Alexander technique

Written by Emily Whitton

Emily Whitton

Therapy Directory Content Team

Last updated July 2022 | Next review due January 2024

We often move our bodies without considering how they are constructed and, in doing so, are putting unnecessary strain on our natural design. The Alexander technique is designed to help you unlearn bad habits (such as slouching), and take the steps to rebalance and realign the body. Many believe that learning the Alexander technique gives greater awareness of both body and mind, along with improved movement and clarified thinking.

What is the Alexander technique? 

The Alexander technique is used to teach and improve posture and movement. It is believed to help reduce and prevent problems caused by unhelpful habits like slouching or sitting with your legs up at a table.

As children, we are still learning how to control our bodies. Because of this, we are far more susceptible to picking up habits that interfere with our natural freedom of movement. Slumping or slouching, for example, can be habits that eventually become the norm. They feel normal, despite their effect on health and limiting movement. The Alexander technique aims to unlearn these habits, and teaches how to look after your posture and movement.

Teachers of the Alexander technique

The key principles

There are four key principles in the Alexander technique:

  1. “How you move, sit and stand affects how well you function.”
  2. “The relationship of the head, neck and spine is fundamental to your ability to function.”
  3. “The mind and body work together intimately as one, each constantly influencing the other.”
  4. “Becoming more mindful as you go about your daily activities is necessary to make changes and gain benefit.”

According to the NHS, teachers of the technique say that conditions such as backache and other forms of long-term pain are often the result of prolonged misuse of the body. This may be through moving inefficiently, or standing or sitting with your weight unevenly distributed.

Does the Alexander technique work?

There is evidence suggesting that the Alexander technique can help ease and manage long-term back pain, neck pain and Parkinson’s disease. If you have one of the conditions mentioned and are considering the Alexander technique, we suggest you speak to your GP prior to making an appointment.

Some research has also suggested the technique to be beneficial in improving general long-term pain, stammering and balance skills in the elderly, though more research is needed.

What to expect from a session 

Typically, lessons will be in a one-to-one format, however, group sessions may also be an option. During the first session, the teacher will take some time to ask you questions about your general health, your medical history and your lifestyle.

One of the essential elements of the Alexander technique is the teachers’ understanding of your movement and posture. They might ask you to perform everyday movements such as walking, sitting down or standing up, all while keeping their hands in contact with your body. This is so the teacher can fully understand your movements and where the tensions may lie. At the same time, their hands will also be guiding your body to release restrictive muscular tension, and the harmful habits responsible for it.

Of course, each teacher will have their own personal approach to teaching, so there will be differences and variations in approach. Some might begin with a discussion about your movement, while others may choose to use the first lesson to demonstrate the relief increased flexibility and movement can bring.

Lessons may also include some table work, as it allows the student to experience the principles in action, without having to also maintain their balance. Students can learn the principles first, and then combine principles with their own balance later on.

How many lessons will I need?

You’ll need a number of lessons to learn the basic concepts of the Alexander technique.

Taught by a qualified teacher, lessons typically take place in either a studio, clinic or the teacher’s home, lasting around 30 to 45 minutes. You may start with two or three lessons a week until you’re more familiar with the technique. After which, and if you’re ready, you may attend weekly lessons. Of course, everyone learns at different speeds and in different ways, so the above may vary.

It is suggested you attend around 20 or more lessons on a weekly basis.

How can it help me?

It really is surprising the impact a little excess tension has on the body. Back pain, neck ache, and sore shoulders are among the symptoms.

The Alexander technique can be used to enhance quality of life and has been doing so for over a century. During that time, a number of well-known faces have tried, tested and championed the technique, including Julie Andrews, Patrick Stewart, Paul McCartney and Judy Dench.

Teachers of the technique report individuals seeing an improvement in aches and pains shortly after starting lessons, but to reap the full benefits, students need to be committed to the practice. While some may see the benefits early on, for others it may take a little longer.

The overall aim of the Alexander technique is to help you understand the key principles, and apply them to everyday life. This allows you to benefit from the technique long after sessions are over.

Common misconceptions

We understand that learning about alternative therapies can be overwhelming, especially when so many misconceptions are available. Here at Therapy Directory, we want to make sure you have all the facts and information you need in order to find a therapy that is right for you.

Because of the vast amount of information available, misconceptions are easy to manifest. These misconceptions can often result in people missing out on potential treatment because they have a distorted understanding of the therapy in question.

Below are three of the most common misconceptions about the Alexander technique.

1. “The Alexander technique is only for performers”

It is true that the technique is fantastic for performers - how their bodies move has a direct link to the quality of their performance. Yet, in a way, we all have activities to perform. So, even if you're not a theatrical performer, the way in which you move your body still has a huge influence on your health.

2. “The technique is no good for the elderly”

While the younger we are, the better we are at adapting and learning new habits, it doesn’t mean that you can only learn the technique when young. On the contrary, there is no age limit to the Alexander technique and we can feel the effects at any age. In fact, the playwright George Bernard Shaw didn’t begin lessons until he was 88.

3. “The technique is time-consuming, expensive and difficult to learn”

The cost of sessions will vary, though on average, each lesson costs between £35 and £50. If you are interested in learning the technique but are worried about cost, you may be able to find more information on the practitioner's profile. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with asking about the price during your initial contact.

In terms of difficulty, the basic principles are very simple. Many of the movements are actually common sense, but we rarely think of applying and implementing these techniques ourselves. It takes time, dedication and practice, yes, but many people report feeling the benefits soon after they begin lessons. The thing to remember is that it takes time - there is no rush.

Finding a teacher

Currently, there are no laws or regulations stating what training someone must have in order to teach the technique. However, there are a number of professional bodies that teachers can register with, including the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CHNC).

In order to join a professional organisation, individuals will have to provide proof of competency in the field, as well as agree to comply with the organisation’s code of ethics and complaints procedures.

If you are considering trying the Alexander technique, it’s important to find a teacher who is suitably experienced and qualified. For professionals to be listed as a member of Therapy Directory, they must meet the requirements of our proof policy.

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