-product of encouraging the parasympathetic nervous system, your resting state, i.e. Inhibition (an Alexander Technique term).

 

The mechanical aspect of the stretch is a sign post, or an invitation, to release into the direction being being offered. Whenever I write stretch from now on, I mean release into direction.

You start gently and take your time to allow yourself to release into it. Time is an ingredient of a productive stretch. You can't bake a cake faster by putting the oven heat on full. You can be firm with the physicality of the stretch, especially with larger muscle groups, but take your time working up to it, and remember, it needs to always feel like an invitation. Don't concern yourself with the success of the stretch (end-gaining in Alexander parlance), just engage with the process. 

 

Talking to my colleague Sirpa Tapaninen, who also has 26 years experience with Ashtanga yoga, she mentioned how she also thinks of "stretching" in this same way, as releasing into direction. Yoga can be a wonderful way to explore mobility and habitual tension (mental and physical, or psychophysically as we say in the Alexander Technique) if you can get past the competitive nature of group psychology in classes.

 

A stretch is most effective when the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged. In sports science it's recommended you stretch after you've cooled down from exercise, not directly after. If your nervous system is in a heightened state it won't readily release. The release will happen as an expression of the state of the nervous system. Long out breaths are a great way to encourage and deepen the parasympathetic nervous system. You can greatly increase the effectiveness of your stretching by taking long out breaths at the same time.

 

An interesting element to this is that you don't necessarily need a physical stretch to release into direction, just the mental intention. This will be useful to remember if you already have a practice of doing Alexander Semi-Supine/Constructive Rest. And with regards to your overall posture and head/neck relationship (Alexander's classic "head forward and up") , gravity is providing the physical “stretch” (albeit more subtly) along the neck muscles as the head naturally tilts forward over the atlanto-occiptal joint.  The sign post, the invitation, is built in as an environmental and evolutionary factor when you're poised in an upright manner.

 

Personally, rather than stretch, I prefer to shake off any build up of tension.

 

 

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How to Avoid Poor Posture with Your Phone

This is the latest question on posture I've answered on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything:

 

What is the most efficient way to avoid slouching from the usage of phones?

 

Use your awareness. Phones are inanimate objects, they don't make you do anything, your behaviour is the key.

 

Assuming you have adequate eyesight, the reason you slouch towards your phone is that we follow our attention physically, and the more you concentrate on the phone, the more that you will be drawn towards it, the more you will lose sight that you are performing a physical activity and lose the ability to self correct.

 

It's not a matter of multitasking, but of allowing yourself not to be drawn into the phone, to have agency, and not let yourself be bossed about by inanimate objects. It's a matter of widening your awareness so that it's more inclusive, being present to yourself in physical activity. It's about thinking. By thinking, you can be more efficient. If you're not prepared to think, you can't have agency, you can't be the boss, only the victim.

 

The way the question is framed is interesting too, "how to avoid", because it correctly implies that you don't need to do, or hold, your posture correctly, just not interfere with it. In Alexander Technique terminology we'd say you want to inhibit your habitual reaction to using a phone. It's about what you don't do! When you're poised, which is as much an attitude, your posture will do itself without interference.

Using a phone with poor posture.
Don't let your phone boss you around!
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How to Prevent Your Shoulders from Rounding at Your Computer

This is the latest question I've answered on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything:

 

How do I prevent my shoulders from rounding while working with a keyboard and mouse if the recommendation is to use a keyboard and mouse while elbows are at about 90 degrees?

 

Your arms extend far enough that there's really no physical need to round your shoulders forward to use a keyboard and mouse.

 

To make this clear, try this experiment. Lie on your back, your shoulder blades will naturally be supported by the floor, and raise your arms towards the ceiling letting the weight of your arms push your shoulder blades into the floor. You can now move your arms about without your shoulders coming off the floor and get a sense of how much space you can interact with without having to round your shoulders forward. You'll soon realise you have more than enough peripersonal space (anywhere you can reach) to get your hands to a keyboard whilst allowing the shoulders to stay back.

Shoulder blades
Let your shoulder blades hang down your back from the weight of your arms.

The "trick" to keeping your shoulders back when upright isn't to hold them back, which is unsustainable, but to allow your chest and shoulders across the front to release into width. It's the chest muscles narrowing inwards across the front that cause the shoulders to round forward. The weight of the arms naturally allows the shoulder blades to hang down the back, if you keep your front released into width. Skeletally your arms are part of your back, the shoulder blades are obviously round the back, and your arms connect to the shoulder blades. Let your arms originate from your back, and stay back!

 

The reason the shoulders round forward is twofold. It's partly because we physically follow our mental intention, getting drawn forward by overly concentrating on the keyboard and mouse (and screen, which is why you poke your head forward at it). It requires a stronger sense of yourself in activity, and not allowing yourself to be bossed about by inanimate objects. Easier said than done, especially as it's probably an habitual response, so play the long game of changing your mental relationship with your computer set up. The other reason is that we tend to narrow across the front as a stress response, or when feeling emotionally vulnerable. It can be disconcerting to be open across the front whist in these emotional states, but your inner private life is yours, and by remaining physically open you can maintain that privacy rather than broadcast it. 

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How To Experience Gravity Helping Your Posture

I've become somewhat obsessed lately with the idea that our movement and functioning is a byproduct of our environment. It adds context to the Alexandrian principle of non-doing. In this video I discuss that in relation to gravity.

 

An  edited transcript is available under the video.

Hey there, so today we're going to discuss experiencing gravity aiding your posture.

 

Now,  I've done two previous videos on gravity, which I shall link to below, and probably on screen at the end, but for most people it's quite counter-intuitive still,  the way gravity

works, it doesn't pull you down it pushes you up.  And I think people might academically kind of agree with what I say, you know, the nature of Einstein's General Relativity, but I think from an experiential level, a belief level, it doesn't always click, so we're going to look into that now.

 

My name's Adrian, I'm a teacher for the Alexander Technique, and if you'd like online lessons do get in touch.

 

Okay, so as I just said, gravity actually pushes you up, and people find that counter-intuitive because they can't see the movement of you being pushed up, and I think that's that's fair to expect people to be confused by that. It's just the nature of physics being a bit strange to be honest.  Just to recap, we have 9.8 meters per second squared of acceleration coming up under our feet. 9.8 meters per second squared is what we typically call 1G, that's Earth's gravity, and that sensation you feel under your feet, or because I'm sat on my backside, is the chair coming up under me, not me down onto the chair. Now that is counter-intuitive, so in order to rethink this you have to realize you've experienced this before so that you can realize it's a trueism,  and think, well of course it's that way, because I've had this experience.

 

Now where will you most likely have had this experience of an acceleration coming up underneath you? An elevator, a lift,  elevator in America, or lift as we tend to say in the UK. When it first starts going up, do you know that feeling you get when you suddenly feel pulled down? You get "heavier".  Well, you're not being pulled down are you? If you were to be outside of the lift, let's say it's a glass lift, or it's one of those fancy glass lists that you see on an outside of a building, you can watch people go up it. You would never say they're being pulled down, you can watch them, you can see as it first accelerates that they're getting pushed up. Of course, once it reaches steady speed, that acceleration pushing you up, you don't feel that anymore and then all  you're getting is only the acceleration of the earth coming up underneath the building and through the the structure into the building structure into the lift itself.  But while it's accelerating you're getting additional gravity in a way, additional support, additional thrust up underneath you, and we we feel that often as feeling heavy, like they've been pulled down. But we're not being pulled down, that's how we sort of frame it in our mind, it says "oh",  as the lift goes up initially, that first second or two, but you're not, and you know you're not. You can sense it as an outside observer, seeing someone in the lift, that's not happening, and you know from your own experience that feeling, you can go, well there's something happening, maybe I need to reframe what I think is happening there. Well of course, what's happening there is you're getting greater up thrust, a greater gravity effectively.

 

Because we're a wobbly structure our postural muscles have to do a bit more work to keep refinding that support, because effectively we're trying to be tipped over. If, let's just say, we're leaning slightly, as you get pushed up it kind of tips us over.  So all our postural muscles have to do more work, and I think that is what we equate in our mind as feeling heavier,  because it takes effort. It does take more effort, greater gravity, higher gravity than one we've evolved for, we notice it's harder work. But it's also more support, you really need that support in higher gravity because you'd naturally get tipped over, so we have to really try to find that through our structure, to "surf" that up thrust in a way that takes less effort. And the way to do that less effort in higher gravity is basically being more skilled by having better "posture" if you like, so you can reroute that support upwards.  And you really need to believe that because your posture is a behavior, and your behavior is in accordance with your beliefs. If you believe you're being pulled down you'll behave pulled down. You must believe you're being pushed up in order to behave pushed up, so you can use that support.

 

So that's what's happening. Imagine if you were swimming and your belief was that the water sucks you under. Can you imagine how you'll fight that? Fight being sucked under instead of using that support to keep you buoyant. Buoyant meaning up, because the water's pushing you up as part of gravity. It's just,  obviously, liquid being fluid as it is, it tends to flow over us, around us, so it doesn't work in quite in the same way, it's more unstable than say a hard floor. At what point would that water, if we added some something to it to make it more and more viscous, thicker and thicker, at what point would you stop and say your floating on it? Well, you never stop floating really, so we're even floating on a hard surface, but pushed upwards. But going back to this idea that if you thought, in your mind, that you're being sucked under by the water, think how that would change your behavior, the belief would change your behavior to fight being sucked under.

 

If you believe you're being pulled down by gravity, you will fight to resist it. There is no fight, because you're not being pulled down, you're being pushed up, and all you have to do is use it to aid your posture, to push you up. Now it's easier said than done to change a belief,  it takes time , but work on it, keep thinking on that, keep thinking that idea, because ultimately we are evolved to take maximum advantage of our environment. We're only this form, this human form, so we can use the environment the way that we do. I mean a fish doesn't need to do good buoyancy, it's a byproduct,  buoyancy is a byproduct, and our posture is a byproduct. We can now allow it to happen, you don't do good posture it does you , you will be breathed, you will blink, you will be poised, if you allow it.  Food for thought and I shall see you next time.

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What's My Favourite Chair?

I've  answered another question on posture on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This is the question I answered:

 

What’s your favorite chair to sit on? Why?

 

A piano stool.

 

This answer may surprise you as it's not a fancy ergonomic chair, but in my opinion, most people miss the point with ergonomics. 

 

The chair doesn't do the sitting for you, it's an inanimate object, sitting is up to you, not the chair.

 

I'm also taking your question very literally, and I differentiate sitting from reclining. Sitting is an activity much like standing, it requires movement to remain balanced, reclining is being at rest. If the chair has a back rest that doesn't let you fully recline onto it, such as most dining room chairs, being in contact with the back rest whilst still upright restricts the movement required for poised balance and encourages rigidity. Holding a fixed position is more tiring than being allowed to subtly move. The advantage of the piano stool is that it has no back rest allowing you to remain free to move in the act of balancing.

 

Piano stool for poised sitting with the Alexander Technique
A piano stool provides all the support you need for sitting with poise

As far as your spine is concerned the only difference between sitting and standing is that in standing you have a more mobile and unstable base for your pelvis, that is, your legs. In sitting the sit-bones on the underside of your pelvis effectively become your new "heels", and you use them to "stand" on. I like to call sitting standing on your bottom, you don't sit down, you stand up on your backside. 

 

Personally I think we like the added mobility and instability of being on our legs, the additional movement it generates is more freeing, but you can still find mobility through the spine and hips in poised sitting even if it's more subtle. What this does mean is that your sitting posture can only be as good as your standing posture, so the chair is not the relevant part of the equation. 

 

All you need for balanced sitting is a horizontal flat surface, that's it. A piano stool has the added advantage of being slightly padded, and height adjustable. And if you can't sit in a balanced way, you're unlikely to find the support you need for your spine when you take it into reclining against a back rest.

 

Would I use a piano stool in an office environment? Potentially. It depends on whether there are other opportunities to rest my torso/spine during the day, because sitting is an activity it can still become tiring. To be honest, most simple office chairs these days are adequate enough to allow for sitting and reclining, just make sure it has a firm flat surface. 

 

 

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Why is Nothing Working for my Spine Pain?

I've  answered another question on posture on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This is the question I answered:

 

Why is nothing working for my cervical spine pain? I've done physical therapy for 2 years as well as fixing my posture, sleeping position, ice/heat therapy, medicine, and doing exercises every day. I don't know what else to try.

 

Can I question you on fixing your posture?

 

What is your definition of good posture, and how did you fix it?

 

Posture isn't a very good metric of how well you are using yourself, what you're wanting is poise. Posture is merely a shape, which if held with excess effort has no value at all. Poise is a quality that allows for subtle mobility of the spine. A healthy spine isn't “held" in place, but is mobile to allow you to keep spontaneously refinding the support provided by gravity. Gravity is your posture's best friend, it's the only reason you have, or need a posture, and contrary to public opinion,  your posture isn't fighting against gravity, but actively using it to it's advantage. As counter-intuitive as it may currently seem, gravity isn't a force that is pulling you down, the ground reaction force is actually pushing you up, and with poise you can “surf" that up-thrust. We've known this for over 100 years since Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

 

 

idealised correct posture
Don't try to hold this "correct" posture!

 

The picture you often see in articles about “good posture" showing someone side on with a plumb line connecting the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle is very misleading. The article usually suggests you want to achieve this alignment, but that leads to rigidity, which takes excess effort leading either to sore muscles or an inability to maintain it. The picture is better understood if you take that plumb line to be the average around which you wobble. The skeleton is an intrinsically unstable structure, so whenever you're upright you're in movement. That movement is part of your natural balance mechanism, so you don't want to be fixed. The likelihood of finding and maintaining a fixed alignment that maximises the support of gravity is next to nothing, and meaningless as the movement of your head or arms requires you to find a new “perfect" alignment. And as soon as you start walking…

 

As to what else you can try, I recommend the Alexander Technique, which admittedly I'm biased towards because I teach it. However, Gold Standard research by the University of Southampton, funded by the UKs NHS, has shown that Alexander lessons are clinically effective for back pain. Renowned Spinal Neurosurgeon Jack Stern is also quoted as saying “97% of people with back pain could benefit by learning the Alexander Technique”.

 

 

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Are Ergonomic Chairs Effective?

I've answered another question on posture and ergonomics on the Quora platform, where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This is the question I answered:

 

Do you find posture chairs for the office effective?

 

No more than a piano stool.

 

By "posture chair" I assume you mean ergonomic chair. Despite ergonomics being a multi-billion dollar industry, surprisingly, there's no scientific research to support it.

 

The main issue is that ergonomics tends to try and solve the problem from a mechanical engineering point of view, rather than a behavioral one. It's possible to be just as stiff in a "correct" posture as in a "bad" one. The solution needs to address the psychology of the situation as much as the mechanics.

 

Chairs are inanimate objects and cannot take responsibility for your behavior. With expensive ergonomic chairs you may fall into one of two camps; you'll either assume the extra money spent is providing more support  causing you to take less responsibility for your own behavior, or you'll justify the cost by being more mindful in your behavior. You can do the latter without spending $1,000 on a chair.

 

In my opinion, the idea of an ergonomic chair for sitting makes about as much sense as an ergonomic floor to stand on, which is why I started by suggesting a piano stool, it's a flat surface that can take the weight of your torso. In fact, sitting and standing are very similar for the spine and torso, you don't sit down as such, but stand up from the base of your pelvis, the sit-bones, or as I prefer to call them, the "stand-bones". The relationship between the spine and pelvis is unchanged between sitting and standing.

 

The reality is that I wouldn't expect anyone to sit all day in the office anyway, and this is where I make a differentiation between sitting and reclining. Sitting is an activity not dissimilar to standing, where as reclining is being at rest. The main aim of ergonomic chairs is often to help with reclining rather than sitting, but if you can't sit well, you're unlikely to be able to recline well either, the spine being overly curved forward. The "trick" to reclining is to first find yourself sitting well at the back of the chair by standing on your sit-bones , then hinge the whole spine backwards from the hip joints until you come into contact with the chair's back rest. Keep the sit-bones as the main contact with the seat avoiding rolling the pelvis back on to the coccyx (tail bone), which is the common habit.

