We often get asked questions about how the Alexander Technique (AT) can help and how it relates both to effective pain management and to performing any skill better. Below are some answers to give you more insight into the AT.
1. Why is it so hard to maintain good posture?
Have you ever stopped to wonder what “good” posture means? It can’t be what we were taught in Kindergarten, because that version of “good posture” is stiff, uncomfortable and unsustainable. The AT can help you achieve light, easy posture and movement, regaining some of the grace and poise of young childhood.
2. Do you suffer from any of the following, either intermittently or continuously?
• Neck pain
• Back Pain
• Shoulder pain/stiffness
• Muscular Tension
When we use ourselves well, it feels good and there is no pain. Chronic aches and pains are signals. They may be your body’s way of alerting you that your way of (mis)using yourself, ie your “personal norm” of posture and movement, involves unnecessary strain. Your way of using yourself is unconscious and habitual. It feels “normal” even if it is uncomfortable!
The AT helps you to reduce strain in the ordinary, everyday activities of life; discover how you can ease that aching lower back, relax those stiff shoulders, avoid tension headaches, control sciatica…
3. Do you suffer from any of the following?
• Overuse-type arm or hand pain
Multi-factorial conditions invariably include poor Use, which keeps the sufferer stuck in a vicious circle of pain. Then the pain itself leads to potentially harmful adaptation.
The Alexander Technique can help you break the vicious circle of pain.
4. Have symptoms intensified or increased in frequency?
Our habits of movement, and posture tend to intensify with time. Whatever mildly bad habits you had at age 25 will be deepened considerably by age 50 or 60. Similarly the accompanying symptoms of misuse will tend to intensify, increase in frequency, or become chronic.
The Alexander Technique can help you to wind back the clock, easing poor postural and movement patterns, and any associated symptoms. Not only does it feel good, it also looks better!
5. Have you been involved in any car accidents or suffered major falls, eg from a horse?
Following an injury, we adapt and compensate for the injured part. It is difficult to avoid these compensations becoming part of our on-going base-line of co-ordination. Symptoms arising out of injury-induced adaptations may develop months later, and therefore be difficult to relate to the original injury. Whiplash is one of many examples.
The AT can help you to back-track and eradicate symptom-producing patterns of posture and movement which have arisen out of compensation or adaptation following trauma or injury.
6. Have benefits from manipulative therapy or drug treatments “levelled off”?
Once manipulated, you may get up feeling better, but your underlying, symptom-producing habits of (mis)Use remain. It may just be a matter of time before your habits of (mis)Use reassert themselves and start to hurt again.
The AT addresses your Use – how you use yourself affects the way that you function: with ease and grace, or strain and pain. Yoga, “remedial” exercise eg Pilates, gym routines etc. all are performed out of your habitual pattern of use. If your habitual use is implicated in the problems you have, then exercising in this manner may further entrench or exaggerate the problems. As the nursery rhyme puts it, “A crooked man walks a crooked mile”. The AT addresses your Use, coming in as a means of enhancing your Yoga or T’ai Chi practice, or other discipline.
7. Have you had to give up or reduce any exercise?
Any activity performed with poor form is likely to lead to strain and injury, as well as reinforcing the poor form.
The AT emphasises good use (ie good form). Exercise with good form – you perform better, last longer, tend to suffer fewer injuries, and deepen your good form into everyday life.
8. Do you suffer any type of breathing-related issues?
The AT is well known among actors and singers as being a great underpinning to their art: Voice projection, hoarseness, vocal depth and beauty, breathing related to sporting activity, playing music and singing, even asthma.
Early in his career, Alexander was known as “the Breathing man”. Optimising your use of your self generally is inseparable from optimising efficiency in the way you breathe: Deeper, slower and above all freer.
9. Are you able to avoid the build-up of tension or unnecessary internal strain?
Does pain make you suddenly realise that you have been sitting too long, or that you overdid it in sport or other leisure activity? Wouldn’t it be useful to notice before you hurt?
The AT gives you the basics which are relevant to staying comfortable whatever you are doing.
10. How effectively do you minimise musculo-skeletal wear and tear, particularly in relation to neck, back, shoulder and arm issues?
Wear and tear is a fact of life for most of us. But have you ever considered those who seem to function well, with no injuries or strains, well past the age that many start to suffer?
What are they doing that the rest of us aren’t? Perhaps they have learnt to use themselves without strain, the secret of the AT.
11. Are you able to maintain good “form” across the range of your activities?
The Grace and ease of childhood can be re-acquired! It feels and looks good!
12. How much would you value having greater control over your physical well-being?
A survey of our pupils (not “patients”) showed that what they valued most from the AT lessons was simply getting out of pain. What they valued next was knowing how to regain their pain-free state when they lost it. We all “lose it’ from time to time! Knowing exactly how to get yourself back onto a centred, even keel is invaluable.
The AT shows you how to avoid strain and pain.