My posture has definitely improved. I am more aware of how I stand and
how I sit at my desk - I work in an office. I seem to be better
at setting desk and chairs in much more comfortable positions for myself.
I have found that I also use Alexander when running
and cycling. By keeping the spine long and the head light, my breathing
has improved aiding me in exercise.
I have also found physical benefits in aiming
to stay light and free in posture. Better frame of mind, clearer
In looking to inhibit bad habits, to allow the
right thing to happen freely with my posture, I have enjoyed other
benefits. I think I am a little better at inhibiting my often impatient
reaction to annoying events or people. At times, I am exercising
a little more thoughtfulness in my responses. I have given some
thought as to why this is, and I do believe that Alexander has
been a factor.
'I'm completely hooked - I can't wait for the
next session!' -
-from a beginner on the introductory course.
"I have been having lessons
for just over a year now, and I have to say that my life has drastically
changed as a result. Not only am I much more aware of how I move,
sit and stand, the Alexander Technique has changed the way in which
I look after my body. This has had a profound effect on many aspects
of my life. I am more conscious of what I eat and drink, I have
taken up other disciplines like yoga and receive regular massage.
I now stand tall, have a more positive body image, feel less stressed,
have more energy, and have a greater sense of general well being.
I look forward to my session each week, and have found the experience
so much more than just physical, my teacher makes me feel valued,
respected and honoured."
My dad always told me to keep my back straight.
But I never did. I was a terrible slouch. So it was with thoughts
about my back that I began to attend an introductory evening course
at Bloomsbury Alexander Centre. I soon realised however that it
was my whole body and the way I used it that was the problem. After
the introductory course I started having one to one lessons. I
really enjoy the sessions. Even after they are over and I’m
on my way home I can feel my teacher’s hand helping to guide
me as I walk down the street, wait for a bus, sit down in the seat.
When I began the Alexander Technique I wanted to be able to reach
a point where the teaching would be so embedded in my mind that
I wouldn’t have to think about it. But over a number of sessions
it became apparent that having to ‘think about it’ was
not really a problem. It was a pleasure to consciously explore
the way my body worked on a daily basis.
I have been attending Alexander Technique workshops with Cristina since last July because I have a chronic back condition which causes me a lot of pain.Cristina has made a huge difference to my life as she has shown me how to work with my body to control the pain using breathing techniques and gentle movements in a positive, caring and sensitive manner.As a result, I have achieved things that I never thought were possible and now live my life without fear of pain.I therefore highly recommend Cristina, especially if you experience chronic pain like mine!
This article was originally written for publication
by a journalist
who was also a pupil of teacher Julian Fuller.
"I am still amazed at the effect that a course of
just twelve lessons has had on my health." -Claire Phipps
I DON'T KNOW a lot about the Alexander Technique before my first lesson.
What I do know is that, having suffered from often agonising back pain
for the past ten years, I'm fed up with frequent emergency trips to
the doctor and chiropractor, and have decided that I want to do something
proactive about my back pain instead of simply reacting to it.
My first lesson, though, involves learning what
not to do. Many of our everyday habits - walking, sitting, standing
- are performed wrongly, thanks to poorly designed furniture and
our failure to use our bodies properly. So the key to the Alexander
Technique is "unlearning" these unnatural ways of holding
ourselves and instead trying to recover the natural posture that
most of us abandoned back in nursery school.
Now, posture I think I do know about. Knees together,
back ruler-straight, neck and head stretched upwards. All wrong,
I'm afraid. These traditional ideas of "standing up straight" use
the wrong sets of muscles and all too often place extra pressure
on the spine. Just what back pain sufferers don't need.
