What is the Alexander Technique?
In the Alexander Technique we learn how to undo harmful patterns that we have been more or less unaware of. The Technique works by making us conscious of these patterns and providing us with an alternative which works in harmony with the body’s natural mechanism. We begin to realize that we have a choice to stick with our previously unconscious habits, or to explore a new way. All habits are linked through patterns of muscular tension so if we can interrupt the habitual way in which, for example, we sit down, we will then have to re-think another habit and another and another.
The idea that body and mind are inseparable is fundamental to the Alexander Technique. Every time we react to something around us our thoughts express themselves in particular postures and muscular tensions which we come to think of as 'just the way we are'. Since we are reacting continuously to the world around us in all kinds of mundane ways, these tensions come to appear to us as normal and inevitable. We go to speak and we move our arms in a particular way; we go to sit down or stand up and we tense our legs in a particular way; and so on. These patterns are generally so deeply engrained – so much part of who we are – that we normally don’t question them until something starts to cause us a physical problem.
Unfortunately the remedy is not quite as straightforward as giving ourselves an instruction not to react in the ways we always have done. The reason for this is very simple: if we try to prevent our normal reactions it feels wrong. Our bodies have got used to the maladaptation. Moreover we almost invariably try too hard, thus making the feeling of wrongness even more exaggerated. Not surprisingly we then give up very quickly and revert to our old patterns. However, a skilled teacher of the Alexander Technique can get round this problem fairly quickly if the student really wants to change.