 

Seeing as we're all different shapes and sizes, having an adjustable back rest which supports you comfortably is helpful, and where ergonomics can have a useful place, but that's mostly common sense and doesn't require expensive design concepts. Sometimes a cushion is sufficient to find the required support for the lower back.

 

To be honest, office chairs have improved a lot over the years and a standard chair is usually good enough. I have a cheap office chair I bought from Amazon for less than $100 about 10 years ago and its totally fine.

 

In the grand scheme of things, if ergonomic chairs were the answer, no one would have back pain from office work and only ergonomic chairs would be available.

 

 

If you're wondering how to better improve your behavior/posture/poise so you can use any chair well, I recommend looking into the Alexander Technique.

 

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Why Can't I Sit Still, and Sit Properly?

I like to answer questions on posture on the Quora platform where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This question appeared in my inbox the other day:

 

Why can't I sit still, and sit properly?

 

To answer the first question, and you may instinctively recognise this already, you're not supposed to sit still, being upright is a balancing act, an activity in itself, a movement. Admittedly we can do it so skillfully that it looks still to a onlooker, but being upright is about refinding the support being offered by gravity spontaneously every moment. We're an inherently unstable structure, which is fine because the trade off is greater mobility (if you want stability be a tree), but that also means we have to keep "wobbling" slightly because we never manage to find a fixed level of support from gravity. As an aside, gravity may not work the way you think, Isaac Newtons laws on gravity that most are familiar with are also incorrect and have been superseded by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Without going into detail, the main thing to know is that the contact you feel of the ground under your feet, or chair under your backside, is not of you going down, but of that surface accelerating up underneath you, and your posture is your ability to "surf" that up thrust. Counter-intuitive, I know!

 

You're postural reflexes will do the movement to "surf" the ground for you, just as you will be breathed. You don't need to do good posture any more than a fish needs to do buoyancy, it will do you if you don't interfere. Unfortunately, as you've recognised, we do interfere through unhelpful habits that we accumulate through life.

 

To answer your second question, it may be that you don't have a clear conception of what sitting is in the first place. Interestingly, far more people ask about sitting than standing, yet they're essentially the same thing for the torso. If you look at the diagram you can see that both the sit-bones and the hip joints are below the sacral-iliac joint, that being where the spine (sacrum) joins to the pelvis. So the relationship between your pelvis and spine is unchanged between standing and sitting. You are more stable in sitting with your legs out of the equation, which means there's less mobility to refind the support of gravity. This, in my opinion, is why we find sitting harder than standing and requires a little more skill. So sitting is basically standing on your bottom. The common mistake is rolling the pelvis under and letting the coccyx bare weight. Use the sit-bones as your new "heals" when sitting.

 

Getting to the chair without compromising your poise and posture on the way is a whole other conversation, but if you've already found yourself a bit slumped on your chair, try "walking" your sit-bones over the chair surface and see if you can find a sense of being "stood" upright. It's easier to refind your poise through movement than trying to attain an idealised shape/posture to hold on to.

 

Finally, and also for another conversation, is how this is also affected by the natural balance of the head on your spine.

 

 

If you're interested in learning more I recommend looking into the Alexander Technique, which I'm naturally biased towards because I'm an Alexander Technique teacher.

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Yoga and the Alexander Technique

Many of my students enjoy yoga and I've found it beneficial to their Alexander learning to embrace that. It's been a while since I've personally done yoga, which I did as part of Tai Chi, but finding common ground is much more helpful than only focusing on differences.

 

If you already apply the Alexander Technique to your yoga, what's your experience? leave a comment in the video. 

 

Slight verbal slip at 5:55, I meant to say we top up our unconscious competence by working on our conscious competence.

 

A full transcript available under the video.

 

Today we're going to discuss yoga. We're going to discuss it in relation to the Alexander Technique  because, well, I'm a full-time teacher of the Alexander Technique. My name's Adrian, and should you be interested in online lessons do get in touch. So, a question I get asked occasionally, if I meet someone new and they ask what I do for a living and I say the Alexander Technique, they say something like "Oh isn't that like yoga?", and I quietly have to say no, really,  not quite.  And this is true, it's not,  but to be more helpful I think it's useful to look for the similarities in things, rather than the differences. 

 

I think we often emphasize the differences between things for marketing reasons, well not entirely, there are genuine differences as well, but I think it's helpful to look for the similarities, because I do believe that the Alexander Technique can help you do your yoga better. I don't see them as things that you do one or the other, you can do both, and you can use the Alexander Technique to help with your yoga.

 

So "what is Yoga?" I think is a good place to start, because I think many people think of it as some sort of stretch fest, and that's really not what it's about. What are the derivations of yoga? Well, in India it was a spiritual practice, and I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole of what that means, but what's a yogi trying to achieve? They're trying to achieve a sense of presence, a quietness within. I'm using that as a very basic level of the spirituality within us,  that sense of presence and quietness. And they're adding these poses in because it makes it more difficult to find that presence,  so if you can do these poses with presence you've strengthened the quality of that presence, you're not so likely to be wrong-footed in everyday life with your sense of presence because you've strengthened that quality. And the more presence and quietness you can find, the easier those poses become.  And that's the parallel with the Alexander Technique, that we are also looking for a sense of quietness, we call it inhibition, and we recognise that when you move, that if there's not that quietness there, we tend to interfere more with the movement.  And then we practice movement to see if we can remain calm and quiet, to build that quality of presence, or inhibition as we call it, so that we interfere less in our movements.

 

So that's the parallel, you can you can do it through yoga or you can do it through Alexander.  The difference is that there aren't specific Instructions in yoga on not being reactive, there aren't specific observations of what that reaction looks like, what that interference looks like.  It's kind of "hope it comes out in the wash"  just through experience.  And I do think there's a problem with group psychology in a yoga class, such that it's often taught in gyms here, with people in their best lycra, and maybe competing a bit with the person next to them, let alone competing with themselves. A teacher can't always keep their eye on everyone. Even if it was taught well in an ashram somewhere in India, that same group psychology is still potentially there, and we want to realise that yoga is none of that., you're not competing.  So when you do your yoga you're learning about yourself, and you're using these poses to see if they upset you ,or not. That's my take on it anyway. Obviously the movement itself is beneficial, and is beneficial in itself.

 

In the Alexander we have no formal movements, we just use generic sitting and standing, and even to go as low down as a squat, because it's normal functional movement,  we're more interested in general functioning.  But we can take the same principle, can I take my Alexander inhibition, not reacting, and apply that principle to my yoga.  And do I recognize in my yoga what those reactions are, and what I can do to minimize those reactions, so you can do your yoga better. I am a big fan of my clients doing yoga because it gives them something to apply their Alexander technique too, it's something they're already interested in, it's something they do regularly. Because I don't think you have to go around trying to Alexander your way through every waking moment. We want to build some qualities, and strengthen those qualities in our presence, and our movement, so we don't have to think about it when we go about our daily lives. It becomes a new unconscious or subconscious habit. The thing is,  life being what it is, we do get a bit stressed sometimes, we have to top up our unconscious competence with conscious competence, as it's called sometimes, to maintain unconscious competence.

 

And yoga is great time to do that. It could be running, it could be anything frankly, it doesn't really matter, but why not yoga? And I think those similarities, if you recognize those similarities instead of getting too caught up in jargon, or would a yogi describe it in that way or not? Would an Alexander teacher described it in a yogi way or not? I don't think it's really the point here. They're human experiences, and if we interface with that, we say" can I  improve something from this?". And I just think that there's part of the Alexander Technique that does drill down into some observations of what interference looks like that's unfortunately, I think, it's slightly missing from yoga. I get a feeling it's not just yoga, other modalities as well. I've seen it in Tai Chi, I used to do a lot of Tai Chi. You can develop these same qualities of flow in movement and presence through Tai Chi as you can in yoga, but that same observation isn't there. Some people through experience and practice just seemed to get through it, and others struggle.  And for those that struggle the Alexander will go,  well this is why you're struggling, this is the hurdle you need to get over, or maybe this is the hurdle you need to get rid of all together. And that's why the Alexander Technique could be very useful to improving something like yoga, but why yoga itself has its own parallels to the Alexander Technique, and by recognising that maybe you'll get more benefit from it. I'd be interested to know what your thinking on that is?

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What Position Should You Sleep In?

Not quite the million dollar question, but I do get asked this on a fairly frequent basis, and the answer may help you to stop fretting about it.

 

There's a transcript of the video below it.

A question I get asked not infrequently is what position should I sleep in? Now let me give you two answers, I'm going to give you the flippant and glib answer, and then I'll give  uou a longer answer.  So the flippat and glib answer is: what are you gonna do about it, you're asleep?! It seems really obvious doesn't it? But you obviously move a lot in your sleep so whatever position you think you ought to sleep in, half an hour later, being asleep,  you could have rolled anywhere. I'm Adrian, a full-time teacher of the Alexander Technique, and the longer answer I want to give you is the actual position you sleep in doesn't matter a great deal. With a bit of Common Sense it's more about the quality of your sleep which is going to mostly be affected by the quality of your wakefulness, so you'll carry the quality of your nervous system during your waking hours into your sleep.

 

If you've ever seen pet dogs and cats asleep they sleep in some crazy positions. Small children, I've got two daughters, eight and ten; from being babies, but it still happens, you go in the morning to get them up and they're in some ridiculous positions, and it doesn't do them any harm. I think there's a couple of reasons for this, one of which is their nervous systems hadn't built up  huge amounts of habitual tension, so that when they're in a odd position, if you want to call it that, the position itself isn't fighting inbuilt tension. And when that happens, when your position is pulling against an already tight muscle, that's when we wake up feeling quite sore. The other is, to a degree, to do with size, levers and pulleys. I'm tallish, I'm six foot one, I would generally recommend the tall to have a firmer bed just as common sense really, so you're not dealing with that curvature, if your bed's sagging because it's soft. Then you don't have to deal with that on a physical level so there's some common sense. 

 

I'm not suggesting everyone, in an idealized situation, is going to go to bed, even with Alexander lessons, perfectly,  with a nice neutral quiet nervous system and muscle tone, because that's not life, and we're always working on it, and improving on it. And then we have a bad day, who doesn't have a bad day?  And we might take some of that into sleep, so it's useful to have what we might call in the Alexander Technique, Mechanical Advantage. We usually use that in terms of sitting and standing but you could use the same phrase for being well supported by your bed and your pillow.  A pillow is really there to take the strain from your head to your shoulder. Obviously the shoulder tends to sag it into the mattress a bit, even a firm mattress.  The pillow's there to take up that that gap. But of course you might end up sleeping on you front, or your back. If  you've moved and you know then just don't sweat it. So that's the longer answer, working on yourself during your waking hours will help your sleeping hours. Now one thing you can do to help that is by doing what we call Constructive Rest or Semi-Supine, which is lying on your back with your knees up and your head resting on a book. A good time to do that would be just before you go to bed because we often go to bed very much kind of stressed out,  "I must go to sleep" and of course you can't. If you spend 10 to 15 minutes quieting yourself down with Constructive Rest beforehand, before you get into bed, you'll be nicely released physically, but also mentally, in your nervous system, so you're more prepared to then just drop off to sleep. So that's another good bit of constructive advice, of something you can do to help your your sleeping. I hope you found that useful, if you would  like to take online Alexander lessons just get in touch with me and we'll have a chat and see if I can help.

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Should The Alexander Technique Evolve?

For the first time in over 10 years I've targeted my fellow Alexander teachers and long term students as the audience for this blog/vlog,  as opposed to those who are new to the Technique. It's probably a one off digression as I much prefer to help those who are just starting out with the Alexander Technique.

 

Some of you who know me will have heard me jokingly opine that I sometimes consider our professional society as museum curators. A bit harsh, I know, especially as it's council is run on a volunteer basis, and I am grateful for the time they put in for my colleagues and I. But joking aside, I still think it's an important question we should be asking ourselves, should the Alexander Technique evolve? I hope it's not heretical to just ask!

 

I've included a transcript of the video below for convenience.

Hi, Adrian here, full-time teacher of the Alexander Technique, and today's video is very much inspired by my last one, on what I called Self-Environment unity, taking our environment and us in it, as a singular entity, and that's how we function, together.

 

Now I'm breaking my own rule of thumb for doing these videos that normally I always assume my audience is new to the Alexander Technique. In this case, it's going to be a bit of a one-off, this is really for my colleagues and people who've been studying the Alexander Technique for a while, and you'll see why as I get further into this.

 

So, I've been talking to some of my other colleagues about the idea of self-environment unity, and just to recap on my previous video, it's not a formal Alexander Technique idea, but I've yet to find an Alexander Technique teacher who doesn't agree with it. In fact, my colleague Henry Fagg had in fact written an article previously, well before I'd done my video discussing it,  and he brought up the the Neo-Confucius word Cheng to highlight the idea of self-environment unity. Neo-Confucius being, in western terms, from 13th century on wards. So it's certainly not really a new idea, and I think it was Mark Jones who also let me know that there's an area of  psychological study called Ecological Psychology started by a man called J.J Gibson, so that that's an area of research and psychology for a good 70 years now looking at very similar ideas, more from a psychological point of view, but how we embed ourselves in our environment to actually be part of it. It doesn't make sense, functional sense, to discriminate between the two. The phrase I've often used is like being a fish in water, if you take a fish out of water it's basically non-functioning, it makes no sense to discuss a fish's functioning without water. 

 

So that aside, what I wondered was should the Alexander Technique evolve to include new ideas?  Well, "Cheng" is not a new idea,  but to include new to the Alexander Technique ideas, that really do sit within the realm of Alexander thinking? If it sits there quite comfortably should we formally take these ideas on and make them canon if you like, make them a principle of the Alexander Technique, or should we just leave things as Alexander left them in 1955?

 

Now,  I've always had a slight issue with that, and I'm not suggesting that this Self-Environment unity should be the one that we add to our list of principles, I do think it's a good one, but it's a broader question. Alexander said throughout his life that his work was a work in progress. So the idea that we stop in 1955 when he died, and fossilize it in amber, seems to me to actually dishonor his work in a way, and I think that's a shame. I think there's a place to evolve the Alexander Technique in small ways. I mean on the whole, things are fine as they are you know, it's not a major issue, but I still think it's important to see our work as teachers as an evolving body of work. As time goes on we get new research on neuroscience etc, we want to make sure that what we're teaching is in line with what we think is true, and in fairness the Alexander Technique has been born out of observation, not theory, so we're kind of always covered a bit there. If we're observing behavior consistently then you know it's human behavior, it is what it is, so in a way we'll, as a profession, always be safe to a degree regardless of latest scientific discoveries. But I do think it's helpful to take these discoveries on board to keep the work alive and present.  So I would like to see the idea that we could keep evolving and not fossilizing it in amber. Obviously we'd need consensus, a democratic consensus and that would take time to achieve, so it would be a very slowly evolving thing for the Alexander Technique to take on new ideas, so it's not something that's gonna happen overnight, or even needs to. Interestingly, as I'm filming this the Alexander Technique profession is having it's yearly convention in Berlin, Germany, a lot of my colleagues are getting together in person and also online, and I think this would be a fantastic discussion for our profession to have at a convention, to say should we fossilize it in amber or should we incrementally take some ideas on board? And would one of those ideas, ... seems everyone I've spoken to seems to be quite comfortable with it ... be self-environment unity? What I simply call Being.

 

So I would be really interested to know if you are a teacher whether you think we should just stop at 1955, fossilize it in amber, or whether we should incrementally take new ideas on board or if not new ideas, additional ideas that we think are very pertinent to our work, and not just personally helpful they need to be helpful there's no point just bringing them in if they're not helpful ideas I personally think self-environment unity as a concept is a very helpful idea it gives us reason for our functioning, it gives us context for our functioning.  So let me know what you think, I'll be really interested to know.

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How Can I Have Good Posture? My Back Always Hurts When I Try To Sit/Stand Straight.

