The Alexander Technique's basic idea is that when the neck muscles do not overwork, the head balances lightly at the top of spine. The relationship between the head and the spine is of utmost importance. How we manage that relationship has ramifications throughout the rest of the body. As the boss -- good or bad -- sets the tone for an organization, the head / spine relationship -- compressed or free -- determines the quality of the body's overall coordination. Our neuromuscular system is designed to work in concert with gravity. Delicate poise of the head sparks the body's anti-gravity response: a natural oppositional force in the torso that easily guides us upward and invites the spine to lengthen, rather than compress, as we move. Instead of slouching or holding ourselves in a rigid posture, we can learn to mobilize this support system and use it wherever we go -- in the car, at the computer, in the gym. - from Alexander Technique, an article by Joan Arnold
How the Alexander Technique is taught
The Alexander Technique is above all an educational method. Alexander Teachers use a combination of verbal instruction and a light, guiding, touch to convey information to their students. Alexander Technique teaching is done in private lessons and in group classes. Private lessons are usually between 1/2 and 1 hour in length.
Most certified Alexander Technique teachers have completed a three-year full time training course recognized by one of several major professional societies. Typically, the training courses have a student teacher ratio of 5:1 or less, and provide a great deal of individual attention for each trainee.
A few teachers have trained more informally on an apprenticeship basis and some of them have become members of professional societies through a rigorous review process. Not all Alexander Technique teachers are certified and not all teachers eligible for certification are members of a professional society.
Choosing a teacher
All of the major professional Alexander Technique societies publish a teachers list as well as on-line listings. Recommendations from friends and colleagues can be useful in choosing a teacher, but you will have to judge for yourself if a particular teacher is right for you.
Ask about his or her training and be prepared to take a few lessons before deciding whether to continue with a course of lessons. If you live in a community with several teachers, have a lesson or two with several before making a final decision.
Bear in mind that while the basic ideas of the Alexander Technique are not in any way complex or mystical, they do represent a new way of thinking about the functioning of your body and may take a little getting used to at first.
Excess tension in your body can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms and it can interfere with your ability to perform activities well. Therefore it is not surprising that most people come to the Alexander Technique because they are in pain (backaches, sore necks and shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.) and/or because they are performers who want to improve the quality of their singing, playing, acting or dancing.
History of the Alexander Technique
F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), an actor who began his career as a Shakespearean orator, developed chronic laryngitis while performing. Determined to restore the full use of his voice, he carefully watched himself while speaking, and observed that undue muscular tension accounted for his vocal problem. He sought a way to eliminate that restriction. Over time, he discovered and articulated a principle that profoundly influences health and well-being: when neck tension is reduced, the head no longer compresses the spine and the spine is free to lengthen. Alexander restored his own natural capacity for ease by changing the way he thought while initiating an action. From this work on himself and others, he evolved a hands-on teaching method that encourages all the body's processes to work more efficiently - as an integrated, dynamic whole.
Click here for The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique Web Site
This site provides a systematic guide to all Alexander Technique resources, including information on scientific and medical endorsements, information of special interest to musicians, and information on how to locate an Alexander Teacher in your area.
Click here for the ergonomics.org Web Site
This site is dedicated to exploring the relationship between the Alexander Technique and the science of ergonomics.