Alexander Technique
 

The Alexander Technique teaches how to recognize and overcome habituated limitations within a person's manner of movement and thinking. The first and most common limitation addressed is unnecessary muscular tension.

The Alexander Technique is usually learned from an Alexander Technique teacher in one-on-one sessions by an Alexander student, using specialized hand contact and verbal instructions. Alexander Technique is also taught in groups, often using short individual lessons in turn as examples to the rest of the class.

The name denotes both the educational methods taught by Alexander teachers and the individual method practiced by teachers and students of the technique. It takes its name from F. Matthias Alexander (1869–1955), a former Shakespearean recitalist, who first observed and formulated its principles between 1890 and 1900.

Alexander Technique is difficult to describe and teach in words because it requires description of subjective kinesthetic sensations and momentary situations, as well as the ability to perceive them. Most people have little conscious awareness of kinesthetic sensation and not much to say if asked to describe what happens as they move. The possibility of moving in an easier way most often emerges as a surprise from underneath a learner's current sensory ability to command it on purpose. It is needlessly difficult to attempt to learn to apply the Alexander Technique for oneself simply by reading about it.

Training for being a teacher of Alexander Technique involves more than 1600+ hours of classes over at least a three-year period. Teacher trainees must qualify to graduate; attendance is not a guarantee of becoming a teacher. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Technique)

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Alexander Technique History
Alexander Technique - Techniques


 

History

Alexander was a Shakespearean Orator who developed problems with his voice. He visited countless doctors, only to be told that there was nothing physically wrong with him. Careful observation with multiple mirrors revealed that he was needlessly stiffening his whole body in preparation to recite or speak. It took more than eight years of self-observation to successfully apply his original observations of himself to solve his voice and performance issues. Eventually, he fashioned a "Technique" to teach others and pass on his experiences.

Alexander regarded the empirical scientific method to be the foundation of his work. He used self-observation and reasoning to make effortless the physical acts of every-day movement: sitting, standing, walking, using the hands and speaking. He designed his methods to make experimentation and training deliberately repeatable, and to learn in a way that would allow continuing improvement from any starting point. F.M. Alexander then trained educators of this technique mainly while living in London, GB from 1931 until 1955 except for a period between 1941 to 1943 which were spent with his brother Albert Redden Alexander (1874–1947) in Massachusetts, USA.

During his lifetime, F.M. Alexander gained considerable support for his work from many contemporaries including John Dewey, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, and scientists Raymond Dart, George E. Coghill, Charles Sherrington, and Nikolaas Tinbergen. His brother continued teaching pupils in the USA until 1945 and today F.M. Alexander's work continues, expanded by those who continue to apply his ideas and his "Technique".(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Technique)

 

 

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Techniques

The Alexander Technique educates the student's sense of kinesthesia or proprioception. This sense is used to internally calibrate one's own bodily location, weight and to judge the effort necessary for moving. The Alexander Technique also educates how to more fully carry intent into action with reasoning and constructive thinking techniques. These may demand a re-evaluation of the priority and value of motives that drove the goal-setting of past habits that the student must resolve. All Alexander teachers advocate the value of effortlessness and practical structure.

Alexander Technique teachers believe that humans have a built-in proprioceptive blind spot: people become habituated to repeating any response. Repetitious circumstances lead people to create habits as they adapt to circumstances. These habits contain both deliberate and non-deliberate responses that include physical movement patterns, as well as coping and learning strategies. The advantage of adapting by creating habits is that behavior and learning becomes simplified; it becomes possible to meet a given stimulus or interpretation of circumstances with a ready-made reaction. As a person adds one habit onto another, the disadvantage is they may train themselves to also repeat unintentional side effects from answering more than one master - the tension, over-compensation and cumulative stress that the Alexander Technique addresses.

Adapting has a further serious drawback: habits diminish sensation. Using the habit decreases the importance of paying attention to slight perceptual differences. Sensory systems can flood from accommodating too many contradicting habits and intentions. From disuse or flooding, perceptual sensitivity shuts down and eventually becomes dull and untrustworthy, just as skin becomes numb if the same spot is repeatedly rubbed. Loss of perceptual awareness encourages mistaken interpretations for the need to choose a particular response. In a panic, all opposing habits can fire off at once, pulling in all directions, sometimes without the person noticing it has happened.

Because habits tend to become so automatic, the sensation of doing a fully-formed habit eventually gets lost. Forgetting what they have trained themselves to now do 'without thinking', this drawback encourages people to feel convinced that whatever effort or ways they now use to move to respond is customary and necessary, even when it is far from normal.

