The Alexander Technique is a proven method of self-care which allows greater freedom and ease throughout your body by bringing awareness to physical habits and aiming to reduce excessive tension or strain.
For over a century, it has helped people:
- ease back, neck and shoulder pain
- alleviate stress and reduce anxiety
- improve performance and avoid performance-related injury
- move with greater freedom, balance and poise
- cultivate healthy breathing
The Alexander Technique was developed by F.M. Alexander, a Shakespearean actor from Australia whose career was stalled by chronic hoarseness. After doctors failed to solve his voice loss, Alexander observed himself, noting areas of habitual strain through his whole body. He began to cultivate his mind-body connection to bring awareness to physical habits, and through his method was able to halt and redirect harmful patterns of use. His voice was restored through this newfound easeful coordination, and he returned to the stage to great acclaim. Others heard of his success and sought him out to help with their own problems. He moved to England, teaching the technique to many influential thinkers including John Dewey, George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, and Nobel Prize-winning scientists Nicholas Tinbergen and Sir Charles Sherrington. He eventually established a training course for teachers so others could teach his technique. Today, the Alexander Technique is taught worldwide; AT educators trained at a certified training course (like F.M.'s original program) must complete 1600 hours of training to be subsequently accepted for membership by the professional association of teachers (in the United States, that organization is the American Society for the Alexander Technique).
Elements of the technique include:
- Learning to use less effort and to have choice about physical habits
- Increasing awareness of yourself as you go about your daily activities
- Practicing embodied mindfulness by tuning up your mind-body connection
- Understanding your structure and how the body moves most easily, and learning to operate in cooperation with your design
- Respiratory "re-education": helping your body recover natural ease in breathing
The Alexander Technique is typically taught in one-on-one lessons or small group classes, as an educational method with both verbal and gentle hands-on guidance. In a lesson, you will have a hands-on experience of the calming benefits of the technique, as well as learn ways to bring about positive changes in your overall coordination for balanced breathing, movement and postural support. You may sit, stand, walk, move or lie down during the course of a lesson, and your study will be tailored to your goals. As you learn the tools of the technique, you'll be invited to engage in activities of your choosing from your daily life such as using an electronic device, working at the computer, meditation or yoga, exercising or practicing a hobby. Performers will learn to apply the technique to their craft to improve performance and reduce anxiety.
Alexander Technique Research Studies & News
Randomised Controlled Trial of Alexander Technique Lessons, Exercise, and Massage (ATEAM) for Chronic and Recurrent Back Pain. Little P et al (2008). British Medical Journal 337:a884.
In this research study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2008, subjects with chronic and recurrent back pain were randomized to receive massage, six Alexander Technique lessons, 24 Alexander Technique lessons, or no intervention. In addition, half of the subjects were encouraged to walk regularly. A year later, the group with no intervention had 21 days of pain per month. The group with massage had 14 days of pain per month. The group with six Alexander Technique lessons reported 11 days of pain per month, and the group with 24 Alexander Technique lessons reported three days of pain per month.
New York Times article "The Alexander Technique for Back Pain?" profiling Paul Little, the lead author of the BMJ study, discussing the Alexander Technique.
THE HUFFINGTON POST: "Actors Swear By This Mindful Movement Practice. Here's How You Can Benefit From It, Too"
An article in the Huffington Post from July 2014 on the everyday benefits of using the technique in common activites, including reducing pain and improving functioning while sitting at the computer or using devices, as well as in social interactions.
NPR's MORNING EDITION: "Alexander Technique: A Balm for Back Pain?"
A feature story on NPR's Morning Edition from March 2011 giving an overview of employing the technique to reduce pain, and referencing the British Medical Journal's 2008 study.
Taking Charge, Choosing a New Direction: A Service Evaluation of Alexander Technique Lessons for Pain Clinic Patients (SEAT): an Approach to Pain Management McClean, S. and Wye, L. (June 2012) Project Report. UWE Bristol, Bristol.
A high quality clinical trial carried out in an experimental setting at UWE Bristol in 2012 has demonstrated the therapeutic value and effectiveness of Alexander Technique lessons for chronic back pain. The findings suggest that lessons in the AT are beneficial in terms of improving quality of life and patients' management of pain. Greatest changes were found in how the patients/students managed their pain (more than half stopped or reduced their medication) and the impact that the pain had on their daily lives. This also led to some behavioral changes and changes in awareness and self-knowledge on the part of the patients/students.