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
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 decision.
The basic ideas of the Alexander Technique are not in any way complex or
mystical, 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

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 Stress - A Guide to the Alexander Technique and is the creator of The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique. (



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