Alexander Technique
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Alexander Technique

  • Thursday, 06 November 2008 09:46
  • Last Updated Saturday, 21 February 2009 19:27

The Alexander Technique is a technique of body re-education and coordination, accomplished through physical and psychological principles. The technique focuses on the self-perception of movement and is promoted for the alleviation of back pain, rehabilitation after accidents, improving breathing, playing musical instruments and singing.

The technique takes its name from F. Matthias Alexander, who first formulated its principles between 1890 and 1900.[1] Alexander developed the Technique as a personal tool to alleviate pain and hoarseness that affected his ability to pursue a career as a Shakespearean actor. Alexander taught his technique for 30 years before creating a school to form other teachers of the technique. All current Alexander Technique teachers have participated in the 3-year, 1600-hour training, all with a pedagogical ancestry traced to Alexander himself.

The technique is taught in lessons, through a combination of hands-on coaching and verbal explanation. During lessons, which may last from 30 minutes to an hour, students, guided by the teacher, inhibit habitual reactions and instead find newer and more efficient ways to perform simple tasks, like walking, standing, and sitting.

Historically taught in private lessons, its principles have also been adapted to be taught in groups, often using short individual lessons which, in turn, act as examples to the rest of the class.[2]

Basic premises

The Alexander Technique is considered to be an educational technique to be practised by the student on his own, rather than a curative treatment or therapy. It is designed to be used while doing any other activity. There are no prescriptive forms or exercises intended to be done in separate practice time - with the exception of lying semi- Supine as a recommended means of effective rest.

The advantage of physical freedom, efficiency and gradual continuing education are the proscribed values. The Alexander Technique teacher provides verbal coaching while monitoring and guiding with specialised hands-on assistance. Students are led to change their previous routines that have been demonstrated to the student by the teacher as physically limiting and structurally inefficient. This specialised assistance requires Alexander teachers to demonstrate on themselves what they are communicating to the student.[3]

Alexander developed some of his own terminology to talk about his methods, outlined in his four books. These terms are often used to discuss his principles. For instance, "Sensory debauchery" is about how repetition of a circumstance encourages habit design; habits disappear after being successfully trained. Kinesthetic sensory awareness is a relative sense, not an indicator of absolute truth. Once trained and forgotten, habits may be activated without conscious awareness of their existence.

Another example is the term "End-gaining," which means to focus on a goal so as to lose sight of the means by which the goal is achieved. According to Alexander teachers, this "end-gaining" increases the likelihood of selecting older or conflicting compensatory coping strategies with the potential for cumulative, ongoing unpredictability or injury.

In the Alexander Technique lexicon, the historic term "Inhibition" describes a moment of conscious awareness that interrupts or stops a habitual pattern of "misuse." Once habits are stopped, the body tends to resume a freer capacity and range of motion, as if by itself. The proscribed act of thinking of one's own "Direction" selects and reinforces the proscribed Head-Neck-Back relationship that emerges when habitual misuse is stopped. "Giving Directions" are meant to be suggestively thought rather than willfully accomplished. These paradoxical characteristics are reinforced in further more global concepts of "Psycho-physical Unity" and "Constructive, Conscious Control." [4]

The Alexander Technique, unlike other methods done for physically therapeutic goals, is applied to every activity in daily life. For this reason, F.M. Alexander preferred not to recommend exercises for his students to perform, and most teachers follow his intent.


In the United Kingdom, there is some coverage of the costs for Alexander lessons through the Complementary and Alternative Practitioners Directory. Otherwise, individuals must pay for their Alexander education out of pocket. Those who are used to getting instant results may complain at a commitment of twenty to forty private lessons, which is what most Alexander teachers advertised is required to gain proficiency. Private lessons usually cost in a similar range to private music lessons. Outside of the United Kingdom there is little or no insurance coverage. Inexpensive classes are rarely available. Workshops do exist, but usually do not last long enough to fulfil educational requirements for most students, who must then attend private lessons if they want to gain proficiency.

The learning process often demands giving up "favoured" ways of thinking and acting. This challenge can result in unanticipated and illogical defensiveness. If a student must halt lessons at an awkward stage, this can leave them without practical substitutions for the "bad" habits they just learned to sense.

Practicing the Alexander Technique cannot directly affect structural deformities (such as arthritis or other bone problems), or other diseases, (such as Parkinson's, etc.) In these cases, the Alexander Technique can only mitigate how the person compensates for these difficulties.


The Alexander Technique is used remedially to regain freedom of movement; it is used to undo the establishment of nuisance habits by performers, and it's used as a self awareness discipline and a self-help tool to change specific habits.

These first application areas include alleviating pain and weakness as a result of poor posture or repetitive physical demands, improving pain management for chronic disabilities, and rehabilitation following surgery or injury where compensatory habits that were designed to avoid former pain need to be revised after healing.

As an example among performance art applications, the Technique is used and taught by classically trained singers and vocal coaches. Its advocates claim that it allows for the proper alignment of all aspects of the vocal chords and tract through consciously increased air flow. With this increase of breathing capacity, singers are said to be better able to exercise proper vocal technique and tone. Because the Technique has allegedly been used to improve breathing and stamina in general, advocates of the technique claim that athletes, people with asthma, tuberculosis, and panic attacks have also found benefits.

Along the application of self-help, proponents of the Technique suggest that it can help performers manage stage fright, become more spontaneous, and to increase skill repertoire. It is suggested that A.T. can be an adjunct to psychotherapy for people with disabilities, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, panic attacks, stuttering, and chronic pain because using its principles can improve stress management abilities.[5][6][7] The Alexander technique has been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic or recurrent back pain in a randomised study published Aug. 19, 2008.[8]

  1. Rootberg, Ruth (September 2007). "Voice and Gender and other contemporary issues in professional voice and speech training". Voice and Speech Review, Voice and Speech Trainers Association, Inc, Cincinnati, OH 35: 164–170. doi:10.1016/S0030-5898(03)00088-9.
  2. Arnold, Joan; Hope Gillerman (1997). "Frequently Asked Questions". American Society for the Alexander Technique. Retrieved on 2007-05-02.
  3. Improvement in Automatic Postural Coordination Following Alexander Technique Lessons in a Person With Low Back Pain - W Cacciatore et al. 85 (6): 565 - Physical Therapy
  4. McEvenue, Kelly (2002). The Actor and the Alexander Technique (1st Palgrave Macmillan ed ed.). New York: Macmillan. pp. 14. ISBN 0312295154.
  5. The Definitive Guide to The Alexander Technique provided by STAT - The Society of Teachers of The Alexander Technique
  6. Aronson, AE (1990). Clinical Voice Disorders: An Interdisciplinary Approach,.
  7. Vigeland, C (December 2000). "The Answer to a Stress Test". Sports Illustrated Golf Plus 35: 57. doi:10.1016/S0030-5898(03)00088-9.
  8. a b Paul Little et al.,Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique (AT) lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain,British Medical Journal, August 19, 2008.


This page was last modified on 3 February 2009, at 17:32

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