The Alexander Technique at 10 Harley Street W1G 9PF with HITE Ltd: www.hiteltd.co.uk The Alexander Technique Centre in the City, EC2A 3JL: www.alexandertechniquecity.co.uk The City Alexander Technique School (CityATS) for training as an Alexander teacher is opening in September 2013 at Old Street, EC2A 3JL. I will be the Assistant Head, please contact me if you are interested in training to be an Alexander teacher. Further information also at: www.cityats.org The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique: www.stat.org.uk[/fusion_text] The Indian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique: India Teachers Friends of the Alexander Technique: www.atfriends.org The F M Alexander Trust: www.alexandertrust.org.uk European School of T’ai Chi Chuan: www.metta-taichi.org.uk
Kamal Thapen, chairman of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT), said: “For over 100 years people from all walks of life have learned the Alexander Technique to overcome back pain. We are delighted that this major clinical study now demonstrates that Alexander Technique lessons are effective. One-to-one lessons, provided by STAT teachers, taught trial participants to improve body use, natural balance, co-ordination and movement skills, and to recognise and avoid poor movement habits that cause or aggravate their pain.”
If you spend your days slumped over a computer you’re likely to suffer blood-flow fatigue, where poor posture prevents optimum blood-flow to the brain. To realign things, Alexander Technique teacher Kamal Thapen recommends…
Kamal Thapen, a teacher of the Alexander technique, which is used by actors to help with posture, says: “It works by reducing muscle tension associated with …”
So when a current teacher of the Alexander technique Kamal Thapen talks to me about his work he admits that it was muscular tension that caused him chronic …
“People are hunched over their keyboards and a pattern of use develops which is difficult to correct by yourself,” says Kamal.
Fredrick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor who had problems with his voice while performing Shakespearian recitals. He would become hoarse and lose his voice. After many unsuccessful treatments from doctors he embarked on a course of self-examination to study the problem. This led him to the discovery that it was the way he ‘used’ his whole body that was responsible for him losing his voice. He found that how we use ourselves affects our functioning, and that this use involves not only the body but the mind as well. The two cannot be separated.He wrote four books about the Alexander Technique. In the ‘The Use of the Self’ he describes how he overcame his problems and came to discover the technique.I have been asked quite often as to the connection between T’ai Chi and the Alexander Technique. My reply has always been that there are many things in common and my feeling has been one of close connection. However I felt that it was time I pinned down what it really means to me. T’ai Chi is an ancient martial art with deep roots in Chinese culture, with connections to traditional medicine and philosophy. Whereas, the Alexander Technique was developed by one man in Australia, examining himself in a careful experimental fashion over a few years.T’ai Chi has always had a meditative and spiritual flow for me, while the technique has much more worldly here and now quality to it. The connection between them is that both at some level seek not to interfere in the natural working of the body so that movement and breath is easy and free. How often have we heard Tew say ‘let it breathe’ about a movement and at one stage F M Alexander was known as the ‘the breathing man’ in Australia.F M Alexander had found that stiffening the neck, pulling the head back and down, tightening in the back, caused a loss of poise in the body and led to a host of problems. So his basic instructions (normally referred to as directions) were –‘.to let the neck be free,…to let the head go forward and up,….to let the back lengthen and widen’.This allows the natural reflexes of the body to work and regain the poise that is our birthright. In T’ai Chi we are looking for the same poise and balance in ourselves, ‘move as though suspended by a thread from the crown of the head’.What both have is a feel of ‘wu wei’ – my interpretation is acting without excess of energy – applying the minimum of mental/muscular effort to achieve any action. The action does itself, without our interference. Alexander would be also ‘stop doing the wrong thing – so that the right action can happen’. It has the idea of inhibition. This is not in the psychological sense, but to inhibit the very first reaction of the body/mind to a stimulus, allow a pause, and in the pause direct the body to release and then move in the freedom this allows, with poise.In the Technique the muscles are considered to act in a spiral fashion through the body – similar to T’ai Chi in terms of movement in circles and spirals. In T’ai Chi we talk of being soft and flexible, moving slowly through the form, paying attention to the journey. In the Technique one would say do not try directly for the end, ‘end gaining’ – instead pay attention to the process. It is by conducting the process with care and attention that we achieve our ends with ease.With T’ai Chi being a martial art we gain an awareness of the body leading to confidence in balance and movement. With the addition of spiritual practice we endeavour to have openness in the heart and mind.The Alexander Technique is much more a minute examination of the individual mind/body and its habitual patterns of behaviour. Enabling awareness and attention to be brought to every action; which always reminds me of meditation. The Technique enables change to occur at a very deep level of awareness.F M Alexander raised a fundamental question. How can you judge anything external to you if your internal state is not in balance? The problem is of faulty sensory appreciation, what he called ‘debauched sensory appreciation’. Basically that your internal sense of what is happening fools you into believing something untrue. For example, you may normally hold yourself with the hips thrown forward, an Alexander teacher correcting this would make you feel that you were going to fall backwards, even though this would not be true.You can point out a hundred times to a T’ai Chi student that the position they are holding or that a movement is faulty in a certain way – but, if they cannot perceive it to be wrong in themselves, how can they change? In a T’ai Chi lesson we would try and change by constant repetition of a move, and by following a teacher. This is obviously difficult to get across in an ordinary class T’ai Chi teaching situation and impossible for some subtle distortions of the body. The Technique allows the individual attention of a skilled teacher verbally and with hands on a pupil to guide movement and thinking to align perception to reality. This would be by working with simple movements, and taking a great deal of time and with lots of attention to inhibit unwanted tensions.The Technique requires around twenty to thirty lessons to enable a permanent change to be established in a pupil. Considering the years we have taken to establish bad habits of body use this is not surprising. In reality T’ai Chi would take years of practice to be equally effective. Though the two are similar in many ways they do not always address the same problems. For instance with the technique you can address problems from voice production to repetitive strain injury. In terms of training it takes three years of daily hands on practice to qualify as an Alexander Technique teacher, probably very similar to the time we would need to be proficient at T’ai Chi.The Alexander Technique is a solid base on which to build other activities, whether acting, pilates, yoga or T’ai Chi. Interestingly, in conversation separately with Tew and Dhiravamsa it has come out that they both have had lessons in the technique many years ago. I feel the technique is a core skill that anyone interested in personal growth and development should consider. I am sure that my own T’ai Chi practice has improved greatly from my appreciation of the Technique.Kamal Thapen, August 2003.