The Alexander technique teaches improved posture and movement, which is believed to help correct and prevent problems caused by unhelpful habits.
During a number of lessons, you're taught to be more aware of the position of your body to correct poor postures and to move more efficiently.
Teachers of the Alexander technique believe this helps get rid of any excess tension in your body and relieves problems such as back pain, neck ache, sore shoulders and other musculoskeletal problems.
They say that conditions such as backache and other sorts of long-term pain are often the result of misusing the body over a long period of time. Standing or sitting with your weight unevenly distributed and moving inefficiently are examples of unhelpful habits that practitioners say could cause such problems.
Therefore, the aim of the Alexander technique is to help you "unlearn" these habits and achieve a balanced, more naturally aligned body.
Evidence suggests the technique has the potential to improve certain health conditions (see How it may help, below).
The main principles of the Alexander technique are:
• "how you move, sit and stand affects how well you function"
• "the relationship of the head, neck and spine is fundamental to your ability to function optimally"
• "becoming more mindful of the way you go about your daily activities is necessary to make changes and gain benefit"
• "the mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other"
Learning and applying the Alexander technique is also thought to help improve balance, co-ordination and breathing.
Learning the Alexander technique
The Alexander technique is taught by a qualified teacher.
Lessons take place in a studio or clinic and usually last 30-60 minutes. You’ll be asked to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing so that you’re able to move easily.
The teacher will observe your movements and show you how to move, sit and stand with better balance and less strain. They’ll use their hands to gently guide you in your movements, with your head leading and your spine following.
During the lessons you’ll be helped to explore the way you go about everyday activities. You'll practise applying the Alexander technique while standing, sitting, walking and lying down, maintaining a better relationship between your head, neck, spine and back.
You'll need to attend a number of lessons to learn the basic concepts of the Alexander technique. Proponents say that once you've gained an understanding of the main principles, you'll be able to apply them to everyday life. For example, they say that after developing better balance and co-ordination, you will be able to sit and stand using less muscular effort than you did previously.
How it may help
Teachers of the Alexander technique say it can potentially benefit people of all ages and levels of physical fitness.
There’s some evidence that the Alexander technique is effective in helping to relieve long-term back pain.
There’s also preliminary evidence to suggest that it may help elderly people improve their balance skills and avoid falls, and that it may be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state in its guidance that for people with Parkinson’s disease, the technique may help them to make lifestyle changes that have both positive physical and mental outcomes.
For people with Parkinson’s disease, studies have suggested tahat it may be able to:
• help the person perform everyday tasks more easily
• reduce depression
• increase self-confidence
• slow down the worsening of symptoms
• delay the need for increased medication