About the Technique
Answers to frequently asked questions.
Who can benefit?
You! As a nation of back pain sufferers we could do with knowing more about the Alexander Technique. However it’s not just for people with back pain. Anyone can benefit as there is always room for improvement. Very few of us are blessed with perfect co-ordination unless our name is Fred Astaire! Of course, the technique is used to help people with back, neck, shoulder and joint troubles but can also help in stress management, pregnancy, postural difficulties and many disorders from asthma to RSI and post operative rehabilitation. Actors, sports people and musicians also learn it as it is a way of improving their performances - among them Dame Judi Dench, John Cleese, Sebastian Coe, Roald Dahl, Julie Andrews, Sting, Jeremy Irons, Maggie Smith, Robin Williams and Linford Christie. Pain management/ post operative rehabilitation - When we get pain we tend to react to this with even more muscular tension. After an accident we can build up tension elsewhere because we compensate in some way, possibly by walking differently or holding onto our shoulders. It can be very empowering for us to realise that we do have a choice and that we can learn to use less tension and get our muscles working better to support us. Preventative - If we are using excessive tension on a day to day basis this can lead to us damaging ourselves. We may have just picked up a piece of paper from the floor when our back goes into spasm, however it wasn't just the act of picking up the paper that did it, we need to ask what have we been doing to ourselves in the months and years before? The Alexander Technique allows us to become aware of ourselves in activity and gives us a choice to move with less tension and the appropriate level of muscle tone.
What happens in a lesson?
Firstly I will take a history and if you are in pain we might consider some of the reasons for this, for example is it possibly stress related. Alexander Technique is in some ways the "Anti Stress Pattern". Your sessions are completely tailored to your requirements. We will then start to move and find ways of moving that are easier and that do not hurt. We teach people to ‘unlearn’ bad habits such as gripping the neck, using inappropriate tension patterns and to start to 'learn' to use their bodies more efficiently. We use simple activities such as sitting, standing, walking and lying down which could seem a little absurd but if you think about it, just in the activity of standing up from a chair you maybe gripping, pushing down with your legs etc. I will teach you to lengthen into activity. With this new improved co-ordination we will find that we can apply 'the Technique' to other aspects of our lives, from driving a car, playing sports or a musical instrument, our work to yoga and other such activities. You become more confident in your movements and find that you can resume normal activities. You may even decide to take up new activities with your new found knowledge. You need to make very little physical effort in lessons so being old, pregnant or unfit doesn't matter. Over time your sessions will make you more aware of your posture, so you’ll catch yourself when your shoulders are hunched up to your ears and learn how to lengthen out of your back instead. The teacher places their hands on you to guide and re-educate your musculature. I will encourage you to be more supported from your feet which will have an effect of releasing unnecessary tension in the legs, right up through the joints, the back, freeing up the shoulders and neck. As you start to undo tension patterns we will look at your breathing habits, the voice, movement and how you can apply this in your daily lives. Many people find their overall health improves, they don't feel so stressed and their confidence grows. There is nothing physically aggressive about the work . On the contrary, it is a process of allowing the pupil to release tension and interfering habits, at a pace that suits the individual. Comfortable clothes that you are happy to lie down in are advised. You will never be asked to remove your clothing.
70% of Doctor's visits are said to be stress related. It may even involve back neck or shoulder pain, RSI, etc. We say things like " The kids are stressing me out" or "Work is getting me down" or "Everything is getting on top of me" but my question is : IS STRESS A THING? or is it our REACTION to things? Some people including sports people and successful business people may even thrive on an element of stress. So how do you go about life? Does it get you down? Many of us add to our woes without realising it, we become out of touch with ourselves. Stress or anxiety usually manifests itself in our muscles. Tension patterns can become habitual and the brain registers this as normal and so can go unnoticed for some time. However this can build up particularly in our neck and shoulders affecting blood flow, possibly leading to headaches or migraines and other symptoms associated with stress. Does this sound familiar? The Alexander Technique helps us to become more aware of our reactions to situations, we are then able to minimise these negative reactions enabling us to respond better in such situations alleviating that 'Stressed' feeling. We may even alleviate our back, neck or shoulder pain. Take control of the way you react to stressful situations... Professor Nicholas Tinbergen, Nobel Prize winner for medicine and physiology stated in his acceptance speech that The Alexander Technique can improve such things as depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness, mental alertness and resilience against outside pressures. These are just a few comments from my clients: " I was working in a very stress laden environment (financial services industry). Mark helped me to realise that I needed to release tension as it occurred, not allow it to build up to fever pitch i.e. Migraines and to take time throughout my day to check my posture and muscle state. Mark makes the lessons fun, interesting, worthwhile and helps you take control of the way you react to stress." John Stevens "Most of all I enjoy life a lot more, I'm more confident and feel much healthier." Mike Fitzsimmons "More relaxed and confident....." Taylor Damien "I feel a lot less stressed and more confident in giving presentations at work, my work colleagues have noticed too." Vanessa Re-connect your life with the Alexander Technique, you have nothing to lose except feeling stressed. To find out more why not book a one to one introductory session?