The teacher (unlike many treatments, this is
very much a two-way process; you are being taught to deal with
your own ailments) seeks to reawaken the in-built relationship
between body parts to bring about a more natural - and less stressful
- posture, using very gentle manipulation of the head, neck and
spine. My job was to concentrate on various parts of my body, in
particular "thinking tall" - but not straining to stand
up straight. Not exactly the proactive participation I had expected,
but concentrating on opening the chest area or relaxing the pelvis
is harder work than it sounds. A bonus to the technique is that
it's very efficient in forcing you to forget work worries as releasing
tension in your legs becomes a more immediate concern.
HOW WELL you are doing with the Alexander Technique can be difficult
to gauge. Teachers are constantly supportive (a "well done" is
a very welcome thing when some of the changes that are taking place
are too minute to make you notice them immediately). But this is not
necessarily a therapy that will produce instant physical results. Mental,
maybe - I certainly became more aware of how I was using my body after
the first lesson.
I do start to see changes. A major one is that
I start to understand what my teacher has been guiding me towards.
Lying on my back and "thinking" my knees towards the
ceiling-without physically moving them skywards-I notice when my
hips relax. Breathing deeply from my diaphragm instead of taking
shallow gasps from the chest, I feel my shoulders "open out" and
carry less tension. As I sit down, I can tell as soon as I hit
the seat if my spine has "collapsed" backwards into the
chair. Finding my "sitting bones" and keeping the spine
supported when I sit is one of the easiest tips to carry into everyday
I still don't "do" much in the lessons.
For the first few, I spend the entire 40 minutes standing up, sitting
down and walking carefully around the room. I later pr ogress to
lying down while my teacher works at releasing tension from my
legs (which makes sitting down very much easier). And then, of
course, there's the breathing. Concentrating on breathing in and
out through the nose; taking slow, deep breaths; feeling the breath
come from the base of my stomach: using all of these helps to open
up my chest, relax my shoulders, and free my neck. Breathing might
be an essential habit, but we tend to do our best to make it difficult,
cramping our lungs as we hunch over the office desk.
I also learn some new positions which at first
seem anything but natural. One ungainly pose sees me on hands and
knees to lengthen the spine and neck. Another, the "monkey
position" which, with knees bent, allows the arms to hang
loose from the shoulders has since become my favoured stance when
cleaning my teeth, saving my neck a lot of unnecessary strain.
It's not essential to understand the ideas of
Alexander to get to grips with the technique. It is, after all,
more about understanding your own body. But a reading, however
quick, of the writings of F.M. Alexander - The Use of the Self
is a very easy way in - can illuminate a lot of the (often odd!)
manoeuvres and manipulations of the lessons. They also show that
it's not only bad backs that can benefit from a dose of the technique
- Alexander himself developed his teachings in an effort to rid
himself of throat and voice problems. Proof that the parts of the
body can be connected in ways we don't often consider.
THERE'S NO real end to the Alexander Technique. As long as I'm willing
to engage my mind before I use my body, I can keep learning forever
(and even experienced teachers have the odd refresher lesson). The
temptation to slump into the sofa - and to ignore the nagging feeling
that I shouldn't - is still there, but now I know exactly why my back
aches the next day. Instead of rushing to the doctor or chiropractor
to click things back into place (and I haven't been to either since
my first Alexander lesson), it's given me the chance to act for myself
to prevent these little emergencies from happening. Amazingly, a friend
who, like me, has suffered back pain for many years noticed that I
was sitting differently and that my back seemed, well, straighter.
I think she's right.
I AM STILL amazed at the effect that a course of just twelve lessons
has had on my health. That's not to say that my back is now pain-free
- tiredness, stress and the occasional case of overdoing it continue
to upset my body sometimes - but rather that when something goes wrong,
I now know what to do to help. Just a brief burst of controlled breathing
can ease away a good deal of stress; the hands and knees pose can stretch
out a spine that has suffered from a long day at the office. It does
take an effort on my part to remember what I was taught (and I haven't
ruled out future refresher lessons). The wonderful thing, though, is
that when I do stop to recall what I learnt in the lessons, I find
that I have been standing, sitting and walking in a more natural way
all the time. Learning without even realising it.