The Alexander Technique
Improving posture can seem mysterious and frustrating. It may lead to increased discomfort or pain when we're left to our own devices and try to change how we hold ourselves based on what we think feels right. The habits that result in poor posture are often so ingrained in us that they are unconscious, so what feels right may actually be worsening an existing problem. Poor posture may be the source of a variety of problems, but when people try to actively fix their posture, they often make matters worse or they find that what they think is good posture is not sustainable. In trying to fix things, the source of the poor posture isn't being addressed.
Lessons in the Alexander Technique clear up the mystery and confusion about how you should hold yourself. With practice, you'll learn that you don't need to actively hold yourself up and that it will happen naturally if you change the habits that get in the way. Through the guidance of an Alexander teacher, students learn a skill that they can use any time and anywhere, without having to stop and do exercises. Lessons and applying the technique throughout your day is engaging and fun.
How it works
When studying the Alexander Technique, students learn to identify and release excess muscle tension and also learn how to avoid pulling down (slouching). Excess tension in some areas and slouching down in others are often the source of pain and other difficulties. Reducing or eliminating these harmful patterns will allow the postural muscles (core muscles) to function more efficiently, improving the quality of movement, posture, and breathing in all activities. The resulting condition is neither overly tense nor excessively relaxed. It is instead balanced, comfortable, energized, and free of strain.
Re-learning what's natural
Most small children are naturally well-coordinated and use their bodies in a way that is strain-free and balanced. Take a look at the child in this photo. One might say that she has good posture, but she's not in any way trying to sit up straight. She looks comfortable and relaxed in this position, unlike most adults who tend to stiffen themselves to try to straighten. As adults, we don't loose our good posture, we just interfere with it. It will be there to support us if we learn to let go of our interferences and get out of our own way.
Who was "Alexander"?
F.M. Alexander was born in 1869 in Tasmania. As a young man performing as a Shakespearean orator in Melbourne, Australia in the late 1890s, he developed chronic laryngitis. He was prescribed periods of vocal rest during which he would recover, only to loose his voice again when returning to orating. He initiated an intense course of self-study aimed at learning what he was doing to cause his hoarseness. Using mirrors, he discovered a discrepancy between the physical actions that he visually observed himself doing and those which he kinesthetically perceived himself doing when preparing to speak. Over time, he identified and eliminated habitual patterns of tension and discovered a more efficient and balanced way to speak, move and go about his all of his activities. As a result of addressing the manner in which he had been using himself overall, he no longer suffered from vocal trouble. Subsequently he developed a subtle and powerful hands-on technique that helps people to stop interfering with their natural good posture and coordination. He settled in London and taught and refined his technique in both the UK and the US until his death in 1955. Alexander’s supporters included John Dewey, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, Raymond Dart, George E. Coghill, and Nobel Prize winners Charles Sherrington, and Nicholas Tinbergen.
Aging tends to be associated with stiffness and inability to bend. Here's Alexander, as an older gentleman, squatting with his feet flat on the ground.
What is AmSAT-Certification? AmSAT (The American Society for the Alexander Technique) is the largest professional organization of teachers of the Alexander Technique in the United States that exercises a rigorous credentialing process of requiring a minimum of 1,600 hours of training over three years in an Alexander Technique teacher training course approved by the organization. AmSAT members must also comply with regular continuing education requirements. Visit amsatonline.org for more information.
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