I like to answer questions on posture on the Quora platform where people ask the general public about anything and everything. This question appeared in my inbox the other day:

 

How can I have good posture? My back always hurts when I try to sit/stand straight.

 

It has to be one of the most common questions that Alexander Technique teachers hear, so this was my reply:

 

By recognising that posture isn't a position, but a movement, a balancing act. Replace the word posture with poise and you'll have a better relationship with what you're after. Poise is as much a mental attitude as a physical activity.

 

One of my pet hates with regards to articles on good posture is the obligatory accompanying photo with a plumb line drawn down the side connecting the ear, shoulder, hip, knees and ankle (so ignore the thumbnail image for this article!). It gives the impression that you’re supposed to achieve this position. You are not, that line is really just the average of all the points you have wobbled about. We can "wobble" with great skill and ease, the movement maybe be barely perceptible at times, but that subtle dance needs to be always available. It’s the attempt to achieve a held position that causes your back to hurt as it takes too much effort, and is ultimately unsustainable, as you’ll well know if you’ve ever tried to hold a “correct” posture.

 

It's also helpful to recognise that ultimately Isaac Newton was wrong about gravity (although it was a genius first step), it's not a force, and isn't dragging you down. We've known this since 1916 when Albert Einstein first published his Theory of General Relativity.

 

As counter intuitive as it may seem, the Earth is actually pushing us up, and we “surf" that upwards thrust by adjusting and readjusting to re-find the support it gives us through our skeletal structure. We're naturally an unstable structure (the trade off being we have greater mobility). Go on YouTube and look up “is gravity a force” and take your pick, lots of good short explanations on the reality of gravitation.

 

We use gravity like a fish uses water, we're completely evolved for it. It's not a matter of doing good posture, as it does you in a similar way that you don't need to think of breathing correctly, you will be breathed. The question is really what are the habits you've built up that interfere with your poise?

 

I'm naturally biased as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, but I recommend you look into it to help with your posture/poise.

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Self\Environment Unity

"Be like a fish in water" has become one of my favourite sayings of late. It's not literal, but highlights the idea that functional movement is meaningless without environmental context.

 

In this video I extemporise around this theme.

 

There's also an edited transcript below.

 

Today I thought we'd discuss something a bit different, slightly philosophical, but I'm hoping it will prove practical as well.  Now, it's not strictly speaking Alexander Technique canon, if you like, it's not something that Alexander personally talked about, but I have found through talking to colleagues that it seems to be a view that's quite commonly held anyway.

 

So, within the Alexander Technique we definitely have the idea of Psycho-physical unity, that's the mind and body as a singular entity, which for shorthand we call the Self, but some of us like to take the idea a bit further. Like I said,  it's not formal Alexander Technique, but I've yet to find a teacher who would argue against it.  I've had quite a few positive responses about it discussing it online with fellow teachers,  and that is the idea that we have Self-Environment Unity. We are not separate from our environment, and our functioning is entirely in accordance with the environment. And by environment I don't mean green issues,  I'm talking about the space we have to move in, the fact that we have an accelerating surface coming up underneath us to support us, and gravity doesn't actually drag us down.  I'll link to my video on gravity because that's something you need to understand, that as part of our environment we're not being dragged down, we're actually being pushed up, and our structure is formed and evolved based on that. We move not because we have arms and legs but because obviously there's something out there to interact with.

 

It's not a formal AT idea,  but a while back I did ask some colleagues online, on a Facebook group,  what would be a good word for this. We've got Self for Psycho-physical Unity, what can we call Self-Environment Unity? There was some great discussion, but in the end I didn't get any great ideas that were succinct. But I realized actually there's a word we already have that's perfectly prosaic, and perfectly useful, and that is Being.  So my idea of Being encompasses that Self-Environment Unity.  Of course, as an idea it's not a particularly new one,  I'm sure many other philosophies probably have a similar view.  Particularly in the East,  I think it would not be  particularly novel,  going back quite a few thousand years,  certainly hundreds. But Being is Self-Environment unity, and it's important because it affects the way we think of movement. Obviously people come to the Alexander Technique to help them with their movement, often because the movement, the patterns of movement, have left them in pain.

 

A phrase  I like to use, and I think I've used it before in videos, is the idea we want to be like a fish in water. When you think of a fish in water you think of a functional whole, the fish and the water.  Take the fish out of the water and suddenly it's a not a very well functioning fish, but when we think of ourselves and fellow Humanity, we kind of think of ourselves separated and not embedded within our environment, like somehow we could just walk about and do stuff if there was no planet there, which is obviously ridiculous. If we were floating around in space,  needing a  spacesuit for it, obviously we need oxygen, so that's one thing already failed, we'd actually find we would become quite ill, quite quickly.  We're completely evolved to be part of this environment and not having an accelerating surface, "gravity", to operate against we end up with all sorts of problems including pressure in the brain and the eyeballs, that causes issues, we end up with brittle bones. So we need to be part of this environment, we need to learn how to embed ourselves in a way that our movement is based on finding ease within the environment. You think of fish swimming and of course it's easy,  it's fully adapted for it.  Who would consider that you could use yourself badly if you're a fish in water, or a dolphin in water, or a whale in water, and yet somehow Humanity has managed to take its environment and somehow ignore it, and and not be in accordance with it and moving against it in ways that generate pain in the long run. 

 

You don't move because you have arms and legs etc, you move because you've got space to move in and that's where your mental engagement needs to be,  not in worrying about joints and muscles, it's knowing you've got something to interface with, and that you can do it while supported from the ground underneath. So that's the thought to mull over. If you have any disagreements with that leave a comment, we can get into a good discussion about it. But I really can't see how, personally, anyone could be in disagreement with that,  that we are somehow separate from our environment, because our entire form...,  we exist as human beings because of the environment.  If we were in a different environment, say different levels of gaseous quantities between oxygen nitrogen etc,  we had different gravity for example, different levels of heat and light, we would not be this form. We would be another being, we would not be Humanity as we know it. So think that over and see if you can get a better idea of when you're moving, you're moving with a reason, and the reason is to interact with your surroundings, and be part of it,  not separate from it.

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Daniel's Story

 

Daniel very kindly agreed to share his story of how he came to have Alexander Technique lessons, and how he benefited from them.

 

 

Describe your background and what brought you to the Alexander Technique 

 

I am an energy manager, so that means working a lot with computers hunched over a desk,

not a very healthy lifestyle. I don't do as much exercise as I should, and about 10 years ago I thought it was a bright idea to dive into a river for fun and ended up injuring my back , and I've had back problems since then. So, they they got a lot worse a couple of years ago and I eventually went through various routes chiropractors, et cetera,  found my way to the Alexander Technique, and it's been great.

 

What were the main benefits of taking out all the lessons?

 

I think it made me feel a lot less stressed, for one thing, and it also showed me that I could

actually move normally again. I thought perhaps I had something permanently wrong with my back, or something, and I was kind of looking at the Alexander Technique as a temporary remedy, but it actually showed me there wasn't something physically wrong with my back, I'd just learned bad movement patterns and by then the Alexander Technique showed me how to relearn to move.

 

Were there any unexpected benefits?

 

Yeah, absolutely! I wasn't expecting to get the sense of calm the Alexander Technique gives me. It's really reduced a lot of my stress, and I wasn't expecting to get this kind of confidence boost that it's given me, because I think when you've had an injury for a very long time, it does dent your confidence, you don't feel able-bodied, so to speak, and learning that I could correct those problems. So that's really boosted my confidence and made me feel a lot better. 

 

How would you describe the Alexander Technique to others in your own words?

 

I would say it's not really like physical exercise, per se, more like mental exercise, so you're kind of training yourself to be much more Zen, for want of a better word, much more calm, and not to interfere with how your body naturally moves and functions. So it's like meditating standing up, meditation in motion.

 

Would you recommend the Alexander Technique to others?

 

Oh, without a doubt yes! I would say even if you don't have any specific health issues, if you want to reduce stress a bit, and just learn how to move more freely and easily, be more relaxed, yeah absolutely, give it a try.

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Stage Fright Management

“The problem is not the sensation of nerves in your body, the problem is that you've decided to interpret them as fear, as an indication you can't cope or you're gonna mess up. That's not what it is. It's your personality subtly transforming from the normal, everyday you, into the slightly more special version of you required for this special situation”. - Jon Gomm

 

Stage fright, like all human reactions (and emotions), is a psycho-physical reaction. I'm paraphrasing, but FM Alexander said of his Technique that it was learning to deal with the stimulus of living, and being on stage is a big stimulus.

 

A bit of expectation management, the goal here isn't being able to prevent feeling nervous. Being nervous is perfectly normal, and an acceptable response to the situation of playing live. As acoustic maestro Jon Gomm has commented on his own stage fright, he considers his nervousness a sign of his super powers coming on board.  A lack of nerves is also commonly associated with a lacklustre performance.

 

Although stage fright is a strong emotion, it's important to understand that emotions aren't thoughts, and as such, you can't think your way out of them. You've probably experienced this in various ways throughout your life. You can't think your way out of love or fear in the moment. Gestalt Therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy, shares the same understanding of psychophysical unity as the Alexander Technique. Clients are encouraged to fully experience the physicality of their emotional states to help process them better, and that's also good way into dealing with stage fright too.

 

Overcoming stage fright for guitar players.

By tangibly addressing the physicality rather than your mental state, you'll find the latter becomes more manageable, but what are the physical traits? They're the same as you'd expect to find in all reactions, a tightening of the neck and shoulder muscles specifically and interference with breathing. There's actually a general tightening of muscles but the neck and shoulder muscles are a useful barometer and window into dealing with the overall condition. It should be obvious that all the things we discussed previously with regards to poise/posture are equally relevant here such is the nature of psycho-physicality.

 

A good place to start is to take long out breaths to encourage your parasympathetic nervous system, your resting state, and become aware of your peripheral vision to discourage over concentration of the mind. And as previously mentioned, being aware of your periphereal vision is a practical way of reducing mental concentration. Then, look for the support of the ground pushing up through your feet so that your spine pushes your head "forward and up", allowing your neck muscles to release into the direction that provides. Allow the shoulders to hang down your back by directing the chest muscles to release into width. Don't concern yourself with how successful you are in directing, it's somewhat of a wish, a desire, be content with the desire itself.

 

Alexander countered against the use of imagery because you never know what someone is going to do with it, people can respond very differently to the same imagery. I'm aware that imagery is often offered and used in dealing with stage fright, and if you've found one that works for you feel free to keep using it alongside the above recommendations.

 

There’s an interesting relationship between emotion and gesture,  and the way we associate strong emotions with tension. Entire books have been dedicated to it, but for now it’s helpful to recognise that, thankfully, tension isn’t always intrinsic to the emotion. If that was the case the act of wanting to communicate strong emotions would hinder your ability to do so on the guitar. When watching others perform, don’t associate emotional facial expressions AKA “guitar face” with performance hindering physical tension.

 

I’ll bookend this chapter with more wise words from Jon Gomm;

 

 

"I find that maintaining confidence is like trying to hold water in your bare hands. Conviction is much easier to hold on to, and from there, confidence can sometimes grow on its own ... And when fear realises it can't win, it seems to give up."

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Case Studies for Guitarists

 

There’s an ideological culture in the Alexander Technique, that I subscribe to, that we’re not trying to fix, cure, or treat people, only change the way they use themselves. We diagnose “use”, not pathologies. We also tend to take each lesson as if it were the first lesson, a somewhat Zen approach. For this reason it’s uncommon to take extensive notes, although some of my colleagues do. This all makes a formal case study hard to do, but in lieu of that I’ve included two interviews with guitarists who’ve had lessons with me. One from four years ago that I’ve transcribed from my YouTube channel, and another with a current student who kindly agreed to be interviewed.

 

Bradley’s Story

Hi Bradley,  describe your background and what brought you to the Alexander

Technique?

 

so basically, I'm a guitarist, a session musician and a composer. I basically became injured,  I wasn't entirely sure how it happened, but ultimately it probably came down to way too much playing, and bad posture. So that injury, unfortunately, knocked me out for at least six months, and I had no idea what to do about it. I went to the doctors and they said you might need some kind of steroid injection in your hand, it could be carpal tunnel syndrome it could be a number of things, you might need actual surgery, physical surgery. So that was quite worrying to me. But a friend of mine told me to get in touch with the charity Help Musicians, and they were happy to  pay £800 to my treatment, the Alexander Technique.

 

That's fantastically generous of them!

 

Yeah, it's absolutely incredible, so a huge thank you to them, and then I started my treatment as a result. And it's been incredible, that's made a huge difference to my life.

 

What were the main benefits for you?

 

The main benefit was probably, ... the problem was my hand ... the main issue was it kind of crunched up like a claw and I had a shooting pain, and I was unable to sleep for two months. I had to wear some kind of splint, or brace, and doing the Alexander Technique Technique pretty much got rid of all of those kinds of pains. I came to lessons with pretty severe discomfort, and going through 14 weeks worth of Alexander treatment I've got pretty much got none whatsoever, so it's amazing.

 

That's fantastic! So were there any unexpected benefits?

 

The most unexpected benefit was psychologically, it made a huge difference to my mental health and well-being. The biggest difference that I noticed was coming to lessons and feeling maybe a little bit grumpy, and like I wasn't too keen on the world. I wasn't I wasn't in a particular good mood, I come in lie down, have an Alexander lesson come out of it and just have completely different outlook to life. And the biggest lesson I think I've learned is the how our body effects the way we think, completely. You would have thought it was the other way around, and how our brain sends signals, but it's very much interlinked. 

 

It's a two-way street, sure. So, has it influenced your approach to your instrument and to music?

 

Yes, in a huge way.  Alexander teaches efficiency of movement, and what I've noticed in my playing is, starting off, I had a pretty hard grip and a very heavy hand. I play guitar, so it's a very physical instrument, you're directly attached to the string. I realized you don't need to press down that hard on the guitar, you don't need to hit that hard, and it's made a huge difference to the way I approach the instrument. I think I've become a better

musician as a result of doing it.

 

Would you recommend the Alexander Technique to others in your situation?

 

Absolutely! Non-musicians as well. It makes a huge difference to the way that you approach life, and the way that you approach your awareness, your physical awareness, and your day-to-day life. So yeah, absolutely.

 


Maitreya’s Tale

 

Hi Maitreya, tell us about yourself and what brought you to the Alexander Technique?

 

Well, I'd known about the Alexander Technique for a long time. I was aware of it through my music course at university. I work as a visiting music teacher in a school, I also play electric, acoustic and bass guitar in bands, and I am a media composer. I was aware of friends at college who were having lessons for medical reasons, and one person who was using it for their music, but I really didn't understand it properly beyond standing up straight and paying attention. I thought, well, that would be a lovely thing to try. Just to be able to stand up straight, yeah, I really didn't have an idea of what it was [laughs].

 

So, when I came to you, it was really for different reasons. I had just injured my back from poor sitting technique on a chair during lockdown. And I preferred the idea of Alexander Technique rather than physiotherapy, or seeing a chiropractor, because I instinctively felt that my injury happened because of poor technique rather than from physical trauma. So it seemed that training would be the key rather than treatment. And that's where we started.

 

You didn't come specifically for a playing related injury as such, but were your back issues affecting sitting playing, performing, composing with a DAW etc?

 

Well, I couldn’t do anything for a month after the injury but it took a long time for me to see any previous issues affecting my work. It was not initially obvious but I found that once I had enough experiences of grounding Alexander principles from our exercises and thought experiments, I became more aware of my own habits and was able to make different choices.  The results have shown increased stamina, regulated focus and energy and increased sense of playfulness and curiosity in my work. 

 

And then when I came to you, it took a about a month to significantly reduce my back pain. I would say that I was unaware of any issues  affecting my sitting, playing, performing, composing. I didn't sense anything at all. It was absolutely fine but I was also unaware.

 

As lessons progressed, more of our time was spent on playing. In your own mind, how did that progression come about?

