The Alexander technique was developed in the 1890s by an Australian actor named Frederick M Alexander who found that he could correct his voice loss by adjusting his posture. He realized how his poor habits of movement had interfered with the body’s healthy functioning, and that learning to move well and with the head and neck correctly aligned he derived many beneficial effects, not just on his voice but on his general health. From his observations he was able to formulate the Alexander technique, which he taught to other actors and singers and then to a wider public.
Today, specially trained teachers all over the world help people to improve their health and well-being by changing the way they use their bodies in everyday activities. They teach how to hold the body and breathe more efficiently, which oxygenates the body better. Re-alignment of posture is necessary in all of us. Unless you are already practising a physical technique, the chances are that I could ask you at this moment to sit up straight. In doing so you would probably find that you have been slumped, and can increase your height by about two to three inches. This ‘slumping’ closes up the chest and may block the energy channels that flow through the body. The technique aims to change permanently these poor habits of posture, movement and thought, replacing unconscious tensions with thoughtful movement.
Practising the Alexander technique offers a wide range of health benefits. In addition to reducing stress, and improving the voice and breathing, it may improve lung conditions such as asthma and persistent postural problems causing, for instance, low back pain. The technique has been shown through trials to lower blood pressure and has even been shown to deal with psychological problems such as depression and insomnia.
The Alexander technique should be taught within a course of ten lessons, followed by occasional extra lessons. Visiting the teacher regularly is a bit like having piano lessons – you practise if you know that you are going to be assessed!