What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a means of finding your balance in performance, and by performance, I mean anything you’re choosing to do right now, like reading, working on a computer and anything you might be doing later today or tomorrow, like sitting, standing, walking, driving, riding a bike or horse, running, acting, singing, dancing or climbing stairs or a mountain.

I don’t mean “Balance” in any airy-fairy conceptual way, I mean a real experience of knowing that your head is on top of your spine and it’s weight is supported through your whole body and the process feels EASY!

Our bodies want to extend and expand against the force of gravity. We knew this instinctively as children, but through force of habit and poor adaptation to modern furniture and processes like driving cars and sitting at computers, we tend to forget how simple it can be to regain composure and comfort in our bodies. It’s never too late to remember, and it’s much easier than you might think. Any type of performance can be improved by learning simple changes in the operation of our complex bodies, beginning with the balance of the head and function of the breath.

It’s not what you do; it’s the way that you do it. Posture, coordination and balance are key to the Technique. Ditching bad habits and rethinking (or just plain thinking) about how you do things – that’s the idea.

There’s no right way to stand, sit, run or lift weights, but there’s any number of wrong ways, and mindlessly performing prescribed exercise to help a bad back is not only pointless, but positively dangerous if it’s not done very carefully. The wrong way is when we’re not thinking, we’re not paying attention, and we’ve slipped into our old habits of coordination.

How can the Alexander Technique help? By taking the pressure off. Freeing the neck, allowing the spine to lengthen and encouraging economy of movement are central to the principles of the Technique that helps you ‘unlearn’ whatever it is you’re doing that puts you in pain in the first place.

When we’re in pain we do our best to stabilise the pain site – our back, neck, hips, or knees. To stabilise we stiffen, when we stiffen we contract, and when we contract we put pressure on the pain site. The Alexander technique shows you a better way to do whatever it is you want to do.

It’s no quick fix. A series of six or more lessons is recommended. Lessons are one-on-one and involve a series of guided movements – sitting, standing and lying down – encouraging you to rediscover a natural balance. As well as assisting with back pain, benefits stretch to stress management and improved confidence and self-esteem. See austat.org.au for more information.