 

I can't remember how long it was, I think it may have been a good few months of standing, sitting, squatting and semi supine before we even really started talking about the guitar at all. I am really glad that we took time with the general exercises, where we explored the  fundamental concepts and terminology - interference, end-gaining, inhibition, the means-whereby etc. before exploring these concepts within my musical endeavors. I am also pleased that I remained open minded and was not looking for a particular result within a time frame, but instinctively stayed because I knew that all areas of my life would benefit from this study. So I just followed that and was happy to just let it take its course at its own pace. Had I been looking for a particular result within a fixed time-frame or had not been patient, I could have justified canceling lessons before the real benefits arose because I was already happy with what we’d achieved so far.

 

Working on guitar related issues was just a natural progression. I had the intention while looking for a teacher online during the 2020 lockdown. It seemed obvious to look for Alexander Teachers with a guitar specialism even though I didn’t feel specific need to explore this at the time. I didn't know whether I was going to have lessons for a few weeks to learn any exercises to ensure that I was doing the right things to maintain my back health. Beyond this, as silly as this might sound, I didn't really know what my intention was. And so when we moved into the guitar stuff, there were lots of new insights and pleasant surprises as there were insights particular to my experience of playing the electric, acoustic, classical or bass guitar, performing, practicing and composing. I have been fortunate  that my students have been willing to entertain the same experiments, allowing us all  further exploration of the usefulness of these principles.   

 

It’s funny that I became as fascinated with finding freedom of movement in standing up and sitting, and just as well, as it's all connected. And as you've said, it's all contrivances, the sitting, standing, playing guitar and it's all secondary to this idea of the primary Self, the body/mind. 

 

So the lessons really were a natural progression from necessity through fundamentals to applying to activities I am already invested in. I also think that it was going to happen. A) because I was not looking for it  look for it and B) most of the insights were gained by allowing experiences to arise, ignoring any expectations an cultivating a mode of non judgemental observations. 

 

What were the main insights and benefits of the Alexander Technique to your practicing and performance?

 

It was huge!  It was almost instant because we were in a very practical process, and it was a step by step process with lots of comparison work. Do it like this then do it like that and compare. Finding some internal quiet, and then all kinds of exercises where I could see a lot of difference in results, which started really resonating with the fundamentals of AT. I really think that by cultivating this mode of observation, one can really move further into one’s potential. And so, I think, just by living, I could become a better guitar player!

 

Oh, now there's a quote!

 

Yes! You know, just by being in everyday life. And since understanding that and integrating it, It is easier to find flow in many of my habitual experiences. It seems as if progress comes easier from momentum rather than from facing resistance alone. By this, I mean that one gains progress in any endeavor more so through building natural momentum through consistent engagement rather than through time racked. This sounds obvious in theory but often gets forgotten in practice. pushing through resistance, I mean that's an important factor as well, but there has to be a basis of natural grown momentum, where i start with what can I do when I'm totally relaxed, and then I build that up so that becomes stronger and reliable at that relaxed level. And then when the desire arises, then I find myself flowing into and through resistance, because it feels natural. 

 

That's an interesting idea, of flowing into resistance.

 

Yeah, that's what it feels like, that's my experience.

 

You've taken inhibition into a higher stimulus, but I like your way of saying it. My way is a professional jargon, yours is a very nice way of framing it and I think it's important to find jargon free ways of describing these experiences, because it's the experience that matters.

 

As a musician who plays guitar, plays bass, plays classical guitar, plays acoustic guitar,  plays acoustic guitar and sings, these are all different applications with their own nuances and details, different challenges, sizes of guitars, but finding that something underlying that unites them all ...

 

Warming up now feels like a process of a shift in thinking which is at odds with my previous belief that fingers always need to be warmed up. To some extent they do, but much more of this has been achieved in a recent shifts in thinking.

 

When practising I already had a system of drilling things, breaking pieces down in to small and simple exercises for about five to six years, and that work I did on my own was just ground work and it made me ready for what you were able to show me. And that is that the drill is not the work, it's just the environment. The experience is the content, the internal experiences, the quality of thinking. So in terms of drills, in terms of practice, the result has been a significant  acceleration of muscle memory acquisition. It is quicker. I mean, you can do drills, but if you're not relaxed you're just teaching yourself to get in your own way. 

 

But that's not the main point for me, the main point is illustrated by Victor Wooten’s example of always practicing with a groove. The idea that practice does not need to be monotonous, having that perspective, not thinking of practice as monotonous. I might want to pick my guitar up, but don't if I think of practice or work and this doesn’t change until I can see, oh, this is going to be a little dance, you know? So, it brings the play back into practice, which is what encourages the curiosity to see new details, and extra insights and even better when I start making new connections. It really makes it clear that repetition is an illusion as far as experience is concerned. And this is the important thing that when I  start with this work, being aware of what my primary self is doing, and what my back is doing, what my legs doing, it’s all deeply connected to what my fingers are doing.  Particularly my shoulders with the string tracking and things like that. I never would have thought about that before. It just never would have occurred to me, but yet it's so obvious, the fingers are very much attached to the shoulders and spine so it all matters. You are giving me an experiential framework in which I can explore this, and in a way where it makes sense, without lots of anatomical detail which would probably turn me off.

 

How's about from a performance perspective, when you're not directly trying to think about these things?

 

Okay, big sweeping statement, this work is what connects practice to performance, because this helps you to find performance within your practice. I wouldn't say the same thing the other way around, but it allows you to bring your daily practice, your insights, into performance.

 

I observe myself in a practice situation, and observe my internal stimulus, because when I am practicing, i am most likely to be in a room on my own, so if I experience any stimulus, but it's just generated by me in my activity, all in me. By learning to observe the stimulus in a calm solo scenario, that really lays the groundwork for being able to see and tell the difference between internal and external stimulus, like the audience. Yeah, like people in the audience who are really enjoying it, by looking at you like this [pulls a bored looking face], but not letting that affect me and integrating into my experience. And they might actually be loving it in reality. Those things used to worry me so much, but I don to pay so much attention to these things anymore. 

 

The result is that these lessons provide a level of practice that really can deliver more naturally engaging performances, where technical passages can be performed without loss of the thread of expression.

 

What about actually being in performance? I love what you're saying that practice essentially becomes performance, but what about when you're literally on stage.

 

Okay, the best example that I can think of comes from my experience performing as a singer songwriter. I find that Evaluating my performance as an instrumental performer is usually easier but more generalised and subjective. By singing words I have created on some level reflect events in my life or my way of being, I am more critical about my ability to convey the emotions around certain lyrics. By working on the silent, whispered and vocalised vowels exercises, I was surprised to hear a voice that I recognised as mine. I just know without any effort, it was expressing who I have always been. This is not to say that singing has been consistently blissful since that experience but it motivates me to work to get out of my own way vocally. I can’t explain it any better than that. 

 

This really illustrates one of your mantras - the observation is the win. Because when I am practicing, I am being aware of my observations and generating fresh ones. And that is a "muscle" that's being strengthened, so as I have been doing this in my own practice, it has started to naturally appear in moments while performing. Whereas without this work that observation doesn't happen. 

 

I like to "dance" to the beat, you know, keep moving freely, and I was doing that recently at a gig. I was nervous because I was playing a resonator guitar that I'm not used to because the action is a bit too high for the way I like to play it. I wanted to do a lot of practice but didn't have time, and we have hardly gigged since the first lockdown. So I thought okay, I'm just going to do this, this is now an Alexander experiment to see how far can I go. I was just thinking, I'm in the sun, I'm playing with my friends, this is great. And it was just constantly feeding in that kind of information.

 

It's like, just shake yourself, breathe, where there's tension to let go, I just relinquish. This space is generated where I can relinquish habitual impulses, which in this case was the need to play fast solos out of nervousness but now I remind myself to Just play a half decent tune, take the melody and expand it without trying to play all my scales, and improvise a tune and see what happens. And there'll be certain bits of stimulus that would come from making a mistake, so by generating observations as a practice, that sensor was just happily working away in the gig and I was present through it. And it wouldn't have happened without all of the work that we've done. And I was just able to relax through it, you know, it's just like, who cares?

 

We've not really discussed stage fright in our lessons together, but obviously every musician experiences it to a degree, it's more whether it's debilitating or not. Have you ever experienced of this? 

 

Oh completely, yeah, three weeks ago. The reason why I don't really experience that with the electric guitar is because the only time I'm performing it is with friends playing songs that I've played for the last 10 years. So, it's like, it can only go so wrong, because I know the material well. So that's just a no brainer in that sense.

 

However, in school there was a music assembly I was involved in a brief potted history of music in 20 minutes in the school assembly. I was asked to play ensemble pieces on the electric and bass guitar which was no problem but I was also asked to play a lute piece from the renaissance period. I kind of suggested the lute piece myself, thinking, yeah I’m sure I'll be fine [looks sheepishly into the camera].

 

I did a little bit of homework, and this I did practice for, because I don't have that kind of backup, that experience. My experience as a performing classical guitarist does not compare with the hours of performance time logged with the electric guitar. So, I said to myself there's enough stimulus there already, but because I've been through it a few times, and because of our work, I thought right, I've got to take this seriously and I'm going to "Alexander" my way right the way through this. And that means on the day, I'm gonna have to be really cool, or cool as a cucumber as you like to say. I'm just gonna have to really embody this stuff, because otherwise, I'm going to really mess this up. 

 

There's a piece by Dowland, Flow My Tears it's called, it's beautiful, It's really lovely piece, and so I found the transcription, and then I put it in a notation program and just took out all the difficult notes [laughs]. Just anything that I thought I might not get down that well in time, but there was still lots of tricky places. Even if I had three months to practice it I knew there will be a point beyond which it would never improve. And that's what playing Classical guitar was like for me before our work, because I just thought, when will I be able to just play, rather than practise, you know? You watch other players and they play things, and they're just spotless, or there's a spirit through it that is really consistent in a way, a kind of flow through it, you know? The first thing is do the work, do the homework, you've got to gain the muscle memory. You have to do that work, but with this perspective, it can be fun, and it has to be fun. The playfulness helps you engage with it even further, you know, as you get little bits of muscle memory, that isn't just in your fingers, it could be a shoulder movement or something, that makes it easier.

 

So, I did all that work, I did play a good number of times, but had loads of other things going on. I was probably able to practice for about two hours over a week, so I was ready but there was no guarantee that I wouldn't fluff the whole thing. And that's what I thought. Right, okay, when I go on stage I've got to relinquish all of my perspective on my own abilities, I have to let go of all of that. And if I literally screw the whole thing up, I have to be okay with that. How do I do that I thought? Okay, well, the first thing you do is you do this! [mimes doing a "dance" playing with his Fly-By-Wire system]

 

As the kids were coming into assembly I made a point of smiling and looking at them to help me engage with that stimulus more positively. I looked for the support of the floor, I really was embodying that, that movement [the "dance"] was helping me to do that, as well as dispersing nervous energy instead of tightening, finding some fluidity in movement. If I was just "this is going to be all right. It's going to be all right", that would have done nothing. Then when we played, I took a good out breath, and had this sensation that I've got so much space around me, and I'm just going to play to that. I'm just going to enjoy this and I'm going to emote this music through my facial expressions as well. I'm just going to enjoy it. It was a constant calming down of the nervous system. I'd done the practice,  I've had many experiences where my playing has improved by doing the things that we've talked about. Then when I started playing, just finding the dance within the music, and yes I did that. I really did move with it, I mean not dramatically, it's quite a mournful piece, just a lot of gentle movement, I guess playing with my fly-by-wire system and going with the music. There were a couple of squeaks, but I got all the right notes, the right rhythms. It all sounded quite nice, just those squeaks once or twice, you know it's a tiny, tiny thing, but I smiled through it. It helped me with my confidence, having a more comfortable experience.

 

We've also worked on your singing a little, what did, what did you take from that?

 

As I mentioned, The whispered and vocalised 'Ah's, was a real surprise. I still don't understand it but it does do something really quite remarkable. It connected me to my voice, it connected my voice to my intended expression. Because you're finding where the boundary is between no sound and sound, the boundary between air and sound. It allows you to relax your voice, get rid of expectation, or any kind of psychological imposition. That just melts away. I don't understand how it works, but that was really, really good.

 

What would you say is the common thread that runs through all these different areas of back pain, sitting and standing, voice work, or playing guitar?

 

Two things, I'm becoming more acutely aware of the extent to which, and the different ways, in which I get in my own way. Then the joy of removing these obstacles just by observing them, just by creating a space where they can be observed. Then there's a new choice. It can become the easiest thing and it turns that phrase "no pain, no gain" into such a fallacy. That makes no sense. The opposite is true actually, no pain equals gain.

 

 

You started with online lessons because of lock down, but you've since had in-person lessons. What did you gain from each?

 

The way that we did it was a massive benefit for me because the online lessons gave a grounding, and were very much rooted in lessons because we weren't in the same room, so it didn't resemble any kind of "treatment", It was lessons, I learned how to do this, 123, simple as that. Then when we did meet for the first time, it was like a quantum leap. Because all this work had been done, the effect was instant, and I really enjoyed it.

 

That session when I came to you for the first time, the idea that you're not treating me, this is not a massage or anything like that, despite what it might look like, you're just giving me a lot of different stimuli, and I knew what to do with that. I was able to go into that zone where I had to allow, my only job was to allow. If I had come to you straight away, I think there would have been a part of me thinking, that's a nice massage [laughs], which this is not what all this training is for. It was like a massive turbo boost. To be honest, for a while I thought, right, no more online lessons, but I can now see the folly in that as well. I think it's good to do both.

 

What would you say to someone thinking of getting into the Alexander Technique?

 

I would say, do it. Trust the process, don't end-gain it [laughs]. Allow time for your own self observations to arise, and you'll be surprised at how easy is to create new choices.

 

Your Shoulders

The shoulders are a common area of habitual tension due to the nature of the startle reflex and associated stress states of the nervous system. The shoulder girdle is a very mobile structure and not well suited to weight bearing. Although the joint that connects it to the torso via the clavicle is at the front top of the rib cage (top of the sternum), the shoulder blade (scapula) itself hangs down the back of the ribcage off the other end of the clavicle. As the arms connect to the shoulder blades, this means that your arms are skeletally part of your back, and it's helpful to think of your arms as being part of your back.

Latissimus Dorsi
Latissimus Dorsi

In fact, the latissimus dorsi muscle is a large sheet of muscle that connects from the upper arm to the spine and all the way down to the top of the pelvis. It's useful to think of the full length of your arm, then, as starting from the top your pelvis. Your arms are really embedded into most of your torso, the only part of your torso that doesn't have arm muscles is your abdomen. The width of your arms is from the centre, at the front from your sternum, and from your spine at the back. When you use your arms, you use your torso, but it's the back that tends to become most neglected in coordination. Balance and poise in the torso allows for more effective use of your arms.

 

The shoulder Girdle
Your arms are part of your back!

If you make a tight fist you'll feel the muscles in your forearm tighten. They're finger muscles! Want to move your forearm from the elbow? That's done by the biceps and triceps of the upper arm. Want move your upper arm? Keep back tracking, the muscles of the torso. When you use your fingers to play guitar, they're supported by your torso, and especially your back.

 

The two main tension issues with the shoulders is pulling them up towards your ears, and pulling them forward, narrowing the chest. The shoulder and neck muscles are interrelated, the trapezius muscle (covering the upper back) is both a neck and shoulder muscle. As much as you need to release the shoulders down, you also need to release the neck into length with the classic AT "head forward and up", which I recommend you do first. The weight of the arms attached to the shoulder blades is enough to allow the shoulders to hang down the back. There is a point at which you need to raise the shoulders functionally to reach above your head, but that's not a requirement for playing the guitar. 

 

With regards to bringing the shoulders forward and narrowing the chest what you don't need to do is pull and hold them back. This has to be one of the most repeated pieces of advice with regards to posture, and one of my biggest bugbears. Essentially it's unhelpful and doesn't work, and you'll know it doesn't if you've ever tried it, it's unsustainable. Seriously, why go to all that physical effort to solve a problem of too much physical effort? By releasing the chest into width, the shoulders will naturally hang down the back.

