Alexander Technique

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The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines the Alexander technique as an education/guidance system to "improve posture and movement, and to use muscles efficiently."[1] The Alexander Technique denotes both the educational methods used by Alexander teachers and the individual bodily awareness methods taught. Students practice the technique to recognize and become free of habituated limitations in their manner of movement as well as for other benefits.

The Technique takes its name from F. Matthias Alexander, who, in the 1890s,[2] developed its principles as a personal tool to alleviate his breathing problems and hoarseness. He credited the Technique with allowing him to pursue his passion for Shakespearean acting.

The Technique is usually learned from an Alexander Teacher in one-to-one sessions using specialized hand contact and verbal instructions. While the technique is often seen as and classified with "bodywork" or massage techniques such as Shiatsu, Alexander teachers take pains to distinguish it from those practices. The technique involves the re-education of what Alexander called "The Use Of The Self": i.e. that it is a re-education of the student's reactions to internal and external stimuli, rather than something "done to" the student.

Contents

History

Alexander was a Shakespearean orator who developed problems with losing his voice. After doctors informed him they could find no physical cause, he carefully observed himself in multiple mirrors. His self-observation revealed that he was needlessly stiffening his whole body in preparation to recite or speak.[citation needed] Further, Alexander observed that many individuals experiencing breathing and voice problems commonly tightened the musculature of the upper torso, especially the neck, prior to phonation in anticipation of the act of vocalising. He suggested that this habitual pattern of pulling the head backwards and downwards in relationship to the neck needlessly disrupted the normal working of the postural, breathing and vocal mechanisms. After innovating new substitution strategies that included sharpening his ability to 'inhibit' the habitual undue tension in his neck, he found that his problem with recurrent hoarseness was resolved. Whilst on a recital tour in New Zealand (1895) he began to realise the wider significance of head carriage for overall functioning.[citation needed]

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