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What is the Alexander Technique?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 January 2020
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The Alexander Technique is a way of recognizing and changing everyday habits that result in muscular tension, stress and chronic pain. Created by Frederick Matthias Alexander at the beginning of the 20th century, the Alexander technique was born out of necessity. FM Alexander was a Shakespearean orator who often lost his voice while on stage. After carefully examining his own habits and attitudes, he discovered that some of the postures he adopted while rehearsing were causing the tension to build up in his neck, affecting the vocal cords.

The Alexander Technique shows students how to put thought into their habitual movements, weighting the postures and effort necessary to realize every movement. The theory behind the Alexander Technique is that people become used to moving a certain way, without realizing the effect this has in their body. Rather than reacting to the environment, the Alexander Technique urges people to be aware of bad habits such as tightening and holding inappropriate postures, and then teaches how to change those habits.

Many dance, acting, and music schools teach the Alexander Technique as part of their curriculum. Several Olympic teams also use the technique to help with pain management, to improve alignment, and to develop awareness of the healing process. Many practicants report less stress, easier breathing, and more clarity of thought after using the Alexander Technique on a regular basis.

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The Alexander Technique can be learned by everybody, usually on a one-to-one basis with a certified teacher. Workshops and group classes are often a good introduction but lack the individual attention to pinpoint the particular requirements of each student. An experienced teacher of the Alexander Technique will guide the patient's body through a series of basic movements that will help coordinate, improve, and enhance the body's natural rhythm.

While there is no scientific proof that the Alexander Technique works, current research has concluded it is an effective complementary therapy to help with back pain and muscular tension. Well-known health specialists, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, actively recommend the Alexander Technique as a way of dealing with certain problems that don't seem to respond to conventional rehabilitative therapies. The Alexander Technique is popular in England, especially in the artist community, and is quickly gaining momentum on this side of the ocean as well.

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