 

In terms of body language, an aspect of pulling the shoulders forward and narrowing the chest is an associated emotional state, especially that of vulnerability. Recognise that. It's totally OK to feel vulnerable, but you don't have to broadcast it physically, and by not displaying it physically others wont respond to it negatively so readily. I personally think that being open physically but still present to your vulnerability is a powerful artistic communication in it's own right. Your stage presence will certainly benefit from this if you're generally a shy performer.

 

Anatomy and mechanics aside, Inhibition and the quality of your nervous system is the starting point to avoid excess tension in the shoulders. Your shoulders, like the head/neck relationship, can be another useful barometer as to what's going on with you, as you won't simply have tight shoulders, but be tight throughout.

 

 

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Your Fly-By-Wire System

There's a trade off between stability and mobility, and evolutionarily we've gone down the mobility route, which is a good thing for us humans, a tree is stable but ... 

 

A passenger plane has a large wing span making it very stable, but it turns slowly. Military fighter jets looking for greater mobility opted for smaller wings, but during their development they hit a wall where the increased instability meant they became unsafe to fly.

 

A solution was eventually found with the scaling down of the size of computers so that an on-board computer could manage the fine control to keep the plane stable whilst the pilot only has to deal with the direction they wish to fly in.  Contrast the classic WW2 Spitfire which had a wingspan longer than the length of its fuselage, to the modern Euro Fighter whose wing span is shorter than its fuselage. All commercial passenger planes now use the same technology for added safety and to give the pilot a break (auto-pilot).

 

This on-board computer is known as the Fly-by-Wire system in the aerospace industry (I grew up around planes, my father was in the RAF and chairman of Cosford air museum, hence this analogy), and we have our own equivalent in the cerebellum at the lower back of the brain. Whilst you go about your daily business, for the most part you're not thinking of not falling over, only the movements you wish to make to interface with your outer environment. Actually, if you want to move freely you're much better off thinking in terms of spacial awareness rather than specifics of your anatomy.

 

Euro Fighter: Its smaller wings are unstable, but allow greater mobility.
Euro Fighter: Its smaller wings are unstable, but allow greater mobility.

The point of this is to recognise that you're an unstable structure and your posture/poise is in itself a movement activity, always adjusting and readjusting to find the support provided by gravity. It's something you let happen much as you let yourself be breathed.

 

We tend to struggle more with this when we're sat, because the ankle, knee and (partially) hip joints have been taken out of the equation. You've become more stable, which often encourages more rigidity in the spine and torso, especially if you're not familiar with what free sitting feels like to begin with. As mentioned in this previous blog on sitting, sitting and standing are essentially the same thing for your spine, you just stand on your sit bones on the underside of your pelvis.

 

What we need to become aware of is the natural mobility of the spine as it adjusts and readjusts through the human Fly-by-Wire system. With that in mind we're going to do an exercise/exploration.

 

To start with you'll need to find your sit-bones  and some sense of being "stood" on them with reasonable poise/posture. The best way to refind your poise when seated is thorough movement rather than trying to find a correct shape. Literally walk your sit-bones back and forth across the chair surface and become engaged with the space around you, especially the space above and behind you that you no doubt routinely ignore. Let your posture be the outer manifestation of your mental engagement with your external environment and the support being offered by gravity and your seat coming up underneath you. If you're on a chair that swivels it can be hard to walk back and forth on your sit-bones, but you can still get good results shifting your weight between your sit-bones, rocking the pelvis from side to side.

 

 

finding your sit bones.

We'll do this exploration with the eyes closed to help destabilise you again (our eyes are part of the feedback system for balance) to make it easier to make observations since you're more stable when sat.

 

Once you have a good sense of being "stood" on your sit bones I want you to sway from side-to-side allowing the whole spine to bend, and the head to naturally fall in the direction you're leaning. It can also be nice to generate a snake like movement along the spine. The next step is to stop intentionally moving, but to not try to stop moving. What you'll hopefully observe is your own Fly-by-Wire system taking over and look for more equilibrium. Although the swaying will be damped down quickly, you'll observe that you're still being moved, even if it's subtle. Sometimes things settle till it reaches what I'll call a still-point, where the skeleton is aligned well enough that the movement has become imperceptible. If this goes on for too long I'd start to question whether you've simply become rigid. If in doubt, set the pendulum swinging again by intentionally generating a little movement. 

 

You'll soon realise that you never need to sit rigidly upright again to have "good posture". You are always free to move and be moved.

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How To Squat Freely

Squatting is normal functional movement, if you can't squat you're essentially dis-abled, although less-abled might be more appropriate. Squats are great for opening up the lower back and hips after long periods of sitting, and undoing some of the ills of office work and a sedentary lifestyle.

 

Some benefits of squatting include:

  • Back pain relief
  • Increased ankle mobility
  • Stronger hip muscles and glutes
  • Improved overall mobility and coordination
  • Improved digestive health

In some respects this is a follow on from my previous video on sitting down which I recommend you watch as sitting down is essentially the easier first half of the squat. If you can't do the first half freely you're guaranteed to be unable to do the rest freely, and by freely I mean without reaction.

It's common to try and hold onto something as you first attempt full, deep squats. I recommend not doing this as the improvement in coordination is what you want to work on that will allow a full squat to become available. It's not something you want to force, but rather reveal or uncover.

 

As always with my unscripted videos there's always something I wished I'd mentioned, in this case, additional help and support to remain in a full squat for a period of time. As mentioned in the video, a full squat provides a good stretch for the lower back, but if it's early days, to help the muscles release, do long out breaths. This encourages the parasympathetic nervous system, that is, your resting state. Muscles will release more readily in this state. You may also notice tightness at the end of the thigh as it approaches the knee joint. Again, long out breaths as you encourage a release out over the knee will help.

 

With regards to back pain, I have my own history with it after an accident which you can read about here. The long and short of it is that I completely got over it in a week with a daily practice of squatting  and Constructive Rest.

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Sitting Down Correctly

The problem with sitting well starts the moment you consider going to sit, well before your derriere hits the chair. To sit well you need to be able to travel to the chair well. The quality of your destination will be marked by the quality of your journey.

 

As I mention in the video, I'm not actually interested in you doing something correctly, but freely. Ideally I wished I'd expanded on that a bit in the video (the pitfalls of improvised content), so I'll take the opportunity to do so here. To do something freely means to do something without reaction. The most common place we observe that reaction is in the startle reflex, the pulling of the shoulders up, and the pulling of the neck muscles so the head tilts backwards. There may not be actual movement visible in the head/neck relationship, but there will still be an undue tightening of the muscles. You may also observe that your breath becomes held.

 

What's important here isn't the physicality though, that's just an outer manifestation that there's been a change in your thinking, and that's the reaction. Essentially, going to sit should be as inconsequential as scratching your nose; Wholly unremarkable. It's about moving yourself through space without upsetting the quality of your nervous system and thinking, and in doing so you'll find the movement itself easier. It's like carrying a full glass of water without disturbing the contents so it doesn't spill, where your very being is the water.

 

I’d go as far to say as the problem with sitting down starts with the phrase “sitting down”. It’s the “down” part of the phrase that’s the issue, it encourages you to think down in a way that encourages collapse. Better to maintain the upwards direction of the head and spine and fold your legs up underneath your torso as the floor pushes up into your feet. There’s a longer conversation to be had there about the true nature of gravity (long story short, it’s not pulling you down!), but this isn’t the place right now to be getting into Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

 

The action of sitting and standing is so rich in exploration of human behaviour that we use it as a contrivance and metaphor for all movement in teaching the Alexander Technique. It's a "vanilla" flavoured movement we use as a teaching tool and and as a starting point. Individual teachers may have a specialist niche in other movements, such as playing an instrument (I play guitar and often work with fellow guitarists ) or sports activities, but the same behaviours and attitudes can be observed in "vanilla" movements as can be seen in more specific ones. 

 

Given our lifestyles though, it's a very useful functional movement to be able to do freely. It's also good training for squatting freely too. If you can't do the first half of going into a squat freely, you can guarantee you you wont be able to do the second half freely either. It'll be repleat with effort and excess tension, robbing you of the benefits a good squat provides for releasing the lower back muscles and hips.

 

Now, if you'll forgive my sartorial inelegance, I forgot I was still wearing my tracksuit bottoms when I decided to make this video somewhat impromptu, you'll find all need to know with regards to sitting down with poise and control within it.

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Reset Your Breathing & Reduce Stress

I want to be careful to suggest this is not an exercise as such, but a procedure to reduce interference patterns that may be present in your breathing.

 

You don't need to try to breathe any more than you need to beat your heart. I often say the same about posture, you don't need to do correct posture, you'll be poised, much like you will be breathed.

 

One of the causes of interference is our stress response, and this procedure will also help to address that.

 

Interestingly, before FM Alexander developed his work into what we now know as the Alexander Technique (which he simply referred to as The Work), he was known as The Breathing Man. Much of the Alexander Technique was born out of his observations on breathing referring to it as "true primary movement". My colleague Halvard Heggdal wrote a revealing essay on this entitled The Primary Movement. It's probably of more interest for my fellow Alexander teachers, but it's food for thought for all.

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Don't Stretch, Release!

Are you getting the most out of your stretching?

 

If your nervous system isn't in on the game, probably not!

 

The overwhelming majority of people I've spoken to have a misconception of what stretching actually entails.

 

Without intending to, it's very common to invoke the stretch reflex (or myotatic reflex as it's also known), and in doing so prevent the muscle, or muscles, from releasing. 

 

A more mindful approach is what's required.

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Using Gravity to Help Your Posture.

Following on from my previous vlog on gravity I wanted to expand a little further on it as gravity helps to explain one of Alexander's main observations. And I think it's important to point out that his work was born out of observation of human behaviour (actually his own behaviour initially) rather than from theory.

 

What Alexander noticed was that when his head was allowed to be "forward and up" in relation to the spine, he coordinated better and had less interference from habitual tension. 

 

It's almost a catechism within the Alexander Technique to use the classic phrase "let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up".

 

I think it's acceptable to question how one is supposed to let your neck be free in the first place when there's habitual tension that's preventing it. The answer to that is for another discussion but includes inhibition and the ingredient of time.

 

However, by understanding how we operate within gravity you'll see how "head forward and up" is done for you, increasing your chance of letting it happen by wishing to release into it. 

 

Of course, it's OK to move your head in any orientation the joints allow, what we're talking about here is where is "home". It's debatable how long we spend at "home", the question is do we know where it is, and are we capable of freely returning to it. You could also consider it an aspect of Positions of Mechanical Advantage.

 

On a more general note, we want to avoid being like a fish out of water in our mental relation to the Earth's surface. When thinking of a fish swimming you automatically think of the fish and the water together almost as a singular entity.  But when it comes to ourselves we have a tendency to separate our movement from the support that gravity provides, and even make locomotion possible. Become part of your environment, be a fish in water. 

 


To help me understand the nature of gravity in more detail I'm about to start reading The Ascent of Gravity. If you're interested in improving  your posture/poise in a way that let's you be poised, in the same way that you will be breathed, maybe you'd like to read it too. If that's all a bit much, just go to YouTube and search "is gravity a force". You'll get plenty of food for thought.

 

 

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The Gravity Myth & How It Affects Your Posture

I often say that we use gravity like a fish uses water, we're completely evolved to use it to our advantage. Despite this, it seems the majority of people behave as if it's the enemy working against their posture. Without gravity you'd have no posture to concern yourself with in the first place.  Your posture/poise is defined by your relationship with gravity, and by changing how you relate to the idea of gravity you can find more ease in your poise and posture..

 

Most people think of gravity in the way that Isaac Newton first formulated it when that apple supposedly fell from a tree and hit him on the head (somewhat topically, this occurred in the middle of a pandemic!). It was an excellent theory at the time that allowed many accurate predictions to be made from it, but has been superseded in scientific theory for over 100 years by Albert Einstein's theory of General of Relativity, the public has just failed to catch up. In fairness that's because it's counterintuitive to our perceived experience.

 

Although the aim of this discussion isn't to understand  General Relativity in any detail, (and if you're going to dismiss Albert Einstein, which you are at liberty to do, can I at least ask to see your calculations?), can we use a thought experiment based on it to improve how you find support and ease for your posture/poise and use gravity to your advantage? 

 

This will lead you to realise that whenever you go to sit down or squat, you let the earth come up underneath you in a controlled manner, and that you are essentially weightless but fully supported. The experience you have in an elevator as it first ascends is of additional support being provided, and it’s up to you to channel that support though your postural reflexes.

 

Watch this video to explore the thought experiment and then spend a few minutes each day considering/experiencing it:

 

As a companion piece you may also like to read this article on what sitting really is so you can get the best out of the thought experiment whilst sitting.

 

Here's the video that that prompted mine that explains the relevant aspects of General Relativity as it applies to gravity: It's not that scary or difficult to understand, I do recommend watching it:

 



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Positions of Mechanical Advantage (AKA The Monkey)

I want to dispel a myth about the Alexander Technique that it's about how to move correctly. This has been greatly encouraged by misunderstanding what we call Positions of Mechanical Advantage, and its best known example colloquially known as The Monkey.

 

Many people on seeing pictures of The Monkey as a way lowering yourself in space for any reason, such as picking something up or washing your hands in a low basin, assume this is the correct way to move and will attempt to adopt the same shape without consideration for the underlying quality of the movement. 

 

Personally, I'm not remotely interested in the correctness of a movement (I'd argue there's no such thing as a wrong movement), but the quality of freedom within it. And that's what a Mechanical Advantage provides, a greater chance of finding some freedom because the activity is physically easier, but not a guarantee! In traditional Alexander terminology we could say that The Monkey is a lower physical stimulus making it easier to inhibit a reaction and therefore avoid unnecessary tension.

 

Although there are no guarantees as such, the closest you can get comes from the quality of your awareness in activity.



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The Power of Habit & Faulty Sensory Appreciation

Although the Alexander Technique is about changing habits, we have to recognise that habits themselves are still incredibly useful. It's really a matter of having choice over our habits, adopting and keeping those that are beneficial, and minimising those that are less helpful. I say minimise rather than discard as we have to be realistic and not overly ideological, you don't want to end up in a judgmental fight with yourself as old habits make themselves known occasionally.

 

One of the problems with habituated misuse of yourself is that it leads to what F.M.Alexander called Debauched Kinaesthesia, a wonderfully Edwardian turn of phrase, or Faulty Sensory Appreciation, as it's more commonly called in the Technique. This simply states that as you filter everything through your current habits, you may not be doing what you think you're doing. This in itself can make changing habits a tricky business.As will the fact that our unhelpful habits, being the familiar, encourage a Stockholm Syndrome type relationship with them!

 



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Directions for Improving Your Posture

Directions and directing are one of the core principles of the Alexander Technique.

 

F.M.Alexander's classic formulation to remind him to keep his head balanced freely on top of his spine was:

 

"Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen"

 

To be honest, I personally never found it helpful due to the nature of my habits when I first started my own Alexander journey. That's not say it's not useful for others, but I've become very judicious in using it in my teaching.

 

In time I came to evolve a different view on Directing that was still inspired by something Alexander said:

 

"When an investigation comes to be made, it will be found that every single thing we are doing in the work is being done in Nature where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."

 

I simply wondered how other animal species direct themselves in their environment. It turned out I wasn't the first AT teacher to to come to the conclusion that Directing is not best served by introspecting; David Gorman has been working this way well before I was aware of him. So if I am a heretic, at least I'm not alone.

 

It should also be noted that, Alexander changed his mind on offering his students his original formulation for Directing in his later years owing to his concerns about what students tend to "do" with them. They are after all a reminder of what not to do!


If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch. Online lessons available.


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"Non-Doing" in Daily Life

A student's experience of taking Alexander Technique lessons:

I first heard of the Alexander Technique from a friend, who described it as a 'cure for bad posture' after hearing me complaining of the lower back pain which had plagued me for several years in my late teens and early twenties. In fact, it was not just sporadic lower-back pain I suffered with, but neck pain, stiff shoulders, a bad knee, a sore hip - the list went on.

 

I wasn't in bad shape, although my injuries frequently prevented regular exercise. Because I considered myself fit and healthy, these unexplained setbacks were all the more exasperating.

