But finely sculpted eyebrows and a glowing complexion won’t disguise stress carried in facial muscles – and frowns are ageing, even if they haven’t settled into permanent worry lines. Any facial that includes massage will relax the muscles and, of course, body massage will do the same for the neck, back and shoulders. But the treatment of choice for many people in the public eye (TV presenters, actors, musicians, sportspeople) who want to look – and perform – their best is a session with Alexander Technique practitioner Noel Kingsley.
A journalist friend of mine has been going to Kingsley for years. She likes to see him before conducting a big interview. She says it makes her feel more confident and that, whenever she does, she gets unusually flattering compliments about her appearance. She also finds that 45 minutes with Kingsley gives her greater composure and mental clarity – something that would be invaluable for anyone about to host a big party when there are countless names to remember.
As therapies go, the Alexander Technique is not one that immediately excites. Its aim is to improve posture. The last time I heard this word was during a school “back inspection” when a yard ruler was pushed down my blouse. But Kingsley explains that good posture not only improves our general sense of wellbeing (on the simplest level, it relaxes muscles and improves breathing and circulation), it also makes us appear taller and more elegant. And as every beauty editor will tell you, improved circulation helps to give us a more translucent complexion, whiter eyes, shinier hair, stronger nails and so on.
To get the full benefit of the Alexander Technique, Kingsley recommends an initial course of 15 to 20 sessions (at £65 for 45 minutes). But when required, he is happy to devote 10 to 15 minutes of a session to releasing tension in the face – and just one gives visible results.
My session started with Kingsley coaxing my neck, shoulders and back into alignment while I stood upright. At least, I thought I was standing upright until he gently pointed out that I was putting too much weight on the balls of my feet (it should be on my heels) and that my head was too far back and my chin too high, thereby putting about 10lb of unnecessary strain on my spine. Using encouraging words and light strokes of the body, he helped me to adopt a more natural stance, the sort I would have had as a child before stress – and bad habits – kicked in.
I spent the next 20 minutes lying down as Kingsley helped me to realign and elongate my limbs, extend my neck, lower my shoulders. Finally he got to work more intensively on my head, gently using his hands to release the tension from my face, jaw, neck and scalp.
By the end of the session, I felt that rare combination of being both relaxed and energised. I also felt taller and more poised. When I looked in a mirror my neck was noticeably longer, my arms looser. And yes, when I peered more closely I saw a stress free face. Kingsley has found that clients can gain up to two inches in height after a series of sessions. I don’t find that hard to believe.
Alexander Technique with Noel Kingsley, MSTAT www.alexander-technique.com