The Alexander Technique was founded at the turn of the century by an Australian actor called F. Matthias Alexander who believed that many common illnesses are caused by our failure to use our bodies properly.
Alexander started his researches when he repeatedly lost his voice on stage. Doctors were unable to help him, patent medicine sprays helped his hoarseness only a little and more and more often he found himself losing his voice in mid performance. Desperate to find the cause he spent months standing in front of a mirror and attempting to work out why his voice kept disappearing.
Eventually, he found that when talking he had a habit of stiffening his neck and pulling his head backwards and downwards. This meant that his vocal cords got squashed and when he tried to correct the problem by deliberately putting his head forwards he again found himself pressing on his vocal cords. After months of work Alexander decided that the only solution was to change his posture and hold his body in such a way that his voice could be saved.
The Alexander ‘technique’ worked. Alexander found that once he had learned how to stand and hold his head his voice no longer kept on disappearing.
Alexander was so delighted by this discovery that he did not return to the stage. Instead he decided that since he had successfully managed to conquer his own problem by changing his posture then there was a good chance that other people would be able to benefit by changing their posture too. He created an educational programme aimed at eradicating bad posture and increasing self-awareness. The therapy (sometimes called The Alexander Technique and sometimes called The Alexander Principle) was designed to prevent illnesses developing and to treat problems which had already developed simply by training individuals to use their bodies gracefully, sensibly and according to their natural, mechanical strengths and weaknesses.
He, like so many others before him and after him, created a health philosophy out of personal experience.
Teachers of the Alexander Technique are more interested in prevention than cure and more adept at eradicating bad habits than attacking symptoms directly.
Like osteopathy and chiropractic the Alexander Technique is based on the belief that the position of the bones, and the condition of the skeletal frame in general, can have a tremendous influence on the health of any individual.
F. M. Alexander believed that health can be restored and maintained simply by changing postural habits. He claimed that individuals who stand upright, with their backs straight and their heads held high, will have all their internal organs in exactly the right position. Such individuals would, he argued, be far less likely to develop any sort of disease or disorder. Alexander claimed that standing, walking and sitting properly would lead to a contented, comfortable and healthy lifestyle.
Today, teachers of the Alexander Technique follow Alexander’s theories quite closely. They help patients to use their natural reflexes to stand and move comfortably and they help patients to use their bodies simply and effectively. They claim that by improving posture and movement it is also possible to improve breathing, digestion and circulation. One of their main aims is to help patients eradicate bad habits. Although teachers of the Alexander Technique can certainly help their patients in many ways it is possible to take advantage of some of Alexander’s research without taking formal lessons.
So, for example, begin by trying to visualise the way that you stand, sit and walk. If you have a friend with a video camera then persuade him or her to take a few shots of you. These shots will enable you to assess your movements critically. Examine the sort of things you do in a normal day. Do you always move, lift and carry things without putting an unnecessary strain on your body? Look at your shoes to see if there is any sign of uneven wear. Remember that uncomfortable shoes or sore feet can affect the way that you walk and end up producing serious joint and spine problems. Remember not to over-reach when picking up heavy objects and to lift heavy objects with your knees bent and your back straight.
There are few specific dangers associated with the Alexander Technique.
The Alexander Technique is recommended for patients suffering from a wide range of disorders. Among those patients likely to benefit most are: patients suffering from mechanical (bone, joint and muscle) disorders; patients suffering from stress disorders; patients suffering from psychosomatic problems; patients convalescing after serious accidents, injuries or illnesses, and patients whose poor posture or bad habits have led to respiratory, digestive or circulatory problems