 

The first thing that struck me about the Alexander Technique, in contrast to other methods for back pain I had tried, was that it is not described as "treatment". Whilst my physical condition and history were recorded, the Technique is not targeted at curing specific ailments. My teacher described himself first and foremost as a 'teacher', and our weekly sessions were described as 'lessons'

 

This did not make a great deal of sense to begin with, and the lessons themselves seemed somewhat abstract. we looked at standing up and sitting down, and associated movements. We looked at the 'directions' which form the basis of the Technique. Counter-intuitively, we spent a good deal of time focusing on 'not doing'. When learning something new, I expected there to be a skill or an action to grasp and perfect, but the Alexander Technique is firstly about 'not doing'. In fact, learning not to do, in spite of burning compulsion - to intervene, to act, to move, to do - is something which can be applied successfully in many other situations in daily life.

Non-doing quote
Non-Doing isn't unique to the Alexander Technique

My natural skepticism initially told me that these alien concepts might not be worth the time of day and expense. And yet there was something in those early sessions. It was a step into the unknown, and I felt like progress was being made. That many other people before me had had faith in the Technique was a comfort, and that many of these were actors, musicians, performers of the very highest order gave further credibility.

 

One of the biggest hurdles for me was reconciling my investment of time and money not only with myself but with others interested in what I was doing. It is a difficult concept to explain, but the results speak for themselves, and within a few months the random back pain had vanished. I was also noticing benefits I hadn't expected. My reactions were sharper; I felt more confident, more focused. I was not consciously doing anything different, and yet I felt quite different. Whilst practicing standing up and sitting down felt at certain times ridiculous, when I thought about it, I spend most of my life sat on chairs, standing, walking, lying down. To learn to do these things better was to improve my performance in some of the activities I do the most, and yet think about the least.

 

As my confidence grew, I was able to apply the principles of the Technique to other activities in my life, including running, swimming and cycling. Mastering better body use facilitates improved performance, and I became more competent in all these pursuits. I ran half marathons with no lasting knee problems. I cycled a thousand miles in twelve days for charity, without issues. I have become a far better swimmer than I ever was before, and my tennis (previously all forehand and very little else) has developed considerably.

 

I have now been seeing my teacher for three years, for much of this time with a weekly lesson, but latterly with a fortnightly session. With hindsight and experience, weekly lessons helped enforce the new thought patterns. In our lessons we have looked at many different areas of movement, breathing, posture and balance. I look forward to bringing observations of my own use and issues with my learning to someone with so much knowledge, not only of the Technique but of wider anatomy.

 

 As I move to a new phase in my life, I remain confident that the Alexander Technique will continue to play a part. Only once you have started to learn do you realise how vast the subject of body use is, and how feasibly limitless are the improvements that can be made.

The Power of Pausing AKA Inhibition

When it comes to moving well it's not so much about what you do, but what you prevent from happening. As F.M Alexander put it, "If you stop the wrong thing, the right thing does itself

It's an idea that goes back many centuries, embedded into the teachings of Taoism. It's what Aldous Huxley called a Perennial Truth. Coincidentally Huxley was a big supporter of Alexanders work having taken private lessons with him and immortalised him as the doctor in his book Eyeless in Gaza. But I digress ...

 

After millions of years of evolution a good deal of your movement potential is baked in, needing only freedom to experiment with movement in your early years to release it. This is obviously an idealised position that doesn't take into account congenital considerations or subsequent injury or disease, but even there it's possible to maximise what availability is present by preventing undue reaction/tension. 

 

But it's not just about movement, it also speaks to your stress response and your ability to manage stress. And not wishing to sound too pedantic, stress is verb, not a noun! 

 "Everyone is always teaching one what to do, leaving us still doing things we shouldn’t do." F.M.Alexander.


If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch. Online lessons available.


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The Head/Neck Relationship, AKA The "Primary Control"

You'd be forgiven for thinking Alexander Technique teachers are a little obsessed with the relationship between the head and the neck. F.M.Alexander considered it so important that he termed it the "Primary Control". And there is good reason for it when you consider the shear weight of the head on top of the spine, and the nature of the startle reflex; it's the first port of call when improving poise/posture.

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Poise, Not Posture!

This has become a bit of a mantra for me. I really do think it's vitally important to be able to make a distinction between poise and posture. Although the dictionary definition of posture is acceptable to me, the way people actually relate to the word, how they filter it when they hear it, is generally unhelpful. The moment someone makes an effort to physically improve their posture they do so in an unsustainable way. By understanding poise the physical effort is reduced and sustainability is increased. 

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Is This The Worst Posture Advice Ever?!

This has to be one of the most pernicious pieces of postural advice out there, it's unhelpful and needs to be burst once and for all. Given how ineffective it is it's amazing that it's been so durable.

 

It also raises the question of how effective imagery is in general as you never know how someone is going to filter it. What they're going to do with it. F.M.Alexander was against the use of imagery for this reason. Not being one to tell people what they should do in general, even though I don't offer imagery in my teaching, I don't discourage those who feel comfortable using it. But I do highlight the potential pitfalls and to be mindful of them. An image is only as good as it's ability to positively improve behaviour, it has no inherent value.

 

I challenge you, have you ever maintained this advice for even half a minute?

 

So the next time someone offers you this image, imagine me next to you with a pin!

 

 

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Don't Pull Your Shoulders Back!

This has to be one of the most repeated pieces of advice with regards to posture, and one of my biggest bugbears. Essentially it's unhelpful and doesn't work, and you'll know it doesn't if you've ever tried it. Seriously, why go to all that physical effort to solve a problem of too much physical effort?!

Why not give the Alexander Technique a try with a half price consultation?

 

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Your Emotions & Your Posture

This is a follow on from my vlog entitled Change Your Thinking, THEN Your Posture. Part two if you like.


In a previous vlog I mentioned how F.M.Alexander saw his work as dealing with the stimulus of living, and that was discussing our reaction to an external stimulus. But we also have an internal experience/life that we can react to. Our emotional state is also a stimulus.. 

 

As you physically follow your awareness, it should be no surprise that you collapse when you concentrate on your inner experience. It's possible to build a new relationship with that so that your experience is more inclusive.

Why not give the Alexander Technique a try with a half price consultation?

 

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Change your Thinking, THEN Your Posture!

I'm guessing most people think of the Alexander Technique as a form of Body Work. But what F.M.Alexander wrote about more than anything else was thinking! The way you think influences your posture more than anything else (injuries and congenital considerations aside). 

 

Now, obviously there are physical aspects to consider when it comes to posture, but I purposely wanted to stay away from that in this video as it tends to produce a mindset that encourages more interference of your poise.

 

Once you've watched the video and have a sense of the mindset we're after, you could add a little more detail in understanding the way your head balances on your spine, which you can read about here, but don't let that knowledge change the quality of your thinking!

Why not give the Alexander Technique a try with a half price consultation?

 

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Is The Alexander Technique REALLY About Posture?

The million dollar question! It might seem like a strange question seeing how well known the Alexander Technique is for improving posture, but most Alexander teachers are slightly uneasy about this even if they don't say so publicly. Although it's better to be known for something rather than nothing, I can't help feel we could improve our message by promoting what the Alexander Technique is really about and why it's so fundamentally different to other modalities.

 

Don't worry, it will still improve your posture as well.

 

Why not give the Alexander Technique a try with a half price consultation?

If you have any questions about how the Alexander Technique could help you, please do get in touch, I'm happy to answer any queries you may have.


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Been In Pain For A Year Or More?

Here I explain why if you've been in long term pain the Alexander Technique may be the logical solution you've been looking for.

 

Although I implied it in the video, I want to also explicitly state here that the raison d'être for the Alexander Technique is to reverse and prevent unhelpful patterns of movement/behaviour.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.


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Posture is Overrated!

Given how posture is pretty much synonymous with the Alexander Technique in the public perception you're probably surprised at my claim that it's overrated. F.M.Alexander said of his own work that it was "dealing with the stimulus of living", and that's a whole other area to get into, but you can see he thought of his work in much broader terms.



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Posture Q&A : Driving

This is my first video in what I hope will become a series where I answer all your posture questions.

 

This one came from Andrew (Kiwi Yogi):

 

"What is good use while driving a car? I'm curious about the relationship between the neck and the back. Not many people sit upright in their car - so the weight of the head goes...where?

 

What advice would you have for people who spend a lot of time driving?"

If you have a question of your own please leave a comment on the YouTube video and I'll see what I can do.



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First Encounters with the Alexander Technique

Have you ever felt the need to find a way to manage back pain, to play your instrument better, to increase your confidence, to recover faster from a serious accident, to take control of certain aspects of your life, or to ease some of the difficulties of old age?

 

Can it be that there is a skill that can be learned which provides a 'yes' answer to all of these? According those that that have tried the Alexander Technique, the answer is, there is.

 

The key concepts of the Alexander Technique are: the recognition of the force of habit, inhibition and non-doing, unreliable sensory appreciation, sending directions and the primary control of the use of the self. 

Recognition of the Force of Habit

Man is beset by his own habits. Not that habits are a bad thing. we could not live without them. We have limited capacity for processing information. Thus,making regularly repeated activities habitual and (to a degree) unconscious allows us to function in the present. The way we walk is habitual: wed do not often think about the process of walking while talking to a companion (or, increasingly, on the mobile phone) as we carry on our daily life. And so on...

 

However, some habits are harmful: the way we bend may cause us pain; the way we play the violin may prevent us from reaching our potential as a violinist. The Alexander Technique is a means of accessing dysfunctional habits and consciously choosing to replace them with better ones. It is a means of exercising choice in the way we respond to the stimulus of life.

 

This 'means whereby' we access and change habits is described by the four remaining concepts of inhibition, giving directions, unreliable sensory appreciation, and the primary control of the use of the self, ideas which interlock to form the Alexander technique.

Inhibition

Firstly, in order to give ourselves choice, we need to prevent of inhibit our immediate reaction to initiate a habit.

 

This starts with inhibiting any psycho-physical distortions (e.g. tensions) which are about to interfere with our response. Inhibition is a two-stage process which involves firstly pausing before reacting and then preventing the distortion which is about to intervene.

Lying in semi-supine is a great way to work on inhibition
Working on inhibition lying in semi-supine

Sending Directions

Once this inhibition has taken place, we are in a position to work out a means of reacting differently. To do this we need to give our self two sets of guiding instructions or orders. One set establishes a coordinated state of the organism and the other gives consent to a chosen response. This course of action is not without its difficulties; the most important is due to our unreliable sensory appreciation.

Unreliable Sensory Appreciation

This concept means exactly what it seems to, namely, that our feelings (in particular our bodily sensations) may not be reliable. In practical terms our familiar old habits are likely to feel comfortable (even if they are causing pain or other disturbance). Any new kind of response may feel uncomfortable, awkward or even painful. This is not a defect in the organism but an adaptive characteristic. Our limited capacity for processing information means that we learn to walk as toddlers, for example, we take into account all sorts of sensations. The manner of standing and walking becomes habitual and unconscious. This enables other activities to occupy our attention.

 

If, however, we want to change our manner of walking - for example, in order to prevent a backache - any change is likely to feel initially uncomfortable, awkward or stilted.

The Primary Control of the Use of the Self

This is the unifying feature in the process of practising the Alexander Technique. In fact, there are two key concepts here: firstly, primary control and secondly, the use of the self.

 

The term primary control refers to both an anatomical entity and a mental activity, that is both an underlying physiological mechanism and the means of controlling it.

 

"I wish to make it clear that when I employ the word 'use', it is not in that limited sense of the use of any specific part, as, for instance, when we speak of the use of the arm or the use of the leg, but in a much wider and more comprehensive sense of applying to the working of the organism in general. For I recognise that the use of any specific part such as the arm or leg involves of necessity bringing into action the different psycho-physical mechanisms of the organism, this concerted activity bringing about the use of the specific part." (The Use of the Self, 1932, p. 22n).

 

To summarise, practising the Alexander Technique consists in preventing distortions in the use of ourselves in our everyday activities by means of the primary control of that use. Any changes we make by the process of inhibition and direction may well feel unfamiliar and strange - even wrong, initially. We can check their appropriateness by observing ourselves (as Alexander did with mirrors) or by having other observe us (a teacher, for example).

 

The above terms used in Alexander's sense, differ subtly from their dictionary definitions; in keeping with their holistic nature, the concepts are not discrete, but merge into each other as an organic whole.

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Gravity is Your Posture's Friend!

I've always found it remarkable how common it is for people to behave as if gravity is the enemy, and yet we're entirely evolved to interact with it as part of the way we function, no less so than with the air we breathe. Russian scientist and academic P. Anokhin phrased it thus: 

 

The most essential characteristics of all biological systems are defined by the Universal Law of Gravity”. 

 

We wouldn't get very far without it, well, we wouldn't exist without it, but our entire ability to move about would be impossible. And your posture (I prefer poise) is a dynamic relationship between you (the psychophysical you, not just your body) and your interaction within gravity's field. 

 

We know how important gravity is to our health from the problems astronauts experience from spending extended periods of time up in the International Space Station (does anyone else think the Russian use of cosmonaut is so much cooler?!). Here's a few of the issues "weightlessness" causes:

  • Cardiac problems
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of bone and muscle mass
  • Kidney stones 
  • Vision loss
  • Decreased production of red blood cells
  • Loss of balance and coordination (mitigated with exercise)
  • Back pain

It's ironic really that a  supposed loss of gravity causes back pain, use gravity well to overcome it! I say "supposed" loss of gravity as it's not actually true that astronauts experience "weightlessness". The gravity on the International Space Station is only a tenth less than it is on the surface of the earth, it's just that the crew are in permanent free-fall as they fall/orbit around the earth. Really no different than jumping out your upstairs window (don't try this at home!), you don't suddenly become weighted the moment you hit the ground! The list of ailments that astronauts suffer from is really caused from a combination of a lack of interaction with the earths surface, and not being orientated in an upright manner for long periods which affects how blood flows and pools.

 

How gravity affects your posture with the Alexander Technique
Gravity isn't a one way street!

Image used with permission from diysolarpanelsv.com

You see, gravity isn't a one way street, it's a relationship between all bodies acting on each other, in our case, you and the Earth. Actually, it's you and everything else around you, but gravitational effects are very weak so you don't notice the pull of the TV and the dining room table as their mass is so small compared to that planet (Earth) we're next to. 

 

But that massive planet is great for us. It means we can use the huge advantage of it constantly pushing us upwards (well, outwards, but its relative to our experience) and we don't need to do a thing! And when we want to move, we just release the stored elastic energy that pushing gives us, it activates all of our tissues.

 

I like to think that we use this relationship of gravity like a fish uses water, it supports us. And much like a fish has to accept the currents that flow through water,  we have internal "currents" that we would do well to accept. As the skeleton is an inherently unstable structure our postural reflexes are always adjusting to keep you balanced, and this movement is akin to the currents of the water, you want to avoid fighting them wherever possible and instead go with the flow, perpetually adjusting with skill rather than brute force.

 

When feeling grounded we also feel a sense of upward thrust known as ground reaction force coming up from underneath to support us. Allow the earth to support you and buoy you up from your feet to your head, just as a boat is on water. It's also useful to remember how your head lightly balances on top of your spine, which you can read in more detail here.

 

Back in 2016 I suggested via Twitter that the British Astronaut Tim Peake try Alexander lessons to readjust to being back in contact with the earth, but unfortunately neither he, NASA nor ESA responded at the time. Let's see if we can get them to take a look now, feel free to retweet.

Here's a great video that explains the ideas of weight and weightlessness from the Royal Institute:

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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Daniel's Story

This guest blog from Daniel tells how he went from taking lessons with me to embarking on a full Alexander Technique teacher training course. Naturally I recommended my old teacher training school and it's wonderful to hear how much he's getting out of it and how much it echoes my own experience of training to be a teacher.


I’m coming to the end of my first term at Alexander school and I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts and feelings on the Alexander Technique with the wider world. Ok. Perhaps I just like the sound of my own voice, but please humor me for a few hundred words.

