Alexander Works
With all its demands the Alexander technique is worth every moment it asks for.

Free the Body—Free the Person

Understanding Alexander Technique

Alexander work (as we in the field of practice call it) aims to restore the body more closely to its original design and function; to remove the interference that prolonged excess tension, wrong thinking and faulty beliefs can cause. The result is a bouncy, upright poise (posture with attitude); greater clarity in one’s thinking, joints with improved function; pain eliminated or significantly diminished; greater co-ordination and balance; improved fine-motor control for precise performance of things like playing musical instruments, drawing and painting; enhanced performance in sports, sitting to read or write or operate a computer, working at a counter. The entire body/mind system operates more efficiently and effectively. As the founder of this technique, F.M. Alexander, used to say, "this is work on the use of the self."

In contrast to many conventional treatments and programs for pain control, Alexander work corrects the cause of symptoms. The most excruciating pain can be caused by simple biomechanical errors -- wrong ways of using the body -- repeated often, over a long period of time. A common example many people can recognize once they begin to watch for it, is a way of bending over by folding at the waist and rounding the back, often with the knees braced. This way of bending strains many structures, one being the ligaments of the lower back. Ligaments are not designed to stretch. Pressure can weaken them over a period of years and lead to lower back pain, hypermobility of the spine (not a good thing) and secondary damage such as a herniated disk or sciatic nerve problem. The damage is cumulative and permanent but may not become symptomatic until years after the initial damage.

Stopping this habit of improper bending will not restore the ligament to its former strength; nevertheless, it will relieve the pressure on all structures involved and alleviate the pain that has developed.

Stopping a habit can prove quite challenging. It takes awareness. It takes forethought. A person with the faulty habit of bending, for instance, has to remember each time before bending not to do it the old way, and to give himself a few instructions of how to do it properly. Under the guidance and direction of a qualified teacher, the relearning gradually becomes easier and easier.

Most of us have many such habits, which over time and repetition lead to unnecessary pain and fatigue or interfere with precise movement in a wide range of activities. As we grow older, we tend to think these symptoms are just a 'sign of aging' and we decide either to 'live with them' or seek medical attention which often involves drugs and/or surgery.

Some people think exercise will improve their condition, because they believe their back muscles or the stomach muscles must be weak. The muscular system is a complex, interwoven web whose mysteries do not unlock easily. Sometimes exercise aggravates harmful habits we have. Sometimes it alleviates one symptom but slowly produces another somewhere else. Learning how best to move in activity is the key.

Alexander work is a comprehensive, multi-layered, multi-dimensional process involving the relationship of the head, neck and back, involving the skeletal and muscular systems. It concerns itself with automatic responses to stimuli. It concerns itself with faulty thinking and distorted beliefs about oneself in time and space. It takes time to tease these out. One of the master teachers—who died recently at 90 (and who taught ‘to the end’)—said that after about twenty years of teaching the Technique, he was beginning to get a glimmer of what it was all about.

Fortunately, neither teacher nor student has to understand the process at this level to reap the immense benefits that come with the ‘work’. Take up the challenge! Free your body, free your being. You will be astonished…