Could the Alexander Technique help you feel less stressed?

Alexander Technique in Wilmslow, CheshireAlexander Technique

When I first started having lessons in the Alexander Technique (AT) more than thirty years ago, not many people had heard of it and there were just a few highly dedicated teachers, mostly in London. Now there are many thousands of teachers in most countries in the world.

The Alexander Technique is taught in almost of all of the most prestigious music and drama schools and many people have benefited from lessons for a broad range of health problems, especially for stress and back pain.

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a practical method for changing the way people go about their activities, both mentally and physically. The AT is not strictly speaking a therapy – it is a sophisticated method of re-education. It does not aim to treat a particular symptom, but instead addresses a person’s entire way of approaching thinking and moving in a course of practical lessons. Students learn how to release tension and rediscover better balance, both mentally and physically.

How does it work?

The Alexander Technique works by helping people to identify and prevent the faulty habits of thought, posture and movement that can cause stress, pain and under-performance. Students are helped to become aware of poor patterns of thought and movement and taught how to carry out an activity with less of their habitual stiffening of muscles, shortening in stature and loss of balance and poise, both mentally and physically. They learn how to sit and move without stiffness in a way that can be commonly seen in small children and in gifted athletes.

How is it taught?

Lessons in the Alexander Technique are usually given on a one-to-one basis. Introductory groups can be helpful but they are not a substitute for the individual attention needed to change the habits of a lifetime. The teacher uses their hands together with verbal explanation in order to guide the pupil through everyday movements such as sitting, standing, walking, bending and lying down. The AT involves no specific exercises, requires no special clothing or equipment and can be applied to any activity. No clothing is removed for lessons. Most people find AT lessons a very relaxing experience.

What are the benefits of the Alexander Technique?

The AT may help relieve back pain, neck pain, joint pain and stiffness, stress, tension, breathing difficulties, performance anxiety and more. It promotes improved posture, mobility, balance, agility, confidence, poise and vocal performance.

Nowadays most people have lessons to resolve back, neck and shoulder pain, to reduce stress and to improve their posture and their confidence. Anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of the AT for these conditions is being supported by a rapidly increasing number of studies.

For example, a recent large, randomised study published in the British Medical Journal found that a course of 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique reduced chronic back pain by an astonishing 86%, even a year after the lessons were completed.

Even participants who had only 6 lessons had less than half the number of days of pain. A striking range and degree of ‘quality of life’ benefits were reported, mostly related to increased self-confidence and a reduction in stress. None of the 579 study participants reported a negative experience.

Other studies have shown the Technique to be of benefit in Parkinson’s disease, balance in elderly people, breathing disorders, and in a number of other conditions where the way that a person goes about their activities has an effect of how well they function.

How many lessons do students need?

Alexander Technique teachers generally recommend that students aim to have an introductory course of about 20-30 lessons. This is the average number of lessons students need to resolve the most common presenting symptoms, and to have a sufficient grounding in the principles in order to continue to progress further without assistance. Students usually benefit by having lessons at least twice weekly for the first few weeks, after which weekly lessons are usual.

Who can be helped by the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique can benefit people of any age, at almost any level of physical fitness, and from all backgrounds. Changing the approach to the tasks of life in a way that encourages poise and balance directly addresses some of the most common causes of stress and injury.

For the more common types of neck, back and other muscle and joint pain, the AT is likely to help where the problem is either caused or exacerbated by errors in coordination, including posture and balance. Even in conditions with other causes, better posture, balance and regulation of forces in movement may go some way towards alleviating symptoms. Most people find a course of AT lessons an interesting and enjoyable experience.

Finding a teacher

Most teachers in the UK are members of The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, which is affiliated with most of the major international representative bodies for teachers. Membership requires the successful completion of a comprehensive three year full time training at an approved course as well as continuing education and adherence to a code of conduct.

Peter Bloch Alexander Technique CheshireAbout The AuthorPeter Bloch, BA Hons, MSTAT, is a qualified teacher of the Alexander Technique based in Cheshire, England.

He has taught the Alexander Technique for 25 years and his career has included running a large private practice, teaching and lecturing at music conservatoires and training and supervising teachers of the Alexander Technique.

He has also developed a form of relational healing therapy based on the practice of the Alexander Technique and the therapeutic principles of person-centered psychotherapy.

Visit his website

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