 

I came to the Technique, as have many before me, as a last resort after failing miserably to solve my back problems. I discovered Adrian Farrell online and had a few lessons a week with him for the best part of a year. Under Adrian’s tutelage I began to notice marked improvements in my freedom of movement and I made the shocking realisation that my back problems were not back problems, but mind problems (or should that be mind/body? I can hear Adrian cursing from here). I also realised that to make a full recovery I would need more intensive training so I made the bold decision to leave my job and join the Alexander Teacher Training School in Mayfair from April of this year. Many people have asked me whether I shopped around; I didn’t. I went along to a couple of open mornings and fell in love with the atmosphere of you can do no wrong here. Being a perfectionist, this aspect of the school particularly appealed! 

 

So, here we are, seven weeks in and I’ve already come to a rather mind-bending conclusion; while I thought I was fixing my back, I’m actually mending my soul. I’ll write a few filler sentences here to give those of you who have just involuntarily spat their coffee over their laptops a chance to find some tissues. I’m serious. Although, I’ve also been told that this work is too important to be taken seriously. And before you write me off as a crank, I should warn you that I have two science degrees. I do believe in horoscopes, but please keep that to yourself.

 

Ok. I trust you have recovered your equanimity, dear reader. In which case, I shall proceed. Before starting at Alexander school, I was under much stress - a divorce, a job I hated, a bereavement, moving home, claiming benefits, becoming self-employed, yada yada yada. With hindsight, I am beginning to see what a basket case I had become and how I had spent a very long time suppressing my anger, fear, and sorrow. I am convinced that doing so contributed significantly to the involuntary compression of the right side of my body and my subsequent back and mobility issues. Being at Alexander school has helped me immensely to begin to feel those suppressed emotions and to come to terms with them slowly, gently and humanely. 

 

I see my daily Alexander practice as therapy, pure and simple. I turn up, I share my personal life with my classmates, we support each other unconditionally and I get to receive the reassuring touch of a fellow human being who is as equally vulnerable and fallible as myself. At Alexander school, I get to be myself - finally. I get to accept myself in my entirety - finally.

 

My back issues have improved greatly since April. I am relearning how to be at peace with myself and how not to overreact to stimuli. In this mental state of being back, my body and mind are being given the experience of moving without habitual patterns kicking in. But, this is just nuts and bolts. The more I learn of the Alexander Technique, the more I realise it is not about words, or MacDonalds, or Carringtons, or head forward and up; it is about connecting with another human being and giving them a safe place to be themselves from which they can heal, grow and flourish. A dictionary definition of flourish is “(of a living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment”. This is, for me, the true essence of the Alexander Technique. And what a privilege it is to be learning how to teach it. 


Before Daniel started his Alexander Technique teacher training we recorded this short video about his experience of taking lessons.


Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.


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Don't Sit Down, Squat!

Squatting is normal functional movement, but for lifestyle and cultural reasons there are few opportunities to do so on a regular basis for many of us, and yet young children do it instinctively. In fact, when I looked for a professional royalty free photo to go with this piece I couldn't find any of adults that weren't associated with gym exercise rather than everyday living. Across Asia, Africa and the Middle East it's still very much an everyday activity, and long may it continue to be so. You may have found that you're uncomfortable squatting or you've lost your ability to do so altogether, effectively becoming dis-abled in this movement. Use it or lose it! Squatting is great for opening up the hips and lower back, I particularly recommend it for lower back pain sufferers. In fact, I used it regularly myself when I had an accident acutely affecting my lower back. It also helps with keeping the bowels moving.

 

F.M.Alexander (he of the Technique) didn't write about squatting in any of his books, but there is anecdotal evidence that he liked to practice doing it regularly with clients thinking they'd walked into an empty room until he popped up from behind his desk. He was also keen to get his pupils to do it and encouraged it on his teacher training courses. There's brief footage of him demonstrating it when he was about eighty years old too.

 

It can be hard to learn how to squat again as you react to perceived balance and flexibility issues with unintended tension. My favourite way to regain the ability to squat is to use water as a support. It's an idea that came to me whilst on holiday back when my own ability to squat wasn't all it could be. You'll need a pool with steps or that shelves gradually. You simply let the water naturally buoy you up and work your way into shallower water.  Let yourself release into the pose the moment you start to notice that it's a challenge. Ideally you want to be able to keep the heels down in contact with the floor. The shallower the water the the deeper your squat will be. It's best to take it easy and really relax into it. An added bonus is that there's usually small currents in the water, don't fight them, let them encourage you to find the dynamic fluidity within yourself instead of trying to fix yourself in place. Also, everyone is built differently, so don't feel that you have to have your feet facing straight forward, I can't squat like that and have my feet pointing out at an angle. If you don't have a pool available it can be helpful to practice with the heals raised and supported (a couple of equal sized books will suffice) as it's common for the Achilles tendon to be tight to begin with. You can then slowly work on reducing the height your heels are from the ground. You'll notice in the photo that Ali (my guide whilst visiting Wadi Rum in Jordan back in 2009) has his heels slightly raised as the ground slopes downwards and rocks under foot. You can try this too wherever you find a slope. The steeper the slope the easier it will be to squat.

Squatting with the Alexander Technique
Ali squatting as he makes me traditional Bedouin tea.

Now, the point of this piece isn't actually to get you to squat instead of sit, but to recognise that the action of going into a squat is the same as going to sit on a chair. I like to think that sitting down is squatting but being thwarted half way. A big reason people sit badly is that they're not present to the movement as they do it and invariably collapse downwards towards the chair, the mind focused on the chair itself or the activity that is it to follow. And it isn't just that the legs collapse underneath, but the entire torso collapses down the front as the head gets pulled backwards on the spine.  In my experience most people associate sitting with collapsing (rather than standing on your bottom!) and start to do so the moment the decision to sit is made, long before ones backside reaches the chair. And it's unlikely that having reached the chair in a collapsed state you'd then undo it. Take the chair away and you can be sure you wont risk collapsing to the floor. You'll stay much more present to the activity allowing you to maintain your poise through it.

 

You can tell if you're being present as you'll have the availability to stop at any point or choose to change direction and come back up. If you do happen to stop halfway you'll find yourself in a position of mechanical advantage known in the Alexander Technique as a Monkey (Alexander hated the term but was stuck with it after his pupils popularised it). This is a good way to use yourself whilst working at a lower level without compromising your back, whether it be doing the washing up or improving your golf stance. Going to sit or squat can be seen as a series of infinite Monkeys (can I get a Shakespeare joke in there?). Avoid tightening your neck muscles and pulling your head off balance (back and down), and lifting your shoulders to your ears. It's OK if you can't yet keep your heels on the ground, it's more about keeping your spine (including the head and neck relationship) undisturbed and remaining mentally neutral to the activity. There is no chair until it coincidentally meets your derriere!

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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I Pulled My Back on NYE!

So first up, happy New Year ... and what an embarrassing start to it for an Alexander Technique teacher it has been ...  I put my lower back out larking about with a friend's son on New Years Eve! He was much heavier than I realised and as I lifted him high over my head I went too far and started going backwards with the momentum and over extended my back. Just one of those silly things. I know I teach embodied mindfulness, but I have to be realistic and accept we all lose ourselves in the moment from time to time. That's life! And the human condition to a greater or lesser degree. Hopefully I'm learning to reduce that through the Alexander Technique, in fact, I'm confident that I am, but still ...

 

It was agony! And debilitating, had to walk very slowly and carefully. We were at a children's theatre at the time and I managed to sit through the performance without exacerbating things thanks to the simple idea of thinking of sitting as standing on my bottom. Saved me from curving my spine and putting extra pressure on it. I also found I was able to lower myself to the chair in the first place without trouble, but with great care, as that's all in the ankles, knees and hip joints.  But I'd still frozen up by the end of the performance, took a couple of minutes of moving about gently to feel confident of walking any distance. This was good food for thought, it really made me consider the manner of my use rather than just the conditions (quality) of use (I'll leave you to ponder that). I might be a more relaxed proponent of the Alexander Technique than some and so tend towards the latter. But not on this day!

 

We had a table booked at a restaurant after the theatre, thankfully only round the corner, but I still decided to find a chemist and get some Ibruprofen and a heat pack. I wanted all the help I could to get me through the day. It took all my skill to walk a few minutes to the chemist and back with poise, but other than a couple of spasms that caused me to stop for a moment to regain my composure, I made it back to the restaurant without major mishap.  Where I immediately ordered  a beer. Well it was New Years Eve! And after a second beer and a bit of walking around the restaurant with my two-year old I was beginning to feel a bit more confident. Now, I'm not recommending alcohol in these situations, but this was my observation at the time: you probably know that alcohol is a muscle relaxant, and obviously a mental one too, so what I found was that I was less reactive to the fear and worry that I might cause myself further pain by moving.  Dutch courage!

 

I see this all the time in my teaching, the unproven expectation of pain is enough to set off all the protective mechanisms that are displayed by tensing (especially the neck muscles that then pull the head off balance upsetting the whole postural reflex), and this is the very thing that then sets off the pain!  Ultimately, we heal, and we heal faster if we don't interfere with ourselves, the desire to overly protect an injury can become a habit that actually interferes with the healing process and can even cause secondary issues by creating new habits of tension.

 

The expectation of pain is a strong stimulus to react, I found I could just about keep my composure getting to the restaurant, but those two beers made it much easier. Having said that, had I drunk anymore and started to lose any coordination it would have been a very slippery slope. I also surprised myself by being able to go into a full squat, which really helped to open up and release my lower back. Again, squatting, like sitting is a matter of ankles, knees and hip joints and need not put pressure on the lower back, quite the opposite in fact.

 

The journey home included a half mile walk and despite walking around like the proverbial old man a few hours earlier the walk loosened me up nicely. So lesson one, keep moving. Also, as I would professionally expect, any attempt to protect my back with "good posture" only exacerbated it due to the muscular tension from "trying". But keeping it free by not reacting to it and keeping my head freely balanced had me walking at my usual pace. It took skill though, a slight deviation in "alignment" could be quite painful. But the skill of poise beats "correct posture" every time. 

 

Once home though it was great to finally be able to lie down in Constructive Rest/semi-supine on the floor for half an hour or so. It's a great way to take the pressure off and let the back and neck muscles fully relax. We were spending New Years Eve at home, so it was easy to take the rest of the afternoon and evening easy and just rest up. Although I was worried I would freeze up over night in bed and I wouldn't be able to get up in the morning.

 

Which I did! But nowhere nearly as bad as I was expecting, and after a lovely hot soak in the bath I was able to move about freely again. Still needed to be careful though, but at least I had the skills to do so. Took it easy in the morning then went to the cinema (Rogue One, if you're curious) which included a ten minute walk. Although very sore with the potential to be painful if I wasn't careful I got through the day without mishap and rejuvenated myself in the evening with some more Constructive Rest and squatting for short periods. 

 

Come Monday morning I was feeling much improved and knew there was light at the end of the tunnel. We took our kids (two and five years old) to the playground but didn't feel confident to push them on the swings or roundabout, or help lift them down when they got stuck up climbing frames. It was a lot of standing about though and by the end of the day I felt I'd over done it a little bit.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing, I'm a great believer that we heal to function and not to form. This is why doctors now encourage people to move as soon as possible after an injury,  lying around only encourages healing enough to lie around! Use it or lose it, as they say. So by giving my healing mechanism a good signal that I need more from it to help me function fully it knew to crack on with the job.

 

The ability to travel from standing to squatting and stop at any point in between has  been a real bonus for whenever I need to bend down/over for any reason. We call these positions of mechanical advantage (manner!) in the Alexander Technique, or more colloquially, a Monkey (F.M.Alexander, the originator of the Technique, wasn't fond of this term, but it stuck as it's snappier than the alternative). Whether to wash my hands, I'm tallish and sinks are always low to me, pick something up, or even going from standing to sitting and vice a versa, remembering the movement is in the legs rather than the torso kept me functioning.

 

By Tuesday and Wednesday I was able to look after the kids all day without trouble, still a bit tender, but could carry my youngest without fear. I shied away from horse play with my eldest and a couple of her friends, I wasn't out of the woods just yet.

 

Come Thursday I was back to teaching, and thanks to my work encouraging me to be really on top of my game in the way I use myself I totally forgot about the injury. After work I went and collected my eldest from her after-school play date. Normally I give her a shoulder ride on the way home but decided to take her scooter and tow her back. This wasn't just common sense, I didn't quite have the confidence for it either.

 

Friday morning, six days after the accident, still a little sore but functionally sound. I imagine I'll be more considerate of the manner of my use at all times for a while longer. 

 

Saturday, one week after the accident, I managed to vacuum the house from top to bottom, including the stairs, with no trouble. There's a slight hint of discomfort, I can tell there's history there, but I don't feel any need to be careful about it beyond generally being mindful of my use as a matter of self-responsibility. All in all I'm really happy with my recovery. I know from experience that this is the sort of thing that's caused clients to struggle for months, and even years, before coming to me for help.

"Pain makes people change, but also makes them stronger" - unknown

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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Emotional Shields and the Power of Vulnerability

Let go, what's the worst that can happen?

 

I'm forever saying this as I help clients to let go of their habitual patterns of tension. And it's not entirely a rhetorical question. The worst that can happen in that moment is that it may expose your vulnerability. Your emotions are completely wrapped up in your physicality, and vice versa. It's all one and the same.

 

I like to think of these physical tensions as emotional shields, and they should be respected as such. They make you feel safer, even if you're not consciously aware of it happening.  It's totally pointless to suggest you improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back, or standing up straight, if you don’t also recognise that your emotions are encouraging you to curl up into a protective ball. And that's ignoring that it's bad advice to "stand up straight" anyway as it just causes more tension. It's also important to realise that although your emotions and moods may "encourage" you to tighten, they don't actually cause you to do so in the long term. In those moments, you effectively start to react to your Self, which may become a vicious circle, but by practising embodied mindfulness with the Alexander Technique this can be reduced. And in preventing an excessive physical reaction and maintaining your poise you'll find that you're left to experience the emotion more fully, which may not be pleasant, but by being with it at least allows it to be better processed. Naturally some situations do elicit a very strong emotional and physical reaction (a psycho-physical reaction in Alexander Technique jargon), and that's fine too, what's important is to avoid habituating that response into a longer term experience. 

Vulnerability and the Alexander Technique
It's OK to feel vulnerable.

Image used with permission by Depositphotos

When you're feeling vulnerable you don't usually want the world to know about it. The irony is that when you diminish your stature to feel emotionally safe you end up broadcasting your vulnerability to everyone via your body language. The only hope is that no one notices as you attempt to make yourself invisible. And on the whole, everyone else is so wrapped up in their own shields, that it kind of works. But do you really want what everyone else has, or do you wish for something more? Some predatory types (every office has one!) do instinctively recognise this body language and will exploit it to their own advantage, and ironically, the best way to shield yourself from this is to drop your shields. When you offer your vulnerability willfully it's more difficult for you to be exploited for it. And in reality most people won't observe your vulnerability when it's offered anyway. It will either appear as a neutral posture, or, in further irony, as confidence which, unlike arrogance, is simply a lack of reaction to a situation in my opinion.

 

I word I'm rather fond of is surrender. Like vulnerability, it is often thought of in negative terms, but it's also a powerfully positive word. I'm currently working with someone who is a member of the clergy and the idea of surrender resonates strongly for them in their spiritual life. But if you're not of that persuasion (like myself, as it happens), gaining an attitude of total acceptance and allowing (which is a central concept in the Alexander Technique) is a great place to start dealing with your sense of vulnerability. 

 

To start exploring how you relate to your own vulnerability, and turning the idea that it's a negative trait on its head, I recommend Brene Brown's TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I share it with my clients often and I always receive great feedback on how helpful they've found it to be, and it's no surprise to me that it went semi-viral and is one of TED's most watched.  It's about twenty minutes long and I strongly encourage you to watch it, after all, what's the worst that can happen? It may hold the key to understanding those long standing aches and pains.

Video courtesy of TED, Standard YouTube Licence. (3 Jan 2011)

Whilst looking up the URL for Brene's original talk, I also stumbled across some more recent talks, and I particularly liked this one: Embracing Vulnerability

 

"To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength." - Criss Jami, author, poet, singer

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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Change is the Only Constant

Why are some people so resistant to taking responsibility for their own health? 

