Alexander technique

Synonyms

Feldenkrais method, guided movement-awareness, physical therapy, physiotherapy, proprioceptive musculoskeletal education, psycho-physiological reeducation, Rolfing®, tai chi, yoga.

Background

The Alexander technique is an educational program that teaches movement patterns and postures, with an aim to improve coordination and balance, reduce tension, relieve pain, alleviate fatigue, improve various medical conditions, and promote well-being. Actors, dancers, and athletes use the Alexander technique with the goal of improving performance. This technique is available through wellness centers, health education programs, and from individual practitioners.

The Alexander technique can be traced to F.M. Alexander, an Australian-English actor, who attributed his own intermittent voice loss to poor head and neck posture. Alexander believed that people could be trained to detect and eliminate harmful movement patterns and positions.

Musculoskeletal approaches like the Alexander technique are advocated by many behavioral scientists and physiologists, although there are few scientific studies of this technique specifically.

The Alexander technique is an educational program that teaches movement patterns and postures, with an aim to improve coordination and balance, reduce tension, relieve pain, alleviate fatigue, improve various medical conditions, and promote well-being. Actors, dancers, and athletes use the Alexander technique with the goal of improving performance. This technique is available through wellness centers, health education programs, and from individual practitioners.

The Alexander technique can be traced to F.M. Alexander, an Australian-English actor, who attributed his own intermittent voice loss to poor head and neck posture. Alexander believed that people could be trained to detect and eliminate harmful movement patterns and positions.

Musculoskeletal approaches like the Alexander technique are advocated by many behavioral scientists and physiologists, although there are few scientific studies of this technique specifically.

Theory

An assumption underlying the Alexander technique is that people can be trained to alter habitual patterns of movement, including movements that are thought to be involuntary. Improving the position of the head and spine is felt to be important to achieving optimal health. It has been suggested that musculoskeletal movements and relationships can have direct effects on other aspects of health or function, and that beneficial movement patterns can be reinforced through repetition.

The American Center for the Alexander Technique was founded in New York in 1964 in order to provide teaching certification. To become certified, individuals must complete 1,600 hours of training over a minimum of three years in a program approved by the American Society of the Alexander technique (AmSAT). In 1987, the North American Society of Teachers of the Alexander technique was formed to educate the public and to establish and maintain standards for the certification of teachers and teacher training courses in the United States.

Most Alexander technique teachers instruct students by using both verbal directions and light touch. Students are encouraged to understand and sense what they are doing, and to make use in everyday life of what they have learned.

Sessions last up to an hour, and usually make use of a mirror for instruction. Lessons are usually private, although group instruction is also available. A gentle hands-on approach is used to teach movements with the head leading and the spine following, for example with stand-to-sit movements, walking, turning, breathing, or speaking. It may take 10 to 30 lessons before students become proficient, and some individuals continue lessons over extended periods of time.


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