Sometimes described as “driving skills for the human vehicle”, the Alexander Technique is about how you use yourself.
It allows you to put a space between the stimuli that life deals out and your automatic reaction – a space in which you more choice about how you respond than you think.
The Alexander Technique teaches you how to prevent harmful habits in the way you react in daily situations and activities.
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What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is a way of becoming more aware of muscle tension, balance, posture and movement in everyday activities. When the subconscious mechanisms for balance and posture are disturbed by habitual misuse or injury, our functioning can be adversely affected.
The mechanisms for support and balance can be seen working beautifully in most small children, but they are very delicate mechanisms and are easily interfered with. Emotional and physical strains accumulated as our lives go on can soon become fixed in the form of chronic muscle tension and reaction patterns of distortion throughout the musculoskeletal system.
Learning and applying the Alexander Technique can help alleviate conditions such as:
- back and neck pain,
- shoulder problems,
- stress related symptoms,
- some breathing and digestive problems
- any condition where excessive muscular effort or tension is a factor.
Many private medical insurers reimburse lessons where these are prescribed by a consultant.
The Alexander Technique is also a valuable tool in improving performance for singers, dancers, actors and horse riders. It is taught in all the major dance and drama schools and a new drama school cannot get accredited unless it has an Alexander teacher on the staff.
The role of the Alexander teacher is to use gentle guidance with the hands, along with verbal instruction, to help unravel the distortions and encourage the natural reflexes to work again. This enables you to find a balance between necessary muscular effort against the pull of gravity and the degree of mobility necessary for unrestricted movement, breathing, circulation and digestion.
Pupils are taught how to become conscious of their own patterns of interference and learn how to project messages from brain to muscle that will help the natural mechanisms of poise to function more freely. This is why we call our work reeducation and describe ourselves as teachers.
Miriam Wohl qualified as a doctor of medicine (M.B., Ch.B.) from Glasgow University in 1972 and worked in hospital medicine, family planning (J.C.C.Cert.) and general practice.
In 1984, she suffered a minor back injury. Five weeks of orthodox medical treatment were of no benefit. She saw a programme on the Alexander Technique and after five lessons (in two weeks) she was back at work and has never been off work with a bad back in the 30 years since then.
The more she used the Technique, the more well and joyous she felt, so she decided to move to London in 1986 to complete the 3 year full-time Alexander Teacher Training Course. She is a member of S.T.A.T. and is the Society’s Medical advisor(www.stat.org.uk)
She has now been teaching the Alexander Technique in Leicester for 24 years and working part-time as a doctor. She particularly enjoys working with horse riders, dancers, singers, swimmers, actors and table tennis players as well as people who practise Tai Chi and Yoga and has undertaken extra training in all these fields.
“If you asked ‘What has the Technique done for me?’ I’d say, “Yes, it helped my back problem, but the best thing about it is that I’m less at the mercy of circumstances, and I relish the moments of my days much more when I use the Technique.”
''Not only was I delighted but amazed''
“I have been a keen beagler for many years. This involves walking and running over rough ground, and, when running, the knee takes a great deal of wear and tear, because the ground causes the leg to twist if the foot lands on a rough patch. After twenty years, at the age of 55, I started having great pain in my knees. I had two arthroscopies on each knee, started wearing ski knee supports to try and control the bending of the knee and started using pain killers.
Because of the problems with my knees, unconsciously I changed the way I walked and as a result had painful problems with my back. After the last arthroscopy, the orthopaedic specialist told me that my knees were worn out and that I should stop beagling or risk having a very serious arthritic problem with my knees. About that time, a friend told me about the Alexander Technique, and I went to have a lesson with Miriam. After seven lessons in four weeks (and not wearing knee supports) I was beagling, but limiting myself to only walking, when a friend asked me to help him. This involved running, so I repeated to myself the instructions that Miriam had given me and found that I could run, and afterwards had no pain either in my knees or my back. Not only was I delighted but amazed. All that was over 11 years ago. I am now 70 years old and still go out beagling two or three times a week, but as long as I apply the Technique I don’t have a problem. I still have a lesson about eight times a year. I can’t risk not doing so!”
'RSI was destroying my health''
“RSI was destroying my health and well-being until a Harley Street physician recommended I try the Alexander Technique. I found Dr. Miriam and gradually learned to remove the problem thanks to her patience and understanding. She showed me how the way I used myself and behaved was exacerbating the problem, and helped me to change. I enjoyed learning to apply the Alexander Technique so much that I chose to train to become a teacher of the Technique myself – thanks Miriam! ”
'AT has had... immense benefit to my well being''
“Are you sitting comfortably? I bet you’re not! Jaw clamped? Neck and shoulders tense? Buttocks clenched, and sitting on the edge of your seat? Thighs rigid? Ankles taut? Have you ever observed yourself as you sit, brush your teeth, wash the pots, mop the floor? Do all these things – not all together! – and this time think about how you are using your body, and mind, as you carry out each activity! Sit and watch the telly/drive the car/work at your computer – and release!
Release your neck and shoulders as you clean your teeth. Mop the floor, release – don’t strangle the poor old mop. What has it done to you? Stand by the sink as you wash the pots and release your buttocks and thighs. Can you feel the difference? You just don’t realise how much unnecessary strain you are putting your body through. You need re-educating. You need to see Miriam! I did and am amazed at how much I am learning. I decided to have a trial lesson and immediately decided the Alexander Technique was for me. I had heard of the AT as I had taken a course of swimming lessons based on the AT. I thought that, if nothing else, learning the Alexander Technique would benefit my swimming. It has – and more. I booked a course of lessons and so far have had twelve sessions. I breathe, walk, sleep AT – not that I’m an obsessive – but that’s the effect the AT has had on me with immense benefit to my well being. If you’re going to make a New Year’s Resolution, make one with Miriam!”
'I simply didn't realise that I was full of tension''
“I initially took up Alexander lessons with the aim of improving my crooked riding position. I had tried lots of other methods to correct this during my 30 years of riding, none of which had worked. I had heard of the Alexander Technique before, but after reading a book on the subject I became more interested and thought it might be worth a bash. After doing some research on the web I came across Miriam, and I have never looked back.
I now realise that straightness was not the only issue holding back my riding, which has improved out of all recognition. Now that I am not holding excessive tension in my body I need to give smaller and fewer aids and I have a more independent seat. As my horse is no longer picking up on my excessive tension she has stopped spooking, she is much more responsive and is a pleasure to ride. My horse must think that she has a new owner; and I agree with her as I feel like a new woman ! However it is not just my riding that has improved, I simply didn’t realise that I was full of tension and how this was affecting me in day-to-day life. I no longer lose my temper at the drop of a hat and I feel full of confidence. I can honestly say that AT has changed my life, so don’t hold back any longer, go for it!”