How does the Alexander Technique work?
The video above offers a brief explanation of AT, its benefits, and how it can change long-standing habits of tension. :)
What is the Alexander Technique?
Alexander Technique is a mind/body process that teaches students to become aware of and access their natural coordination, which is balanced and supported. In modern culture we are often asked to "work hard" or "stand up straight!" As well-intentioned as these commands may be, following these "orders" create undue, uncomfortable tensions in our bodies, which require much effort to maintain.
When tension in our muscles is continuous, we cease to notice that it is there; we become un-aware. The Alexander Technique wakes up our body’s awareness of movement – our kinesthetic sense. We become conscious of and release long-held tension habits that interfere with our natural movement. Body and mind work together to return to balance.
Through gentle guidance from a teacher, the student discovers that "less is more." They learn to allow their body to return to a natural state of uprightness, rather than holding their body in a stiff or forced "posture." With body and mind working together, students discover that their head balances lightly on their spine, and their body has a feeling of buoyancy and lightness. Movement becomes freer and coordination improves.
For a helpful and engaging overview of the Alexander Technique, enjoy this TedX talk by my former student, August Berger, "Change Your Life with the Alexander Technique" (under 10 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZQFdh41wXU&t=169s
Who was Alexander?
Frederick Mathias Alexander (1869-1955) was a pioneer in the betterment of health and human potential. Growing up in rural Tasmania, Australia, he succeeded as a professional actor and orator. But F.M.’s career almost came to a halt as a young man due to chronic vocal hoarseness. Because of his passion for theatre, he set out to discover what he was doing that was causing his vocal problems.
He watched himself in a three-way mirror as he was speaking, and he saw that he had a strong pattern of tension when reciting. He was astonished to learn this, because he was unaware that he was tensing! Over time, he trained himself to interrupt this pattern, so his natural coordination could guide his movement. He gained the skill to consciously choose how he moved when he spoke. As he continued to observe himself, he also recognized a familiar mental pattern that triggered the old and familiar tension habits. He began to change the way he thought about speaking, further improving his ability to be at ease when he performed.
This was a huge breakthrough for his personal career in the theatre, and even more important for us, who have benefited from his Technique. He became known throughout Australia, England, and even taught in the United States, training many famous actors of the day, and others who simply wanted to improve their coordination and functioning. Famous students included Aldous Huxley, John Dewey and George Bernard Shaw.
What happens in a lesson?
Students learn to notice tension habits and interferences with their natural coordination, through the use of their kinesthetic sense, and gentle hands-on guidance from the teacher.
Coordination is restored by allowing head and spine to come into balanced relationship. Through verbal guidance and physical cues from the teacher, the student learns to sense subtle tensions and imbalances while their body is in action, and to notice ways in which their thinking can aid or interfere with their movement.
Natural balance is restored by releasing patterns of tension and returning to more coordinated, centered movement.
What is the kinesthetic sense?
Kinesthetic means "muscle sense" or the "felt relationship between muscles, bones and joints." The kinesthetic sense is the way in which we sense these relationships (as opposed to thinking about them). It also tells us how much effort we are using and how fast or slow we are moving.
Kinesthetic sense includes muscle memory, and the way in which we sense the space around us.
Visit www.alexandertechnique.com for information, educational resources, and more! Or use the contact page to ask Jana!