 

The expectation is for someone else to "fix" them. So much of what ails us is down to the way we use ourselves; locked in tension and poor posture can affect breathing, digestion, stress response, musculoskeletal pain, as well as performance in sports and hobbies. In addition poor `use` can exacerbate other medical issues and get in the way of the natural healing process. Only you can change the way you use yourself, but as an Alexander Technique (AT) teacher I can guide you as you get in the driving seat.

 

Freedom to change in the Alexander Technique

Image public domain

Fear of change is why I think people look to others to fix them. They want to get better, but they don't want to change! How is that even logically possible?  Change is uncomfortable, often emotionally so. The familiar is so inviting,  it's "home". But that doesn't mean it's a safe place. It's almost as if Stockholm Syndrome is being played out inside of us. Can you recognise that paradox within you?

 

Do you self identify with your current style of thinking or the words that run through your mind? Afraid that change will mean you're no longer yourself?  Are you the same person you were at 10? 20? 30? Would you even want to be? To improve you need to embrace change. And yet counter-intuitively, that change will lead you to being more yourself, undoing unhelpful habits and revealing your truer nature. You'll find yourself in the spaces between those words running through your mind!

 

Your muscles only do what the central nervous system guides them to do, both directly and indirectly, the brain being the primary active component. So to relieve tension and aches and pains you need to change your thinking.  Not what you think about, but the quality of your awareness. A busy and overactive mind will lead to a busy and overactive nervous system, causing you to do overdo all your movements with too much effort and tension. And more directly, becoming aware of how you are performing any given activity. How you sit, how you stand, how you run, how you push the buggy or carry your child. All your daily activities can be performed with greater natural support from your body. Embodied mindfulness is the game here, and that requires the openness to allow change to happen. You can't force these things, but little by little, as you work on changing your thinking, you'll find yourself more aware of how you are using yourself and choose an easier, freer way to be.

 

Change is the only constant. It's the only thing that will lead you to improvement. Why not be the agent of that change?

 

Let me leave you with this extract from James Harvey Robinson's book The Mind in the Making. Robinson was a historian who took AT lessons with F.M.Alexander, the founder of the technique. 

We sometimes find ourselves changing our minds without any resistance or heavy emotion, but if we are told that we are wrong we resent the imputation and harden our hearts. We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened. We are by nature stubbornly pledged to defend our own from attack, whether it be our person, our family, our property, or our opinion.

 

Few of us take the pains to study the origin of our cherished convictions; indeed, we have a natural repugnance to so doing. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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Poise, Not Posture - Don't Try To Stand Up Straight!

We're being inundated with articles these days on the benefits of correct posture and how to achieve it, but nothing makes you tense up more than trying to adopt a “correct” posture and trying to be "right". Throw away the idea of an idealised posture that you need to maintain, it's not the solution for avoiding or overcoming your aches and pains. Natural posture is a loose and dynamic activity. It has been said that your best posture is your next posture, so don't hold on to it. In fact, do away with the word posture altogether and replace it with the word poise, it will get you in a better frame of mind to find the quality you’re after. Posture is a shape, poise is a quality, a state of mind.

 

After millions of years of evolution you can rest assured that your postural reflexes work well enough if you don’t interfere with them. You could say good posture is simply a lack of bad posture. Although good and bad are such judgemental words. You either have poise or you don’t.

 

The skeleton is an inherently unstable structure, our bones are not like a block of bricks stacked one atop another that hold us up. Left on it's own the skeleton simply collapses, it's our postural muscles that keep us up, not the skeleton. It's a bit like a tent (bare with me), it's not the tent poles that keep the tent up but the guy ropes. Well, they work together obviously but you get the point. And if you fancy having a deeper academic look into that idea have a look at tensegrity (a portmanteau of 'tension + integrity' created by renowned inventor Buckminster Fuller), which NASA are now studying to help with robotics.

 

Standing is basically a balancing act, and anything that’s balancing needs to be able to readjust, to move. So standing is a movement activity. As is sitting for that matter. If there's no movement it's at rest rather than being balanced, and this is only possible when lying, reclining or collapsing. Standing is no less dynamic than walking, running or jumping, it's just more subtle. When going from standing to walking, for example, you go from movement to movement.

 

Alexander Technique and poise, not posture
You can have poise standing on one leg!

Image used with permission by Depositphotos

Ironically we gain our stability through our inherent instability, which probably sounds counter-intuitive. In what a client of mine called an unstable equilibrium, our ability to keep readjusting in gravity is like a willow tree bending in the wind. A problem I see regularly with older clients is that their fear of falling increases their chance of falling as they tighten up to erroneously find stability. It's like trying to stand a pencil on its end. And I think one factor that makes sitting harder for many is the reduction in instability as the legs are taken out of the equation.

 

One of the most common images in articles discussing posture shows someone standing side on with a plumb line added connecting the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle. The problem arises in thinking that you're supposed to achieve that plumb line, you're not, and it encourages rigidity. In reality that plumb line is the average of all the points you've wobbled about. Yes, it's possible to do it skillfully enough in adulthood that it's imperceptible to an observer, but it's always subtly there. Young children are less adept at this you'll notice, the finer coordination and skill has yet to be learnt.

 

So what interferes with your postural reflexes? Lifestyle and habit. We have an organism that’s evolved for an environment that most of us in the West haven’t seen for centuries. We slap ourselves on our collective backs for being so clever in creating this modern environment but we never got round to learning how to deal with it. I’m not saying for a moment we need to give that up, but we do need to be more mindful of how we interact with it and recognise the power that our habituated responses to it may lead us astray. There's no strength training required, it's about coordination and awareness. Understanding how the head balances on the spine is a good place to start which I've written about previously. As is improving your spacial awareness and being mentally out and engaged with your environment, and not narrowing your attention.

 

A common suggestion, and a real bugbear of mine, is to imagine a thread or balloon attached to your head, and I have one thing to say about that, just don't! It tends to cause you to "try" and "do" which always implies additional effort. If you're really wedded to the use imagery a sense of renewed up flow such as a fountain of water buoying your head in a light and lively manner is closer to the quality of poise. A marshalling of your energies upwards along your spine. But ultimately any use of imagery is an affectation, artificial and not the real deal. 

This is, in my opinion, why wearable tech, despite being popularly crowd funded , doesn't work. They don't aim to improve poise, only posture. And from the real life reviews I've seen people find this unhelpful and distracting.

 

 

You may have noticed that I haven't provided a picture of correct posture, that's on purpose so as not to encourage you to maintain it. Lose the idea of a correct posture, it's too rigid and encourages stiffness. If you want to work on your posture, don't strengthen your muscles, strengthen the agility of your thinking in activity. Be all poise, no pose.

"Poise the Soul and the whole muscular system is in action to poise the body"

Moses True Brown, 1886

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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The Mind-Body Myth / You Are Not Your Brain

It's probably at least a generation since we culturally believed in Descartes' duality of body and mind. Now it's the accepted norm that the mind and body are connected. But don't two things that are connected need to be separate entities? Saying the mind and body are connected is still hanging on to dualism. It's like saying someone is a little bit pregnant, or dead! You either are or you're not. They're either separate or they're not. To escape dualism the mind and body need to be seen as a functional and indivisible whole, a "mindbody" if you like, or even more simply, your Self.

 

This is the supposition on which F.M.Alexander (the originator of the Alexander Technique) based his work over 100 years ago now. He didn't coin the idea, there was even an educational establishment set up in New York, by the then well-known Thomas sisters, called "the Conservatory of Psycho-Physical Culture, Elocution and Dramatic Art" at the turn of the last century. Alexander was probably well aware of this as he had a passion for the theatre, and he certainly observed it to be true from tireless experimentation on himself and his pupils and frequently wrote about psychophysical unity.

 

Alexander Technique psychophysical unity

Image used with permission by Depositphotos

 

So what are the benefits of experiencing yourself in this way? For me it changes my perception and awareness of myself to help me use myself as a whole better. I don't think of myself as the Adrian in my head that controls peripheral parts of my body. You don't have to impose thought on your body to move or have good poise, you just need to get out of the way of this wonderful unified system and let it do what it does best, whilst maintaining awareness of it.  You don't just move your body, but your Self, your body and mind aspects together.  Whenever you move, whenever you contract or release a muscle, this involves your whole organism. Not just 'affects', but involves. As Lichtenberg, an 18th century Natural Scientist, remarked: “When I remember something, even my thumb is involved!” (He was arguing against Descartes' dualism.)

 

When I hurt my foot I don't think I have a hurt foot, I consider that I am hurt. I see it all the time, when someone is in pain they mentally separate that part from their being, as if it's an alien entity. But placing that pain in a sea of surrounding support has profound effects on healing, reconnecting your sense of wholeness. It's not simply your back, shoulder or arm that hurts. You hurt. You hurt physically, emotionally, intellectually.

 

Stretching after exercise is not just a physical exercise to force the muscles into compliance and release their tension. Attempting to do so will just invoke the stretch reflex causing the muscles to contract against the stretch and defeating the purpose. Muscles don't like to be bullied into submission. Even by your Self! What is required is a mindful approach that allows you to release into the direction of the "stretch". It looks like the same activity to an outsider, except your eyes and face will communicate the quality of the experience that is being achieved. It's all about observation and exploration. This is what yoga is about when it's done well. Without the sense of competition that always seems to rear it's ugly head in large classes, yoga is also an exploration of the Self , and an excellent activity to bring Alexander Technique understanding too to improve it (David Moore has recently written a new book on this).

 

You'll be familiar with the outward manifestation of mind in simple everyday body language. You communicate as a whole. It’s often said that communication is eighty percent non-verbal (although that's not strictly true). We instinctively know this and our language often expresses it with phrases like "having a gut feeling", or someone being "stiff necked" (not in common use these days, a bit biblical). Being nervous isn’t simply an emotional mental state that affects your body, the butterflies in your stomach are part of an overall pattern. Your stress response is both your mental state and the tightening of your neck and shoulders, the shortening of your breath and your raised heart rate as a total pattern. Listening to and being aware of the physical aspects of your emotions can really help you fully process your emotions. This is the basis of Gestalt Therapy, which although a talking therapy such as psychotherapy, is the only other modality I’m aware of that fully embraces psychophysical unity.

 

Cognitive scientist Guy Claxton is now expressing this view of psychophysical unity as part of a new field called embodied cognition, which is an excellent description of what the Alexander Technique is too. To jump on the mindfulness band wagon I started calling the Alexander Technique embodied mindfulness for a while, but I think I prefer cognition.  There's a common misconception that the Alexander Technique is about showing you how to move, sit and stand "correctly", but it's really about being able to do these things freely, and that's only possible by truly using your embodied cognition.

 

 

You translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension.” - F.M. Alexander

 

Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too.



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The Core Strength Myth

Myths, by their very nature, are very hard to dispel once they've taken hold. Despite the core stability myth being exposed nearly ten years ago, and journalist Peta Bee writing about it in The Times in 2010, from conversations I have with people I'd say its hold is as strong as ever. 

 

The myth is that by having a stronger "core" (a poorly defined term anyway) you will have better posture, less back pain, and will perform better in your sporting activities. There's an elephant in the room regarding this too and I'll come back to it later.

 

From personal experience I have never met anyone with a core so weak that they can't achieve good posture and less back pain without having to strengthen it. If you can walk into my Alexander Technique studio, your core is strong enough. And if it is technically a little “weak”, well-coordinated functional movement (the ability to perform normal daily tasks efficiently) will soon give it the tone it needs. Muscle tone, not strength; there's a world of difference! Balanced poise doesn't require "strength", and "stability" invariably translates into rigidity at the expense of mobility. What needs to be strengthened is coordination. 

A man doing the plank in an attempt to strengthen his core muscles
There's no evidence that this will prevent or cure back pain

What isn’t weak are the habits that pull you away from your natural poise and freedom of movement. Millions of years of evolution have given you postural reflexes that work just fine if you don't interfere with them (assuming normal movement exploration in early childhood). You don't need to "do" good posture, simply stop doing bad posture. Stop thinking of posture as a correct position and instead as a dynamic and fluid balancing act. A better phrase for what's required might be Core Coordination, but even that doesn't encompass the full range of coordination required for the whole human organism to balance in an upright manner.

So that elephant I mentioned: it (he) has a name, Joseph Pilates. If you haven't read his book Your Health, you'll probably find it quite amusing by modern marketing standards. He states quite clearly that what is required is "the simultaneous drawing in of the stomach and throwing out of the chest". Photos of Pilates demonstrating the “correct” way to stand look extremely tiring, I can't imagine anyone could keep that up for long. And it's clearly an affectation, probably for the camera, it’s not natural at all. Why after millions of years of evolution would you need to do this? Why don't we instinctively do this as children? Ever see indigenous communities do this? They're not typically known for the postural abnormalities so prevalent in "civilised" culture. To be honest I found Pilates contradicts himself quite a bit inYour Health. I'd often find myself nodding in agreement with his principles only to not see it evidenced in practice. I guess it's very much a book of its time, and in fairness, that could also be said of F.M.Alexanders books. 

Not having read his other books I've not had a chance to see if he developed or changed his ideas over time. But I have spoken to a number of Pilates instructors (and had great feedback from my own clients about their Pilates instructors) who now place much less emphasis on this "drawing in of the stomach", working instead on the quality of movement in general, strengthening movement rather than muscle, which I can get on board with. It's all relative. I have been challenged that some people can't do the plank because their core is so weak. But that's not normal functional movement. Who needs to do the plank in their daily lives? And I have nothing against being generally strong. I just challenge whether it's medically necessary for the "core" to be specifically so to overcome back pain and improve posture.

 

Ironically, Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has shown that drawing in the stomach during movement can actually destabilise the spine. “In studies we have done, the amount of load the spine could bear was greatly reduced when subjects sucked in their belly buttons,” he says. “What happens is that the muscles are brought closer to the spine, which reduces the stability in the back. It becomes weak and wobbly as you try to move.”  


The idea of core strength may have stayed within the Pilates community but for Professor Paul Hodges, head of human neurosciences at Queensland University. He performed experiments by attaching electrodes to two groups of people, one with healthy backs and another with chronic back pain. His results showed that the healthy group engaged a deeply embedded muscle called the transversus abdominis, causing it to contract and support the spine just before movement. In those with back pain, no such engagement took place, leaving the spine less supported. Hodges then claimed that this muscle could be strengthened by “drawing in” the stomach during exercises and this provided some protection against back pain. What he failed to see was that this wasn't an issue of poor strength, but poor coordination. Despite no clear link to core strength, the concept quickly spread spawning a huge rise in exercise classes based on Hodges work. And before you knew it, a stable core was lauded as a prerequisite in the fight against back pain and postural problems.

 

Thomas Nesser, assistant professor of physical education at Indiana State University, later tried to establish a positive link between core stability and the ability to perform ordinary daily tasks, but failed! He says that “despite the emphasis fitness professionals have placed on functional movement and core training for increased performance, our results suggest otherwise”. When he looked at top football players he found that those with a strong core played no better than those without. He concluded that “the fitness industry took a piece of information and ran with it. The assumption of ‘if a little is good, then more must be better’ was applied to core training and it was completely blown out of proportion.

 

For an in-depth look in to all of this there’s Professor Eyal Lederman’s paper The Myth of Core Stability - he’s an osteopath with a PhD in physiotherapy. Thankfully Jeff Cubos, who works in sports injury rehabilitation, has already reviewed it and I recommend you read his summary here.

 

My two favourite take home points from Jeff’s summary are: 

  • Focusing internally to concentrate on contracting stomach muscles is counter-intuitive to motor learning principles.  Focusing on tasks external to the body is more conducive to performance improvement. 

I’m telling my clients this all the time: you don’t hit a tennis ball by focusing on your muscles, but with spatial awareness, and:

  • Chronic and recurrent back pain has been shown to be associated more with psychological and psychosocial factors.

This is Alexander to a T, in other words, it’s how you react to your environment.

 

Lederman has also been inteviewed and is worth checking out, it makes his academic paper much more accessible.