Read more in:

Cover of The Alexander Technique Workbook Child squatting in perfect balance Woman leaning heavily on a sofa Woman leaning back on a chair while on the telephone

Home About the Technique > What is the Alexander Technique?

What is the Alexander Technique?

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness.
Viktor Frankl

The Alexander Technique is a method of personal education which involves self awareness and releasing muscular tension. This excessive tension slowly accumulates over many years of stressful living and often starts in childhood and, if left unchecked, can give rise later in life to common ailments such as arthritis, neck and back pain, migraine, hypertension, sciatica, insomnia and even depression. Vast amounts of money are being spent on the treatment of these illnesses, to say nothing of the pain and discomfort that is felt by the patient, yet every year the number of patients carries on increasing.

With the right education, however, many people could be helped to understand the causes of their problems and be taught how they can help themselves, so that their aches and pains would diminish or are avoided altogether. The Alexander Technique can help us to become more aware of balance, posture and co-ordination while performing everyday actions. This brings into consciousness tensions throughout the body that have previously gone unnoticed, and it is these which are very often the root cause of many common ailments.

When applying the Alexander Technique you will learn how to relax the muscles that have become tense as well as learn new ways of moving while performing everyday tasks which cause far less strain on the body. You will discover ways of sitting, standing and walking that will put less strain on the bones, joints and muscles, thus making your body work more efficiently. In fact, many people who practice the Technique experience a general feeling of lightness throughout their bodies and even describe the sensation as 'walking on air'. Since our physical state directly affects our mental and emotional well-being, people often say that they feel much calmer and happier even after just a few Alexander lessons, often resulting in less domestic tension and a greater ability to cope with life in general.

The Alexander Technique also involves examining posture, breathing, balance and co-ordination. As children, our posture and ease of movement are a joy to watch, but as we start to tense our muscles in reaction to many of life's worries and concerns, our posture deteriorates into what often borders on deformity. Yet this is not the case with people outside the western civilisation - many of the indigenous races who still live on the land such as the Berber people from North Africa, the Red Indians from North America or the Aborigines in Australia retain their natural posture throughout their lives. Their upright posture reflects their human dignity and integrity.

We have a series of reflexes throughout the body that support us and naturally co-ordinate our movements, yet many of us unknowingly interfere with these natural reflexes to such an extent that many adults often hold four or five times more tension in their bodies than is really necessary. In fact, without realising it, many of us make life much harder for ourselves than it really needs to be. Our shoulders become permanently hunched, our necks become stiffer and stiffer, and we sit either slumped or holding ourselves in a very rigid fashion, as our minds become more and more concerned with the future and the past and our awareness of the present moment diminishes.

It is often hard for us to detect this increase of tension ourselves because it builds up gradually over many years. We become accustomed to the ways in which we sit and stand, which are often putting strains upon our body without our realising it, and no matter how uncoordinated these positions are they will always feel right to us. It may not be until years later that we will start to suffer from aches and pains or restriction of movement.

The Alexander Technique can show you the underlying cause of many ailments so that you are then able to eliminate the tension which is responsible for the condition that we so often mistakenly put down to the ageing process.

How the technique can help you

There are many reasons for starting to have Alexander Technique lessons, here are some of the more common ones.

  • You may be one of those millions of people who regularly suffer from backache, a stiff neck, headaches, arthritis or other symptoms for which there seems to be no answer. The Alexander Technique does not set out to cure specific symptoms, but it does help you to uncover and change the harmful and unconscious habitual patterns, which all too often are the underlying cause of you problem.
  • You may be suffering from stress as a result of work, or for domestic reasons. The Technique will help you look more closely at your reactions in everyday situations, and enable you to see for yourself how you contribute to the build up of excessive tension in your life. By changing the way you react to various situations you can drastically reduce your stress levels, thus reducing the likelihood of high blood pressure, stomach ulcers or even heart attacks and strokes.
  • You may be suffering from pain or discomfort without knowing why. The technique can help you to see that it could be your postural habits which are the root cause of your problem.
  • You may be pregnant and want to look after your body in order to give your baby and yourself the best chance of a healthy pregnancy and a natural and easier birth.
  • You may be a musician, actor, dancer, singer or sports person, who relies on your body to function at its peak efficiency. The Alexander Technique will provide you with a means of releasing excessive tension, enabling you to perform much closer to your maximum ability with minimum effort. It is interesting to note that many of the main music and drama colleges now include the Alexander Technique as part of their curriculum.
  • You may be perfectly healthy, but be one of the ever increasing number of people who want to take more responsibility for their own health and sense of well-being. You may want to discover more about yourself, or use the Alexander Technique to prevent ill health later on in life. I teach many people in their forties and fifties who say, 'I wish I had known about the Technique twenty years ago.

These are only some of the more common applications, and in fact the Technique can be used by practically anyone to improve the functioning of the entire body. The benefits are enormous - not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."
Henry David Thoreau