The Alexander Technique is often associated with helping people improve their posture and manage issues such as back pain, stress, and excess tension. But lots of other modalities will claim they help with these things as well. What is it then that sets the Alexander Technique apart? How is it different than all the other options out there?
In our culture when you have a problem that needs solving you typically look for something to do. In contrast, the Alexander Technique is about discovering what you can stop doing.
In order to explain the Alexander Technique, I often ask people to squeeze a fist and then stop squeezing it. Try it yourself.
Curl up one of your hands into the shape of a fist but keep it loose. Now squeeze the fist as if you were going to prepare to punch something. Hold it for about 10 seconds. Then, stop squeezing it. Don’t try to open up your hand and extend all your fingers. Just stop squeezing your fist.
Imagine if you kept squeezing that fist for 15 minutes, or an hour. What would it feel like if you were squeezing it all day long? A lot of the excess muscular tension in your body can be likened to that squeezed fist. You and I squeeze ourselves all over without being aware of it much of the time.
In the exercise you just did, you knew you were squeezing your fist which made it simple to stop squeezing it. You didn’t need to know which muscles were doing the squeezing or how to control them to stop squeezing your fist. Your brain just asked your body to stop squeezing it.
The key then is to know when you’re squeezing your fist—or yourself for that matter. The Alexander Technique will equip you with the skills to know more often when you’re squeezing your fist so you can choose to stop doing it.
The Alexander Technique can be described as a technique of subtraction. It teaches you to ask yourself what can I stop doing to solve this problem?
A good friend and Alexander colleague of mine gave—in my opinion—one of the best interviews about the Alexander Technique on the radio several years ago.
Asked to explain the Alexander Technique Andrea said the Technique helps you learn how to disengage the emergency brake instead of continuing to step on the gas. The kicker is you’ve got to know the brake is on in the first place.
When you have a problem, you typically approach it by looking for something to do to fix it. Exercises are one example. But have you ever thought about approaching a problem by taking a step back and being curious about what you’re already doing that might be causing or at least exacerbating the problem? The answer might just be doing less of that, instead of doing more of something new.
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