- Complementary Health Practices
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is a movement-based therapy that is designed to improve posture to eliminate pain and strain within the body and to allow bodily systems to function correctly. Different from other movement-based therapies such as yoga or Pilates, the Alexander Technique is not made up of exercises, but serves as a way to increase awareness about how the body moves in order to prevent injury and improve coordination.
What is the history of the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique was created by a man by the name of F.M. Alexander in the 1930s. He was an Australian actor who, after losing his voice repeatedly on stage, noticed that he moved his head and neck in a way that strained his throat muscles. He taught himself to relax these muscles and found that he never had a problem with his voice again, encouraging him to develop the technique. He set up his first training school in London and it gained popularity over the years. Today, it remains most popular in the United Kingdom, but has developed a following worldwide.
How does it work?
Alexander believed that many people need to relearn basic movements such as sitting, standing and walking, among many others.
An Alexander Technique practitioner will not guide guide a patient through any set exercises, but instead help one identify "patterns of misuse," or daily movement habits that are detrimental to your health. For instance, for those experiencing back pain, a practitioner may point out that many people exert too much force when performing an easy task such as turning on a tap. The practitioner will teach the patient to turn the tap with the wrist and arm instead of the back and neck. Depending on each patient’s individual needs, the practitioner will identify different movements on which to focus
A typical session consists of a one-on-one visit with a practitioner where they may focus on one particular issue, or learn general techniques for optimum health. The practitioner will first lay the patient on their back and make adjustment to demonstrate to the patient what a healthy body posture feels like. The patient will then either sit or stand while the practitioner makes adjustments to retrain the muscles to function with the least amount of effort and the most efficiency. The practitioner will encourage the patient to be aware of their posture, called "thought in activity," so as to help them remember the feeling outside of the session.
Each session lasts about 30-45 minutes and may run for however long they are needed, depending on how quickly correct posture is learned.
What are the benefits of the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique has been proven to help a number of different issues, especially those associated with musculoskeletal problems such as back pain. It is also helpful in dealing with the physical side effects of stress, anxiety and depression, headaches, and repetitive strain issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Alexander Technique is used widely among musicians and athletes.
Can I practice the Alexander Technique on my own?
Once the basic techniques and theories have been learned from a practitioner, it is important to practice them on a day-to-day basis outside of the session. You might do simple exercises such as lying down for 10-15 minutes while paying attention to your alignment and the way your body feels. These techniques can be practiced throughout the day, from paying attention to how you open a door, to sitting up straight during class, to paying attention to your body's alignment before going to bed at night.
Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine. Time, Inc.
Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters.
Alternative Healing: The Complete A-Z Guide to more than 150 AlternativeTherapies by Mark Kastner, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., and Hugh Burroughs. Henry Holt and Company: 1996.
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