What’s the Alternative

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Alternative Health A

The Alexander Technique

While working as an actor at the beginning of the century,  the Australian-born, Frederick Matthias  developed a problem with his voice that affected his performance on stage.  When he came off stage and was relaxed, his voice returned to normal.  The situation intrigued him and he began to watch himself very closely, setting up mirrors to observe his posture.  He concluded that while onstage, he was holding himself incorrectly, and that it was his posture that was affecting his voice.  He began to consider the mechanical balance of the body and concluded that when a person's head, neck and spine were in the correct orientation they felt better, were more relaxed and used less energy in conducting everyday tasks. Also certain common problems associated with bones and joints were relieved, once the person had got this ‘primary control’ functioning correctly.  Many of his colleagues began to come to him to try and learn this technique, and the Alexander technique has always been popular with musicians, who can develop muscle and nerve problems by holding their body, in particular positions for several hours at a time.

The Alexander technique holds that there is a definite link between body and mind and that improving physical posture can also help the person feel better in themselves.  It is believed that our modern lifestyle is to blame for many problems both physical and mental, and that poor posture accentuates these.  Slouching in poorly designed sofas, slumping over desks at work, and straining to type at computers will take a toll on the body.  The Alexander teacher tries to reeducate a person to overcome these bad habits, and to reinstate a natural, more flowing and graceful means of sitting, standing and walking.  The teacher does this by gently moving the patient into the correct position. This is not a physical grabbing or wrenching at the person, but very subtle pressure to their head, shoulders and spine that re-orientates the person.  The patient is also guided in how to stand up in a mechanically efficient manner i.e. not using just the legs to push them upwards, but by moving the torso forward so that there is a natural tendency to fall out of the chair, which then shifts the centre of balance over the feet and makes it easier to rise up.  Similarly, walking is retrained by persuading the patient to keep their head up, but their body leaning slightly forward.  The person would now fall over if they kept still but the legs naturally maintain balance by walking forward.