Move Through Life With Greater Ease With The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique is simply a form of personal education that can help us to become more aware of balance, posture and co-ordination while performing everyday actions. It can also help release unwanted muscular tension throughout the body which has often built up undetected over many years. This excessive muscular tension often starts in childhood and can give rise later in life to a whole range of common health problems such as arthritis, neck and back pain, migraine, hypertension, sciatica, respiratory and digestive problems, insomnia and even depression.
Vast amounts of money are being spent on numerous treatments of these illnesses, yet the number of people affected carries on increasing. By learning the Alexander Technique, however, many people could be helped to understand the under-lying causes of their problems and, through the Technique, be taught how they can help themselves, and as a result many of our aches and pains would diminish or are avoided altogether.
We have a series of reflexes throughout the body that naturally support us against the force of gravity and naturally co-ordinate our movements. Unfortunately because of the way we use our body many of us interfere with these natural reflexes to such an extent that we often hold at least four or five times more tension in our bodies than is really necessary. In fact, without realising it, many of us make life much harder for ourselves than it really needs to be. Our shoulders become permanently hunched, our necks become stiffer and stiffer, and we sit either slumped or holding ourselves in a very rigid. It may not be until years later that we will start to suffer from aches and pains or restricted movement.
The reasons for many of these problems can be found when we consider our posture and the way we use our body while performing even the simplest of tasks. As children, our posture and ease of movement are a joy to watch, but as we start to tense our muscles in reaction to many of life’s worries and concerns, our posture deteriorates into what can often borders on deformity. This tension eventually turns into pain which is the body’s warning system trying to tell us that something is going wrong, yet all too often medication is used to dull these warning signs.
By learning the Alexander Technique you can understand and remedy the underlying causes of a multitude of health problems, as well as enabling you to eliminate the tension which is responsible for poor posture, tiredness, general stiffness and a wide variety of aches and pains – conditions that we so often mistakenly put down to the ageing process. One of the most common examples of the consequences of poor posture is back pain. Eighty per cent of all people living in our western civilisation will suffer from disabling lower back pain at some point in their lives. Recent statistics reveal that back pain is on the increase in most developed countries, yet no one seems to have any clear answers or solutions to the problem.
Although vast sums of money are being spent on treatment of the pain, there is little research into why back pain is so prevalent in our society and yet comparatively rare in some under-developed countries. An increasing number of doctors, back specialists and orthopaedic surgeons are now advising people to try the Alexander Technique as they can see the beneficial results when nothing else has helped. Unfortunately, it is still the case that many millions of people carry on for years in unnecessary pain, without realising that something can be done for them. They do, however, need to face up to the fact that we have to take responsibility for their ailments and not expect the medics and therapists to have all the answers.
The traditional method of correcting poor posture is to be instructed to ‘do something’ to such as ‘sit up straight’, ‘pull your shoulders back,’ but by doing this we are actually making the situation far worse, as anything we do will only increase the muscular tension making the pain worse than ever.
The Alexander Technique is usually taught on a one-to-one basis and the teacher will help you to be aware and let go of muscle tension that is at the root of your problem. This will be done with verbal instructions and with help from his, or her, hands. There is no manipulation and no need to remove any clothing. You will also be taught new ways of sitting, standing and walking that will put less pressure on the joints and muscles. By learning new ways of moving while performing everyday tasks you will be putting far less strain on your body thus making it work more efficiently.
In fact, many people who practice the Technique experience a general feeling of lightness throughout their bodies and even describe the sensation as ‘walking on air’ or moving with no effort. One of my pupils called it ‘the Champagne feeling – light and bubbly!’ Since our physical state directly affects our mental and emotional well-being, people often say that they feel much calmer and happier even after just a few Alexander lessons, which in turn can reduce domestic tension and many people are much more able to cope with the stresses and strains of life.
It is important to realise that the whole process of re-evaluating the way in which you move does take time, as you are dealing with habits that have been present since childhood. As the pace of life increases it seems that we often expect results immediately, and yet nature is not like that. It will take time for the body to realign itself and it may take a few lessons to begin to get lasting results. Many people who have taken lessons say that the Technique has not only helped them to be free from pain, but even say that they look, move and feel at least ten years younger. Something nearly everyone would like to achieve!
Richard Brennan an internationally renowned author of having written five books on the Alexander Technique including Change your posture – Change your Life and The Alexander Technique workbook which have been translated into eight languages. He travels throughout Europe giving TV and radio interviews, running workshops and giving lectures. He lives in Galway, Ireland where he runs a busy private practice as well as being the director of the only Alexander teacher training college in Ireland and was the co-founder of the Irish Society of teachers of the Alexander Technique. For more information please visit: www.alexander.ie and www.isatt.ie