Do you suffer stabbing pains in the neck, shooting barbs of discomfort in the back, thumping tension headaches or knife-like shoulder tension?
Is bending over to tie your shoelaces or doing the housework an exercise in overcoming the pain barrier?
Is there a solution?
For more than a century, people of all ages have benefited from the Alexander Technique. This is a way of teaching movement that reduces the amount of muscular effort and tension that we habitually use in our daily activities.
How will it help me?
The Alexander technique provides:
relief from back pain
relief from tension headaches, RSI pain and neck and shoulder tension
improved posture, balance and coordination
a freer breathing mechanism.
It is widely used for refining and improving the performance of sports people, singers, musicians and dancers. The Alexander Technique also forms part of the compulsory curriculum in many of the most famous schools of music, dance and theatre around the world including:
- The Royal College of Music, London
- Juilliard School, NY
- Yale School of Drama
- Urtrecht School for the Arts, Netherlands
F. M. Alexander (1869 -1955), an Australian actor, made these discoveries after suffering debilitating vocal problems. He regained full health and returned to work. However, he soon realized his technique had the potential to provide better overall health for everyone by retraining the way we use the body.
He gave up his acting career and devoted himself to teaching his technique. Now there are training schools worldwide, including New Zealand. Qualified teachers undergo a minimum of 3 years full time training, governed by international teaching and training standards.
How does the Alexander Technique work?
Alexander observed that efficiency in daily activities is dependent on a proper relationship of the head to the neck and back. The head needs to balance lightly on top of the spinal column (as seen in young children) to maintain this healthy relationship.
Unfortunately, many adults pull the head forward of the vertebral column or back and down into it, thus contracting the spine and producing undue tension throughout the body. Mostly we are not aware of this detrimental behaviour.
Isn’t this just about good posture?
In reality, good posture is far more complex than just standing or sitting up straight. Using the body wisely requires us to support and balance our bodies against the unseen force of gravity as we respond to the stimulus and stress of modern living.
Is the Alexander technique just another exercise fad?
The Alexander Technique is not an exercise regime or a treatment. Alexander described his work as ‘the study of human reaction’.
It is a self-help method taught over a series of lessons. The Alexander technique teaches us to:
Observe the root of harmful habits of tension that cause or aggravate many health problems
Improve the way we move and use our bodies throughout the day
Change the lifelong patterns of mental and physical behaviours that undermine the efficient functioning of the whole self
Embrace a more thoughtful and less reactive response to the world around us.
What happens in an Alexander technique Lesson?
During a series of lessons, an Alexander Technique teacher uses hands on guidance with verbal instruction to help unravel tension and bring about a better postural tone and neuromuscular coordination in the whole body.
While doing the simplest of tasks such as sitting down, walking, bending or lifting this hands-on experience raises the student’s awareness of any unnecessary muscular effort or strain.
The student experiences a lighter, freer ease of movement that requires a lot less energy. The lessons establish a clearer connection between the mind, nervous system and the muscles.
What scientific research supports the Alexander technique?
Non-specific back pain accounts for a high percentage of lost working days per year. Traditional treatment may relieve some back pain. However, if there are no associated lifestyle changes, recurrence of the problem is highly probable.
The BMJ: unequivocal evidence for the effectiveness of the Alexander technique.
‘Alexander Technique Lessons give chronic and recurrent back pain sufferers long-term benefit.’ British Medical Journal, 2008.
In 2007 Professor Paul Little (Primary Care Research at Southampton University, UK) led a clinical trial of the Alexander Technique. The Medical Research Council and the National Health Service funded this trial because of the importance of this research.
The trial involved 579 patients. The results, as published in the British Medical Journal of August 2008, showed that lessons in the Alexander Technique provide:
long-term benefits for chronic back pain sufferers
reduced number of days in pain per month–from 21 to 3 with a series of lessons
consistent and sustained improvements.
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