We are all intrinsically upright, expansive, resilient and open. Watch any healthy young child and you will see this is true - they are naturally poised and balanced, they move easily, their spines are long, they move on their joints, and they embody a kind of curiosity and interest in the world. They are alive! This image is a far cry from the way most adults experience their bodies. But we were children once too; we moved like that, and we can again. The Alexander Technique teaches us to become aware of all the ways we interfere with that kind of joy and freedom.
It is a practice for becoming aware of and letting go of movement and postural habits that interfere with our innate poise, ease, and equilibrium. The Alexander Technique is a simple yet powerful approach for improving the quality of our movement, balance, support and coordination. It is not a series of exercises, but rather a reeducation of the body and mind, based on awareness. It is communicated through a teacher’s gentle hands-on guidance and suggestion in private lessons, or in group classes. The Technique teaches us to recognize and release unnecessary muscular tension and compression so that we can approach our lives with a minimum of strain.
The basic premise is that when the neck muscles do not tighten and overwork, the head balances effortlessly at the top of the spine. The spine then responds by lengthening, the back widens, and the joints open up. Neck muscles that are tight cause the weight of the head (about 12 pounds!) to contract into the spine, which results in slumping and compression. Becoming aware of this unconscious pattern is the first step in the approach. Letting go of it allows a re-organization of the whole body which is natural, light, expansive yet grounded.
The Alexander process teaches us to let go rather than push and try harder. A good example of pushing is our reaction to the words "Sit up straight!" We hold ourselves rigidly until we get tired, and then we slump again. Trying hard always results in muscular tightening and stiffness. We can learn to recognize all the undue muscular effort we employ to accomplish just about everything we do - sitting at the computer, playing basketball, chopping vegetables, singing an aria. Rather than doing more, we are encouraged to let go of what we’re doing that gets in our way.
It is both liberating and empowering to know that what we do contributes to the stress or pain we feel and that we can learn to let go and allow change. All of us have the potential to become more conscious and develop the ability to make choices rather than be a slave to our habits. We can learn to respond to our lives rather than merely react.