Taking The Pressure Off

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by Robert Rickover

"Stand up straight!" "Pull your shoulders back!"
As children, we were told to have good posture. Yet we were
seldom taught effective ways to accomplish this. Indeed, we
were often not even told just what "good posture" is.

The consequences of this information gap can be seen all
around us: stiff necks, shoulders hunched forward or pulled
tightly back, restricted breathing, and tightness in the
thighs, legs and ankles. Backaches, headaches, and other
painful symptoms are often the unfortunate result.

By the time we've spent a year of two in school, sitting
for hours on chairs and at desks chosen primarily for
their economy and for the convenience of the custodial
staff, we have learned tension patterns that interfere
with our natural easiness, balance, support, and freedom
of movement.. These tension patterns - slumping or stiff
"good posture" patterns - become so habitual that they
start to feel normal despite the fact that they seriously
restrict our breathing and freedom of movement.

The Alexander Technique is a time-tested method of teaching
ways to restore our natural balance, flexibility and ease
of movement. It teaches the use of the appropriate amount
of effort for a particular activity, releasing more energy
for all our activities. It is not a series of treatments
or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and
body that helps you discover a new balance in your body
by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to all
of your daily activities.

The Alexander Technique places a great deal of emphasis on
the relationship between your head and neck. The way we
manage that relationship has huge implications for the way
the rest of our body is organized. If, as is so often the
case, we compress our heads down into our spines, a whole
series of compensatory tensions is created. If, on the
other hand, we can learn to allow our head to balance
lightly on top of our spine as nature intended, our built in

"anti-gravity" reflex is activated and our body is
encouraged to release previously held restrictions.

How the Alexander Technique is taught

The Alexander Technique is above all an educational method.
Alexander Teachers use a combination of verbal instruction
and a light, guiding, touch to convey information to their
students. Alexander Technique teaching is done in private
lessons and in group classes. Private lessons are usually
between 1/2 and 1 hour in length.

Teacher training

Most certified Alexander Technique teachers have completed a

three-year full time training course recognized by one of
several major professional societies. Typically, the
training courses have a student teacher ratio of 5:1 or
less, and provide a great deal of individual attention for
each trainee.

A few teachers have trained more informally on an
apprenticeship basis and some of them have become members of

professional societies through a rigorous review process.
Not all Alexander Technique teachers are certified and not
all teachers eligible for certification are members of a
professional society.

Choosing a teacher

All of the major professional Alexander Technique societies
publish a teachers~ list as well as on-line listings.
Recommendations from friends and colleagues can be useful in

choosing a teacher, but you will have to judge for yourself
if a particular teacher is right for you.

Ask about his or her training and be prepared to take a few
lessons before deciding whether to continue with a course of

lessons. If you live in a community with several teachers,
have a lesson or two with several before making a final

The basic ideas of the Alexander Technique are not in any
way complex or mystical, but they do represent a new way of
thinking about the functioning of your body and may take a
little getting used to at first.


Excess tension in your body can cause a variety of
unpleasant symptoms and it can interfere with your ability
to perform activities well. Therefore it is not surprising
that most people come to the Alexander Technique because
they are in pain (backaches, sore necks and shoulders,
carpal tunnel syndrome etc.) and/or because they are
performers who want to improve the quality of their
singing, playing, acting or dancing.

People of all ages and occupations have benefited from
Alexander Technique lessons. The Technique also has its
share of famous people who have publicly endorsed it -
including two Nobel Prize winners and a great many
celebrities like Paul Newman, John Cleese, William Hurt,
Sting, James Galway and Yehudi Menuhun.

Robert Rickover is a teacher of the Alexander Technique
living in Lincoln, Nebraska. He also teaches regularly in
Toronto, Canada. Robert is the author of Fitness Without


This article courtesy of http://www.health-dir.com. You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.


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