Breathing and Voice
We have a saying in the Alexander Technique “Good breathing does itself, the only thing we can do is mess it up”. So the aim in lessons is to observe our breathing to see if we are indeed interfering and see if we can get back to natural breathing. Being in centred support with the feet really makes a huge difference. In lessons we would do some observation exercises and some exercises to encourage expansion and freedom in the rib cage. We all have habits around breathing. We may actually hold our breath when listening to someone or when we are concentrating on something. This can make us feel quite anxious. Some people mouth breath which may result in our ribs becoming fixed. Other habits could include over breathing. Many musicians and singers may have picked up habits from the way they have been trained, there are things we need to do when playing or singing but we shouldn't be carrying these into normal breathing. Try this experiment – sit in a chair and make a hissing sound, then go into a real slump and make the sound again. Is there a difference? Imagine the difference when you are properly supported using appropriate muscle tone. The Technique can help such breathing difficulties as asthma as it allows us to become more aware of our breathing mechanism as a whole. We may notice we have deep seated habits around breathing and by using the Technique we can begin to breath more naturally. These are just a few comment from my clients: "I've had trouble with my voice for years but now my voice is not so hoarse and it doesn't seem to run out on me like it used to. This week I was thrilled that I was able to sing several songs with my band that I play with, something I couldn't do a few weeks ago." Mike “I thought I would apply my Alexander Technique at my weekly singing class, I got myself in centred support and I was amazed when this different sound came out of my mouth. Much deeper and a whole new resonance to it” Mark Concerned about your breathing? Why not try an introductory session?
Back, neck and shoulder pain
"97% of people with back pain could benefit by learning the Alexander Technique - it is only a very small minority of back pain sufferers that require medical intervention such as surgery." Jack Stern, spinal neurosurgeon Significant long-term benefit from Alexander Technique lessons for low back pain has been demonstrated by a major study published by the British Medical Journal on 20th August 2008. This study has not surprised me at all as back pain was the main reason I came to the technique. I tried many other therapies but the pain kept coming back. I found the Alexander Technique to be more powerful as it was less like something being done to me and more about taking conscious control, a really unique way to help myself. It can be a revelation that we can have a huge influence on our body's workings just by changing our postural habits and being more bodily aware as we go about our daily lives. Some common things we tend to do in simple activities is over activate our legs putting undue strain on the back, we may also be tensing our necks. We could be bending from the wrong place and end up sitting slumped in effect on our back rather than being supported over our sitting bones. Some of us may try and sit bolt upright but find we end up pulling in our backs and cannot maintain this for long without pain. The problem is that we may not really know what we are doing to ourselves and this is where the Technique can really help. In lessons I will teach you how to be more supported from your feet which will have the effect of releasing tension in the legs, right up through the joints, the back , shoulders and the neck. In effect freeing the whole system to work more efficiently without excessive tension. These are just a few comments from my clients: "The chronic pain diminished dramatically and I learned to sit effortlessly, without having to hold myself upright on the piano stool" Taylor (Musician) "I no longer have to take painkillers for lower back pain" David (Lecturer) "Not only has my back pain gone but I feel much more confident and I don't get so stressed out at work" Vanessa Research: Back pain is the biggest cause of sickness absence in the UK and lower back pain affects 7 in 10 people at some time in their lives. A study published online by the British Medical Journal, referring to a trial with over 500 patients, offers some hope. Professor Paul Little of Southampton's faculty of medicine and his colleagues recruited 579 patients from 64 GP practices. They were either given normal care, massage, 6 lessons, or 24 lessons of Alexander technique (AT). Half the patients in each group were also given an exercise programme involving walking. Little said "This is a good, large, trial. It is good enough evidence for people to take it seriously." Of the approaches tested, lessons in the Alexander Technique provided the most benefit. The research reveals that following 24 AT lessons, the average number of activities limited by low back pain had fallen by 42%, and the number of days in pain had decreased from 21 to 3 days per month one year after the trial started. Also a series of 6 lessons followed by GP-prescribed general exercise was about 70% as beneficial as 24 AT lessons alone. » Click here to read the study on the BMJ website To find out more why not book a one to one introductory session?