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Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Alexander Technique

I'm fascinated by Fate, those moments when we make a decision which leads to something life-changing. I can't remember when or where I first heard about The Alexander Technique and when I booked my first appointment, about fifteen years ago, I had absolutely no idea of the impact it was going to have on my life. I've suffered with back problems off and on since I was in my early twenties but at the time my back wasn't playing up. It was my digestive system and I began to wonder if my chronic heartburn was something to do with my poor posture. So I booked myself in to see the wonderful Miriam Wohl and had several sessions with her.

As a writer and reflexologist I am often hunched over either my computer or somebody's feet. My neck and shoulders can get stiff and sore, as can my lower back. We all mis-use our bodies in one way or another and the Alexander Technique helps to correct those bad habits. It re-educates your mind and your body and releases muscular tension.

The technique was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander in the 1890's.


He was a Shakespearian actor who suddenly lost his voice during performances. When doctors told him that they couldn't find any physical cause for this he studied himself with mirrors and ascertained that the way he contracted his neck was causing postural problems which affected his breathing and vocal mechanisms. He solved his own problem and then went on to realise that many people tighten their upper bodies in anticipation of certain events and thought that his regime could be adapted to help people with their general health and well-being.

Apparently many famous people have studied the Alexander Technique. The list includes Aldous Huxley, Roald Dahl, George Bernard Shaw, Judi Dench, Paul Newman and Paul McCartney. I'm in esteemed company!

The Alexander Technique is not described as a relaxation technique but, once you get the hang of it (and it's not difficult), it does become just that. For me it has become akin to a meditation, as soothing as lying in a field full of lavender.


It has made me calmer, more pragmatic, better able to cope with those curve balls which life pitches my way from time to time. When I practise it regularly, I sleep better. And when life takes over and I don't do it for a few days I notice the difference.

I'm sure that if The Alexander Technique were offered to secondary schools students it would help with behavioural problems, exam stress and eliminate those postural problems which often start around this time.

As a reflexologist I believe it heightens my intuition and as a writer it has had unforeseen benefits too. It clears my mind, allowing new ideas to enter and many is the time a solution to a problem with my plot has revealed itself as I practised The Alexander Technique. And the beauty of it is that you can do it almost anywhere. You don't need special clothes or equipment. Following the inital instruction all you need is a bit of floor, something shallow to rest your head on and fifteen or twenty minutes to yourself.

My digestive problems weren't in fact a result of poor posture but turned out to be a wheat intolerance. But that is another story for another day.

So thank you for reading and hopefully you're not struggling with a bad back, a stiff neck or general aches and pains but if you are, I would recommend giving the Alexander Technique a try. It could literally change your life.

6 comments:

  1. Oo, please could you teach us how to do it, Alex? It sounds wonderful.

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    1. Pippa, I would love to be able to teach you but Adrian is right it does require a trained teacher and there are other aspects to the technique. But once you have learned how to do the technique it stays with you for life.

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  2. Pippa, it requires a trained teacher, the article only touches on one aspect of the technique. But you could try googling "constructive rest" or "semi-supine"

    Www.alexander-technique-in-london.co.uk

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    1. You're absolutely right Adrian, it does require a trained teacher and there are many other aspects which I haven't covered in my short post but thanks for the comment and the useful links for 'constructive rest' and 'semi-supine'.

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  3. As you know I am suffering quite a few joint problems at the moment. I have had a number of sessions with Miriam many years ago. It turned out that I needed a hysterectomy and so had to stop the Alexander Technique sessions. It would be interesting to look into it again. Thanks for the prompt.

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    1. Having been to Miriam you know how skilled she is. If you give The Alexander Technique another go I really hope that it helps.

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