It seems that the list of reasons why people come for Alexander Technique lessons is endless. Why is it that the Alexander Technique is capable of offering so much help to so many when the interests and needs are so different? I would suggest that the needs of every single person who has come for Alexander Technique lessons are more similar than different and may actually be the same.
So often people come for AT lessons because of pain or discomfort, poor breathing, stress or ‘poor posture’ and thankfully some wish to improve their abilities in an activity that is important to them such as sport or in music. And I have to say that for all the people I have met over the years, I have never come across two people who are the same. Yet we all need the same thing that enables the change or improvement we want. This therefore goes well beyond the ‘posture’ fix, or the ‘treatment’ for a pain. We are talking about getting to the root cause and the real reason why we may not be ‘at our best’.
Poor posture, breathing difficulties, back pain, neck stiffness, tension headaches, sciatica, and a great many digestive disorders, circulatory problems, as well as stress, timidity and lack of confidence in the vast majority of cases are all symptoms of a fundamental underlying aspect relating to how we ‘use’ ourselves. It is the manner in which we use our physique in terms of muscles, bones, ligaments etc to firstly support us and also to move us around. Given how we have evolved as a species over millions of years and how our physique is ‘designed’, there is an appropriate manner of use that is consistent with the design. Just as any piece of equipment will deteriorate if it is not used in accordance with its design, mis-use of ourselves from a postural and co-ordinational point of view will bring about unnecessary strain physically as well as emotionally and mentally. Misuse of our mechanisms causes unwanted pressure and compression of joints and also squeezing and reduction of the internal space we need for all our organs to function healthily. (Can you imagine how an unborn baby feels if the mother is stooped, slouched and reducing her internal capacity by postural habit?) It is our whole self that is affected.
How we ‘use’ ourselves determines how we function, as FM Alexander so often said. How we ‘use’ ourselves is a CONSTANT influence on our functioning. This means that any postural or co-ordinational habits we have will be constantly influencing the efficiency and health of our organism and consequently lowering the standard of health and abilities. It is constant, as much as we constantly move and support ourselves habitually and without awareness. The constancy of our habits and postural tendencies have an unremitting and damaging influence on us affecting our health and also our performance. And we do it to ourselves, albeit unwittingly. However if our ‘use’ is good, as it is naturally in the healthy young child, then the influence of ‘use’ upon health and functioning is a good one and is beneficial to our quality of life.
The reason why people come for Alexander Technique lessons is usually relating to symptoms…even the golfer who can never swing the club in a straight line or the runner who gets sore knees or aching back or the singer who gets a hoarse voice…. are all experiencing symptoms as much as any other condition that is a cause of complaint. When we change how we ‘use’ ourselves by eliminating the harmful habits we have developed, we begin to use ourselves in a manner that nature intended….in keeping with the design and how we have evolved.
During a course of treatment from a specialist, we will often receive some medication that deals with the symptoms and can help us feel better, but unlikely to address the root cause of the problem unless we’re dealing with an infection, and even that I question. Also we may be given some physical treatment and exercises to do to strengthen or stretch our musculature, but these also do not necessarily address the cause of our problem and are probably going to make matters worse because they leave us still doing the harmful habits that caused it. We are given something new to do, but we are left still doing the harmful things that caused the problem. As our habits are constant we use our habitual manner of use to do the exercises so they become stronger and even more harmful. While the movement and activity of the exercise may get blood circulating, lactic acid moving and joints articulating and temporarily increase our breathing we may feel some improvement and aleviation of discomfort, but the actual co-ordinational reason that brought the condition about which is all subconscious, is still allowed to contine and will get worse with exercise. No treatment to a specific problem or area can ever be entirely successful if the actual cause of the problem is left unaddressed. And as nature works as a whole, it is our whole self that needs to be attended to, not just a specific area where we may feel pain; discomfort in one part of us is just the tip of the iceberg. But when we change ‘how’ we use ourselves (our whole self) and how we do things, we also begin to experience change in our manner of functioning and our health and well-being improves as well as our abilities and even our emotional state.
Most of us are guided in our movements subconsciously and therefore quite automatically without any thought. It is not surprising therefore that habits remain and indeed progressively worsen with age and repetition. Practice makes perfect… and as we practice our habits we unfortunately get ‘better’ at them. But if we learn to become more aware of our movements and learn to consciously control how we go about our activities we can successfully ‘inhibit’ the automatic response to stimuli and ensure we do not respond habitually; we do not get thrown off balance or strain or do the myriad of things that upset our co-ordination. We can actually intercept the habits before they kick in, so leaving us free to choose how we respond and how we move so we can ensure the best use of ourselves.
The Alexander Technique does not offer a form of treatment for any condition. However it is unique in that it gives us the opportunity to be in control for ourselves, preventing harmful patterns of use that over years have become habitual while simultaneously enabling us to be free, supple and expansive in the manner in which we are designed by evolution. Allowing the maximum space inside of us rather than compressing with habitual tension allows us to function at our best. By having Alexander lessons we learn to take conscious control and maintain the healthy manner of use that our body…indeed our whole ‘self’ requires to function well. When the conditions are right, we function efficiently. Pain or discomfort is no longer present because we are not using ourselves in a manner that causes pain. We are no longer subconsciously guided in our movements and poise, but consciously in control of our use that promotes healthy functioning.
When our ‘use’ is good we create the conditions necessary for healthy functioning and consequently healing, while also allowing ourselves to perform at our best in any activity.
If it is your belief that you are not at your best for any reason be it pain, your posture, internal functioning or even being prone to catching infections, or your performance in a particular field is lacking, do consider having some Alexander Technique lessons. You may find that you benefit in ways you could not imagine…..like the golfer who rid himself of back pain and reduced his handicap all at the same time!