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The Alexander Technique: History and Theory

The Alexander Technique is a health system aimed at correcting poor posture and body movement, with a view to combating physical and mental stress and their effects. It is given as a series of lessons by a qualified teacher, during which the client learns a new approach to skeletal, muscular and nerve function that will optimize health and well-being.
                          alexander technique therapy

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The Alexander Technique is a health system aimed at correcting poor posture and body movement, with a view to combating physical and mental stress and their effects. It is given as a series of lessons by a qualified teacher, during which the client learns a new approach to skeletal, muscular and nerve function that will optimize health and well-being.

Facts

History and Theory

The Alexander Technique was devised by an Australian actor, Frederick Matthias Alexander, who experienced the relatively uncommon complaint "globus hystericus," a form of voice loss. He found that he started to lose his voice when on stage - or when even thought about reciting in public. Globus hystericus is actually a hysterical voice loss due to extreme performance anxiety, similar to a stammer, when the person gets "stuck" with a word or syllable and, for an agonizing few seconds, can get no further.

                                Frederick Matthias Alexander

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Alexander observed himself in a mirror when reciting, to see what happened. He noticed that he automatically pulled back his head and tightened his throat muscles, and, progressing to a three-way mirror, he further studied his posture, balance and movement. He corrected his head and neck position each time he was about to recite and, although the new, more relaxed stance felt odd, he persisted with it until he found his confidence (and performance voice) returning in leaps and bounds. His hoarseness disappeared, his weakened voice grew stronger, and he felt healthier and more clear-headed than he had done for a long time.

Alexander spent nine years studying himself and his movements, eventually observing and working with others. His observation that people shorten their necks when startled led to the foundation of his theory and technique - that the head, neck and upper and lower back must be in dynamic equilibrium with each other for maximum lengthening of the spine and optimum energy and health. He developed a method of retraining the body to adopt healthier postures after years of inhibited movements and spinal contortions.

                              alexander technique benefits

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Alexander moved to London in 1904, establishing a progressive practice and later a training school for teachers of the Alexander Technique. He toured and taught in both England and the United States. Famous people whom Frederick Alexander treated (successfully) included George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley and Archbishop William Temple.

Studies of his findings were later made by an American professor, Frank Jones, and an English doctor, Wilfred Barlow. The former used special photographic techniques and X-rays to capture the differences between observed, habitual movement, and movement under the training and guidance of Alexander's teaching. Dr. Barlow examined the connections between misuse of the body (in poor posture as defined by Alexander) and common medical disorders such as high blood pressure, rheumatism, arthritis, back pain and irritable bowel syndrome. Their findings supported Alexander's claims, and acceptance of his technique grew among the medical profession and the public. Today the Alexander technique is popular with performing artists, and is often included on drama courses.

Key to Good Breathing

  • Breathing should not be forced
  • Breathing through the nose ensures air is moist and warm before reaching the lungs
  • Deep breathing is linked to muscle toning
  • Breathing is affected by the relationship between the head, neck and back

Benefits

  • Always being aware of the position of your head, neck and spine
  • Revealing bad habits
  • Gaining freedom of movement with the correct use of the body
  • Being aware of undue tension in the muscles

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Comments (2)

Thanks for submitting a very useful article.

I'm so glad you wrote this! I was going to do it! Voted and liked.

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