What is the Alexander Technique?

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Masai tribeswoman, Kenya

The Alexander Technique is a practical method of self-help, the learning of which enables us to become aware of harmful habits of strain and tension developed during the course of our lives, and to prevent them.

It offers us the possibility of using all our human potentialities to the best advantage in the activities of living; a possibility realised through learning how to consciously avoid interfering with the working of what F. M. Alexander termed “the primary control”, which he defined as “a certain use of the head in relation to the neck, and of the head and neck in relation to the torso and the other parts of the organism.”[2] The primary control can be seen working most efficiently (albeit subconsciously) in healthy young children and in certain indigenous tribal peoples.

One of the central principles of the Alexander Technique is that “use affects functioning”. By learning to “use” yourself better as a whole (through restoring a proper working of the primary control), your “functioning” – your balance, breathing, freedom of movement, circulation, digestion, ability to deal with stress, clarity of thought, and so on – will improve indirectly.

And, lastly, what is the Alexander Technique not? It is not a therapy, nor a method of relaxation, nor a system of exercises, nor a new age philosophy, but a special form of health education that each one of us can employ to influence all aspects of our life for the better.

[1] F. M. Alexander, Articles and Lectures ed. Jean M. O. Fischer (London: Mouritz, 1995), p. 199

[2] F. M. Alexander, The Universal Constant in Living (1941; 4th edn, London: Mouritz, 2000), p. 8