OK! Magazine

March 2002

Good posture is no longer about balancing a book on your head, thanks to the Alexander Technique…

Natural poise and good posture not only help improve your appearance but they are actually good for your health, too. That’s why celebrities like Madonna, Sir Paul McCartney, Paul Newman, Sting, Julie Christie, Jamie Lee Curtis, William Hurt, Ruby Wax and Jennifer Saunders turn to the Alexander Technique to help them walk tall and feel good.

The Alexander Technique is a practical method of improving the way we operate in everyday situations – such as sitting, bending, standing or walking – and teaches how to move in the most relaxed way possible. It was developed by Australian actor Frederick Alexander in the 1890s, who suffered from tension, causing him to lose his voice during performances. He developed the Technique by discovering he could prevent his voice becoming strained simply by improving his posture and relaxing his muscles, especially those in his throat.

The principle of the Alexander Technique is to make the body `forget’ bad habits – those which can lead to stooping, slouching and stiffening – and regain the fluid, easy poise of a child.

Its objective is to maintain (both in movement and at rest) the poise of the head and the total lengthening of the spine – it has been known to increase height by up to two inches. It helps people to stand and move more effectively, improving posture so that stresses on the body can be eased, enabling it to function more efficiently.

According to practitioner Noel Kingsley: `The Alexander Technique is simply a way to make the most of your body. It is not about perfect standstill posture because we’re moving all the time. It’s relaxation in action. With the Alexander Technique, people feel empowered, in control of their bodies and feeling good. The Alexander Technique helps people to loosen and release tension, to let go of bad postural habits picked up over years of misuse of their body.’ Other benefits include better co¬-ordination and more controlled breathing. It can also help sciatica, arthritis, headaches, depression, lower back and neck pain and high blood pressure. By creating a feeling of calm, it can also lead to improved confidence and can reduce stress levels.

The technique is traditionally taught in one-to-one private lessons with a qualified practitioner. During an initial consultation, the teacher will start by running through your medical history. They will then make a series of gentle adjustments and manipulations as you lie flat on a couch, gradually helping you to your feet. Subsequent sessions focus on all kinds of everyday movements – sitting, standing, walking, lifting, even ironing – while the teacher adjusts your movements and teaches you how to get maximum use from your muscles with minimum effort. They will then aim to make you aware of your posture both at rest and during activity. Such postural changes can be difficult to make at first but, with practise at home, relaxed and effective body use can become second nature. `The Alexander Technique has helped me to undo knots, unblock energy and deal with almost paralysing stage fright,’ says actor William Hurt.

Noel Kingsley, Alexander Technique

London W1 www.alexander-technique.com