Frequently Asked Questions About Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique - what is it?

We should be able  to move easily in all our daily activities—walking down the street, sitting at the computer, gardening, dancing or running.  Unfortunately, under the pressures of modern life, for many people that essential ease of movement and balance is compromised.  Alexander Technique helps you to get back to that natural easy movement you had as a child, by improving your body awareness and reducing the tension and effort you are using.

Alexander Technique has been around for over 100 years. It is a mind-body method, in fact some people call it thinking in activity.  You can apply the Technique to all things you do in life, as you are doing them, so you don’t need to set aside lots of time to do it as a special separate part of your life. As you learn, you can integrate it more and more into what you do.

Alexander Technique is different to many other treatments, mainly because it isn’t passive, it’s something you learn to apply for yourself. I will help you look in detail at the ‘how’ of what you do, so as to find ways of doing activities with less stress and muscular tension. So you can move with more ease and confidence and less pain and effort.

Can it help my back pain?

Clinical trials say yes. There was a major study of over 500 patients funded by the NHS that showed Alexander Technique to be more effective than physiotherapist led exercise classes or massage.

I will give you the skills to manage your pain.  Often back pain ends up restricting what you do. By subtly changing how you move and react, you can be more confident about doing activities you may have been avoiding. Back pain is a complicated thing that is rarely down to just one factor.  By treating you a whole, not an isolated muscle or condition, real long term changes can be made that will reduce or even eliminate your back pain.

Will it help my posture?

Alexander Technique helps with posture and biomechanics, but not in a conventional way. I will never tell you to sit up straight!  Instead I will gently guide you in ways to move and react that are more helpful. The main goal is to get you moving well with confidence. Good posture is more of a happy side effect – what we are looking for is poise – a light way of being in your body that isn’t fixed or tight.

Can it help with stress?

Alexander Technique is very useful for stress and anxiety because it deals with both body and mind. If you are stressed there will be physical signs; a headache, or tight shoulders at the end of a stressful day.  The brain and the nervous system are always communicating with each-other, so we can help send “soothing” messages to the brain by influencing these physical signs of stress. Taking deep breaths to calm down is an example of how a physical change can affect your mental state. In Alexander Technique you will learn about the other more subtle signs of stress your body has, and that you can change to help your mental state.

What happens in a lesson?

Alexander Technique is very gentle – there is no manipulation, you remain fully clothed and I encourage you to tell me if anything hurts. This is definitely not “no pain- no gain”. I will use a combination of verbal instructions and gentle hands to guide you to use your body with less tension. Part of each lesson will be done on a table, and part of it will be standing up and sitting down as a practice ground for exploring your coordination. As you progress we can apply the technique to every-day tasks or the activities you enjoy.

How many lessons will I need?

This is a difficult one…. It depends on your particular needs or issues, your ability to practise the Technique in between sessions and what you are hoping to achieve. To give some idea, a large scale trial funded by the NHS found that 24 individual lessons worked best to reduce pain and increase function. The more complex and long standing your problem the more change is needed , and change does take time.

24 lessons is a good benchmark of the number lessons that will make a long term change for most people, however don’t be put off if you think you can’t manage that many.  I aim to get people using the Technique for themselves from the first lesson or workshop. You can get significant benefit from a smaller number of sessions, I suggest 9 sessions in 3-9 weeks as a solid basic introduction.  Once you have learnt enough to achieve your goals just an occasional top up lesson or course or workshop, when you feel the need, are all that are required. After an initial course of lessons I hope that you feel you know enough to look after yourself long term. For some this is the start of life long learning – I’ve been studying the Technique for 12 years and it’s still fascinating and so useful to me!

Think of it like learning a language – in 1 lesson you might learn how to greet people and order a beer on holiday. Useful, granted, but it won’t get you very far. An introductory course of 9 lessons will give you some basic grammar and some help on pronunciation and if you are prepared to study on your own that might be all you need. If you needed to get fluent though, much more teaching would be required, and lots of practice outside of lessons – well, you get the idea.

Individual vs Group Sessions

Alexander Technique is a way of retraining yourself, and changing the way we move according to habits that have developed over years, and often your whole lifetime.

An important part of the learning process is gentle hands-on guidance.  You obviously get a lot more of this in an individual lesson, so people tend to see faster and clearer changes when they work one-on-one.

Classes are fun and cheaper, but it takes a lot longer to see changes. Although you can improve your progress by working on your own between sessions, and seeing other’s experiences can help you too.

Individual lessons are more intense and you learn at your own pace. It is the detailed personalised work where you will make most progress.

If you are struggling with chronic pain or another condition this individual attention can be especially helpful. I will make allowances for your needs in a group session and always keep anything you tell me confidential. However, in an individual lesson, we can acknowledge where things might be more difficult for you and together we can work out how Alexander Technique can help you, or how we can modify things to help you live the best life you can.

I recommend starting with individual lessons to learn the principles and about your own habits, then classes afterwards to keep the technique as part of everyday life. This seems to be the most effective way integrating Alexander Technique into life for most people, while keeping costs down.