Alexander Technique FAQ

The Alexander Technique
Basic Premises
Scientific Evidence
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I appreciate Lori and her teaching me how to do things correctly – by Alexander Technique (AT). Since starting AT lessons, I have not had lower back pain. Doing AT is like brushing your teeth to avoid tooth problems; we do it even though you don’t always see big changes, but we *know* it’s helping. And my wife does see change in me."
-- Pat M.

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Alexander Technique Premises

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines the Alexander technique as an education/guidance practice to, "improve posture and movement, and to use muscles efficiently."

The Alexander Technique is considered to be primarily an educational process to be practiced by the student, rather than a curative treatment or therapy. Generally, it does not consist of routine exercises, but is meant to be applied in any moment when quality improvements are desired during action. For this reason, F.M. Alexander preferred not to recommend exercises for his students to perform, and most Alexander teachers follow this intent. Alexander's approach was to emphasize the use of freedom to choose beyond conditioning in every action.

The exceptions are two prescriptive forms or exercises intended to be done in separate but brief practice times. A procedure recommended to all students is lying semi-supine as a means for effective rest, releasing muscular tension and as an opportunity to use the conscious mental "Directions" Alexander devised. The other procedure is termed a "Whispered Ah," used to subtract unnecessary effort from the use of the voice.

Freedom, efficiency and patience are the prescribed values. Proscribed are unnecessary effort, self-limiting habits as well as mistaken assumptions. Students are led to change their previous habitual and largely automatic routines that are interpreted by the teacher to currently or eventually be physically limiting and structurally inefficient. The Alexander teacher provides verbal coaching while monitoring, guiding & preventing unnecessary habits at their source with specialized hands-on assistance to show what is meant. This specialized assistance requires Alexander teachers to demonstrate on themselves the improved physical coordination they are communicating to the student.

Alexander developed his own terminology to talk about his methods, outlined in his four books. These terms were created to describe the sometimes paradoxical experience of learning and substituting new improvements.

"Sensory Appreciation"

F. M. Alexander insisted on the need for strategic reasoning and "Creative, Conscious Control" because kinesthetic sensory awareness is a relative sense, not a truthful indicator of fact. The current postural attitude is sensed internally as a normal state of affairs, however inefficient. Alexander's term, "debauched sensory appreciation" describes how the repetition of a circumstance encourages habit design as a person adapts to circumstances or builds skills. Once trained and forgotten, completed habits may be activated without feedback sensations that these habits are in effect, just by thinking about them. Short-sighted habits that have become harmful over time, such as restriction of breathing or other poor postural attitudes that limit freedom of movement & shorten stature, will stop after learning to perceive and prevent them.


Another example is the term "end-gaining", which means to focus on a goal so as to lose sight of the "means-whereby" of how the goal could be more appropriately achieved. According to Alexander teachers, "end-gaining" increases the likelihood of selecting older or multiple conflicting coping strategies with the potential for needless cumulative, ongoing self-injury. End-gaining actions are usually carried out because a more imperative priority justifies it, which is usually impatience or frustration.


In the Alexander Technique lexicon, the principle of "inhibition" is considered by teachers to be the most prominent. (F.M. Alexander's selection of this word pre-dates the modern meaning of the word originated by Sigmund Freud.) Inhibition describes a moment of conscious awareness of a choice to interrupt, stop or entirely prevent an unnecessary habitual "misuse." As unnecessary habits are prevented or interrupted, a freer capacity and range of motion resumes, experienced by the student as a state of "non-doing."

"Primary Control"

This innate coordination that emerges is also described more specifically as "Primary Control". This is a key head, neck & spinal relationship. The body's responses are determined by the qualities of head & eye movement at the inception of head motion. What expands the qualities of further response is a very subtle nod forward to counteract backward startle pattern, coupled with an upward movement of the head away from the body that lengthens the spine. Students learn to include their whole body toward their intention of purposeful motion.


To continue to select and reinforce the often less dominant "good use," it is recommended to repeatedly suggest, by thinking to oneself, a tailored series of "orders" (also termed Directions.) "Giving Directions" is the term for thinking & projecting an anatomically corrected map of how one's body is designed to be used effortlessly. "Directing" is suggestively thought, rather than willfully accomplished. This is because when freedom is the objective, the appropriate responses cannot be anticipated but can be observed and chosen in the moment.

"Psycho-physical Unity"

Global concepts such as "Psycho-physical Unity" and "Use" describe how thinking strategies and attention work together during preparation for action. They connote the general sequence of how intention joins together with execution to directly affect the perception of events and the outcome of intended results.

More on The Alexander Technique
Basic Premises
Alexander Technique Benefits
Scientific Evidence
Research & Medical Testimonials

source: wikipedia

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