4 Benefits of Learning the Alexander Technique
“The many obvious benefits that the technique afforded us as actors included minimized tension, centeredness, vocal relaxation and responsiveness, mind/body connection, and about an inch and a half of additional height. In addition, I have found in the ensuing years great benefits in my day-to-day living. By balancing and neutralizing tensions, I’ve learned to relieve as well as to avoid the aches and pain caused by the thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to.” – Kevin Kline
1. “About an inch and a half of additional height”
Most of us are growing downwards, and we don’t realise that this doesn’t have to be the case. We grow according to how we hold and move our bodies, so changing the way we use our bodies will change the way we grow. This is not done by holding ourselves up stiffly and rigidly as many of us may have done in school, but rather, learning to allow your body to spring up lightly and easily to its full height. And this is what you learn in Alexander Technique lessons. So it is not uncommon for people to gain an inch or more after a period of time studying the technique.
2. Relieving the aches and pain
An extra inch of height means less compression, and less pressure through the body, notably the spine. So back pain and neck pain can often be relieved from learning the technique, if the cause is the shape you have grown into. In a lesson you can learn that it’s possible to be upright more easily, and you can learn how to practise this for yourself between lessons. You’ll get better at using your body more efficiently so you are no longer constantly reinforcing your old habitual movements and postures. Rather, you will now be spending much of your time in a new, lengthened and less compressed shape, so if there was pain associated with the old, shortened posture, it can recede with time. Eventually, when you have grown up and out of your old posture, the pain should not return – it was a symptom of your old way of being in your body, and that way has now gone.
It’s not only back and neck pain of course. Others aches will be relieved from the same approach – shoulder and arm pain, RSI, and leg and foot pain can all be helped if they are a symptom of the way you are holding and moving your body.
3. Avoiding the aches and pain
Even better of course is preventing the pain to begin with. So rather than waiting for a crisis to motivate you to think of these things, a good time to learn the technique is before any trouble has commenced. Some people notice the posture they are growing into, and realise just what that may bring with it. Or perhaps they have noticed themselves growing into the posture of their father or mother, and know that certain aches and pains have accompanied that, and they wish to avoid that if they can.
4. Better performance
The pianist who sits at the piano with tense arms and stiff shoulders not only increases their risk of injury but also compromises the quality of their performance. Any unnecessary tension throughout their body will interfere with their ability to perform at their best. The same applies to the runner who has developed a heavy or collapsed style of running. And it certainly applies to the actor who searches for “vocal relaxation and responsiveness”.
Many actors, musicians and sporting people study the technique to improve their performance in their particular field, including Paul McCartney, Yehudi Menuhin, Sting, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Daley Thompson and Greg Chappell. We can all benefit in this way however, even if we’re not sporting champions, Oscar winners or concert pianists. By minimizing tension and being more aware of what you’re doing, and exactly what is needed to achieve that, you can improve at any activity - playing the violin, swimming, running, or simply doing a jigsaw puzzle.
“As it turned out, the technique, which seemed at first inexhaustibly mysterious, turned out to be an accessible and most enjoyable discipline to learn and to practice.”- Kevin Kline
The quotes above are taken from Kevin Kline's foreword to "The Alexander Technique" by Judith Leibowitz and Bill Connington.
Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see firstname.lastname@example.org .or email Bradley on