How our kinesthetic sense becomes untrustworthy from adapting to needless overcompensating is built into many innocent situations. People form habits that are driven by goals that seem useful at the time. For instance, if a person often carries a bag on their forearm, he will later find himself holding up his arm when the bag is not on it. Misunderstanding a teacher's directions, a student may repeat what the teacher knows is unnecessary, but the teacher forgivingly allows the mistake to go by when he should not. So the student may unknowingly adopt useless or later problematic mannerisms. If someone is afraid while learning, adapting can mean he will most likely continue doing the skill fearfully. If someone has healed from a temporary injury, a habit of wincing in anticipation of pain can be automatically continued indefinitely, even though pain has healed. Due to rapid growth, teenagers often move their own bodies based on inaccurate assumptions of their size and structure. A rapidly growing tall 13-year-old may think 'I'm too tall' and stoop to shorten himself.

According to Alexander teachers, few adults in Western culture retain their ability to move freely without needless self-imposed interference. Given an unceasing cumulative demand that unnecessarily stresses the body’s structural design, the price as adults grow older can range from feelings of stress and resignation to very real physical problems, due to movement limitations that could be changed. According to those who teach Alexander Technique, most of the time, giving up a certain activity isn't necessary if a learner is ready to free specific habits that work against the body's structural design.

Benefits

As a technique addressing the entirety of a person's activity, the Alexander Technique aims to benefit people of all sorts. Its proponents, including many well known actors, musicians and educators believe that its practice results in improved awareness, objectivity and the connection between body and mind, ease of movement, improved balance, stamina and less muscular tension. Additionally, those who practice it often report that it gives them an enhanced ability to clarify their thinking, observations and the ability to choose new responses. Proponents further see the technique as a way to use less effort for movement and thus perform more efficiently, feel easier, look more graceful and free themselves from unintentional self-imposed limitations.

It is applied both remedially and in the areas of performing arts and sports. It is taught in performance schools of dance, acting, circus, music, voice and some Olympic sports. Since Alexander Technique is suitable for those at any fitness level, it is also used as remedial movement education to complete recovery and provide pain management. The Alexander Technique is a first-hand experience of the reality of body/mind unity. Its principles apply to movement, psychology, creative thinking, learning theory and styles of coaching, training and effective communication for teachers and directors.

Although the Alexander Technique is considered by those in its field to be primarily educational - taught in a student/teacher relationship as compared to being a treatment regimen between client and practitioner - it is regarded by the United Kingdom National Health Service to offer an alternative and complementary management for many medical complaints. A partial list is: back problems, unlearning and avoiding Repetitive Strain Injury, improving ergonomics, stuttering, speech training and voice loss, mobility for those with Parkinson's disease, posture or balance problems, or to complete recovery from injury as an adjunct to Physical therapy.

AT has also been known to help performers with getting past the plateau effect (despite trying, no improvement), performance anxiety, getting beyond a supposed "lack of talent" and to sharpen discrimination and description ability. It has also helped people control unwanted reactions, phobias and depression.

Of course, applications are very subjective and personal by nature; many testimonies exist on the Internet. See STAT link below for scientific studies. Note that Alexander Technique is regarded to be a helpful adjunct to traditional medical treatment regimens and not as a substitute for them.

Reported Effects

Students often describe the immediate effect of an Alexander lesson as both being unusual, and also strangely familiar. During hands-on lessons, pupils have reported an immediate feeling of a "state of grace," despite their inability to evoke or sustain this state by themselves. Other reported experiences include hearing their own voice sounding different, feeling lighter or having a temporary disorientation of where their body is located spatially.

Though most students experience these perceptual paradoxes as feeling good, students are often admonished by teachers to regard their sensations as not worth trying to repeat. Students learn to avoid end-gaining, meaning, to resist going directly for results using one’s habit. Instead students are to allow themselves the room to use the deliberate new processes of experimenting proscribed by the Technique, called means whereby. For this reason students must continue practice of AT without expectation or reinforcement of feeling themselves changing, because their senses may not yet be awake enough to register the crucial subtle adjustments. Improved sensitivity can be trained or reawakened by sustained practice, but this takes patience. The learner may at different times still paradoxically experience both states: the unusual sensory effects described above during a progressive leap ahead and a sense of nothing happening when gradual progress is, in fact, taking place.

Evidence of change is sought in verifiable outside feedback; using a mirror; by noting, comparing, or describing differences of the relative location of one's eyes, balance or weight changes; a change in the sound of one's voice or the effects on one’s objectives, props or environment. Alexander teachers have been educated to perceive, observe and articulate very subtle but crucial differences influencing motion. They offer this education and feedback to their students. Students learn to change small crucial differences that influence long-term effects if repeated over time.

Depending on the causes of limitations, structural posture may or may not improve, but freedom of motion should always improve during the lesson with a teacher. To take improvements away from the class, the dedication of later remembering to attentively experiment is required on the part of the learner. A willingness to experiment is key to gaining continuing results.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Technique)

 

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