THE TECHNIQUE

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Who is it for?

The Alexander Technique brings personal growth to anyone who studies it, but most people arrive at Alexander Technique lessons in order to solve some difficulty. Pain and bad posture are common reasons for taking lessons; difficulties associated with computer use is another popular reason. Performers who use their body as a tool for expression find the Alexander Technique an indispensable part of their education. Most people come for more than one reason, and discover that the Alexander Technique benefits them in many unexpected ways.

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Pain and injuries
Pain can be caused by many reasons; injury, illness, structural malformation, repetitive work, depression.
The first natural response to pain is contraction, an instinctive mechanism that protects the body from further harm under stressful situations. But contraction becomes problematic if we keep doing it even when the pain is gone, or when it persists and becomes chronic. Contraction itself creates stress in the areas where we want healing to occur, hampering the blood flow, blocking nutrients to the area and the removal of toxic elements. In order to ease pain, we often stabilize the affected area, and compensate for it by using other parts of the body. Again, over time, this coping mechanism not only perpetuates the problem, but creates new ones.

The Alexander Technique is a very gentle and safe way to address these issues. It offers an individualizes approach as it teaches us to undo our body's harmful coping strategies, replacing them with the strength of full body coordination. Bringing those habits into conscious control, and learning the alternative, the student develops a life long skill for self care.

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Back Pain
Back pain costs Americans around $15 billion per year, for medical care and disability payments. Low back pain is one of the most common complaints expressed to emergency physicians in the United States, and accounts for more than 6 million cases annually. It is the second biggest cause of sick leave, and as a health problem is the 3rd most expensive disorder, after heart disease and cancer. Incredibly, most of the solutions prescribed (medication, exercise, Chiropractic adjustment, massage), do not address the root of the problem.
In many cases, it is poor use of the body that not only causes back pain, but continues to aggravate it. If a person compresses his/her spine when walking, sitting or clicking a mouse, the condition will recur no matter how often they are realigned by a practitioner.
Alexander Technique teaches us to identify these harmful habits and change them. It lifts the stress of overuse off the back and raises awareness to the coordination of the whole body. In doing so, it eliminates the feeling of helplessness, empowering the client to take responsibility for their own health.

A recently published study from Bristol and Southampton Universities, in the UK, gives the first large scale scientific evidence of the effectiveness of Alexander Technique lesson in alleviating back pain. Using a sample of 463 chronic back pain patients, it compared the effect of normal, General Practitioner care, massage therapy, and Alexander technique lessons. Participants were asked to report their level of pain, and function level, at three months and after a year. The group that took 21 Alexander Technique lessons did best at a year, and people who took only 6 lessons but continued to walk daily were a close second! The Alexander Technique was shown to have far better long-term effect on the condition and quality of life of the patients.
The results were so significant that they reached all leading publications in England, and beyond.

See the full article at:
British Medical Journal article on AT

For further reading:
BBC - "Back Pain Eased by Good Posture"
The Telegraph - "Alexander Technique 'most effective at relieving back pain'"
The Guardian - "Alexander Technique 'does ease back pain'"
The Daily Mail - "An Old Cure for a Modern Malaise: Alexander Techinque CAN Cure Back Pain"

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Computer Users
Most people who sit for hours in front of a computer experience some discomfort or pain. Whether you slump or try to keep a straight, "head up, shoulders back" position, you are likely to feel fatigue and discomfort by the end of the day.

Many people experience back and arm pain that is severe enough to interfere with their work. Finding the right chair and table, and taking frequent breaks, are important, but no matter how ergonomically advanced your equipment is, if you slump, strain your eyes and neck as you look at your computer screen, or compress your back and arm when hitting the keyboard or mouse, the problem will persist. Treating these symptoms might give you temporary relief, but unless you change the way you move in your daily activities the benefits will be temporary. The Alexander Technique helps you change harmful movement habits by bringing them into consciousness and introducing alternatives.

For a good article about using the Alexander technique to avoid computer related stress and injuries see: http://www.physicaltherapy.org/rsi/

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Performers

A good performance depends on the skill of expressing our intentions clearly. Often the process we use to transform our thoughts into action is obstructed by unconscious and counterproductive habits. The technique offers a practice of staying open and alert in the moment, observing our familiar tensions and choosing to move without them. Beginning with the assumption that we are perfectly designed for movement and balance, we engage our mind to undo layers of interference, creating opportunity for change.

Some of the renowned actors and musicians who have been using the Alexander Technique since the beginning of this century are: Trisha Brown, Julie Andrews, William Hurt, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Paul McCartney, Kelley McGillis, Patti Lupone, Paul Newman, Sting, Maggie Smith, Mary Steenbergen, Robin Williams, Joanne Woodward, and members of the New York Philharmonic.

The Alexander Technique is currently being taught as part of the curriculum at:
New York University
Hunter College, NYC
The Juilliard School, NYC
The Mannes College of Music, NYC
Circle in the Square Theatre School, NYC
Boston University

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