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Can you get perfect posture with the Alexander Technique?

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Article written by Patsy Westcott

Date published 04 May 2021

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Popular with a slew of celebrities, the Alexander Technique is the go-to program for improving posture, relieving pain and easing tension.

Have you been gardening, cooking, practising an instrument, doing crafts, feeling stressed or spending hours hunched over a screen more than usual lately? If so, you may be experiencing physical tension and unaccustomed aches and pains. Enter the Alexander Technique (AT).

Embraced by the likes of William Hurt, Victoria Beckham and Dame Judi Dench, "AT is a way of becoming aware of where you hold physical tension as you go about daily life," explains AT teacher James Crow (alexanderplus.com). "Practising it helps improve posture, with benefits for appearance, pain levels and general ability to get stuff done. Reduced physical tension in turn helps to manage stress and bring calm."

Looking back

The Alexander Technique was developed in the 1890s by actor Frederick Matthias Alexander, who was plagued by unexplained vocal problems. Observing himself speaking in a mirror, he discovered he stiffened his neck and pulled back his head, causing him to gasp for air.

Realising this was part of a body-wide pattern of tension, he worked out what has become known as the Alexander Technique. AT is now embraced by mainstream medics, especially for back problems, and it's also been found to help improve balance skills, chronic pain, posture and respiratory function.

Move easily

"By learning to reduce tension in your head, neck and back, enabling you to stand, sit and move more smoothly, the Alexander Technique can help most activities, from gardening and cooking to playing with the kids or grandkids, playing an instrument or computer work," explains James. "Typical lessons involve becoming more aware of your body, sitting well and getting into and out of your chair with ease, ending with a relaxing lie down to encourage tension release."

The most popular – and best – way to learn is one-to-one, but online sessions are available as well as introductory videos on YouTube. And while learning from a book means missing out on teacher feedback, it is possible. Expect to master the technique in as little as six to as many as 30 sessions.

More information

Read

The Posture Workbook: Free Yourself from Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain with the Alexander Technique, Carolyn Nicholls, D & B publishing.

Watch

The Alexander Technique First Lesson, with William Hurt and teacher Jane Kosminsky, YouTube.

Visit

Posturestars.com

Try

Find the balance of your head on your neck to help ease upper body tension and become aware of how you move:

1. Gently point a finger under each earlobe.

2. Softly let your nose drop and raise a few times, keeping your neck still.

3. Your head is rocking back and forward inside your neck at the top of your spine – and it's a lot higher than you think.

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About Patsy Westcott

Patsy Westcott MSc is a freelance writer specialising in health and nutrition, and writes regularly for various print and online publications. She has a Master's degree in Nutritional Medicine and has contributed to more than 40 health and nutrition books.

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