THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE


THE PRINCIPLES OF ALEXANDER’S WORK

UNDERLIE ALL HEALTHY ACTIVITY OF MIND AND BODY


For more than three decades Lelia Calder has been teaching The Alexander Technique to singers and instrumentalists, to those who are injured or in pain, and to all who wish to improve their quality of life. The principles it embodies are life lessons for developing our potential as human beings.


What is this Work?

The Alexander Technique, simply called "The Work" by F.M. Alexander, concerns itself with alignment, balance, and movement.  It restores to us the healthy organic relationship between the head, neck and back that we knew as children.

There is a natural order that is free and efficient with which we interfere by pulling the head back and exerting a downward pressure on the spine. Over time this causes distress to the whole body, especially the back.  It is the root of much of our dysfunction and pain.  But we have learned this `misuse' and we can unlearn it.  Restoring our innate balance, ease and flexibility is the work of the Technique.

By becoming aware of our habits we learn to release unnecessary tensions.  With the guidance of a teacher's hands we can change the habitual patterns that cause pain and injury.  We learn to pause before moving and, by creating a space between stimulus and response, we can arrest an old pattern and let a new one take its place.  This is how habits are changed; it is new software for the nervous system.  Real change is gradual and, in the process, we become more present with our moment to moment experience.  The results are healthier, happier bodies and minds.


What can it do for you?

  • Release unnecessary tension
  • Relieve pain in the neck, spine and joints
  • Improve balance
  • Increase circulation
  • Encourage natural breathing
  • Address the causes of Repetitive Stress Injuries
  • Identify interference with the body’s design
  • Develop our capacity to change habits of mind and body
  • Teach us to monitor our level of effort in activity
  • Increase our awareness of ourselves and our environment
  • Promote free, easy and efficient movement
  • Enhance skills in complex movements

In 2008, a controlled study was conducted in England comparing the Alexander Technique to massage therapy as treatment for back pain.  The results, published in the British Medical Journal, found an 85% improvement in patients who had Alexander lessons.  For details, click below on the BMJ (British Medical Journal) report which includes a 12 minute video of the ATEAM randomized, controlled study, August, 2008.http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/aug19_2/a884


What is an Alexander lesson?
                         
It is 45 minutes of instruction and guided movement that may begin in a lying down position on a table.

Here a student learns to be consciously present in the body and is able to release deep muscular tensions, relieving pressure on the joints and allowing the back to ease into its natural length.  This realignment is then carried into activity, at first in simple movements such as standing, walking, sitting and getting in and out of a chair.  As we begin to let go of destructive habits we feel the freedom and ease that comes from cooperating with the body’s natural design.

As this relearning once more becomes second nature to us, we gain a new respect for the intrinsic design of this remarkable physical body.  We never again take our ability to move well for granted.  And at those times when discomfort does occur in the course of daily living, we know how to work with ourselves to restore healthy function.



Who was F. M. Alexander?

F. M. Alexander (1869-1955) was an actor who would lose his voice when he performed because of vocal strain.  Doctors prescribed throat sprays and vocal rest, but these were only of temporary help.  In discovering for himself the causes of his difficulty he found an answer that took him into a very different kind of work.

The remainder of his life he spent helping people to be free of pain and of physical and emotional limitations of all kinds.  Of his discoveries, he said, 
        “I found that a certain control of the use of my head and neck in
        relation to my back brought about more satisfactory working of the
        musculature, and not only relieved my special difficulty, but 
        improved conditions generally."                            
       
        (from Report of a Lecture by F.M. Alexander, August 3, 1934.  Private printing, p. 3)
 to read more about Mr. Alexander in 
the article: 
“The Alexander Technique” by Lelia Calder (published in The NATS Journal, Jan/Feb. 1986):  
 

Resources

Websites:

The American Society for the Alexander Technique: http://www.amsatonline.org


Videos:
Two short demonstration interviews with Lelia by physical trainer, Max Calder,
may be accessed by copying these addresses into your browser:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=762WFUG5WVc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coE15Q5miyo

Books:

Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael Gelb

Back Trouble: A New Approach to Prevention and Recovery by Deborah Caplan

An Examined Life:  Marjory Barlow and the Alexander Technique by Trevor Allen Davies

Articles:

“The Alexander Technique” by Lelia Calder (published in The NATS Journal, Jan/Feb. 1986):  
http://www.leliacalder.com/lelia-calder-the-alexander-work-1



Biographical Information about Lelia Calder and the Alexander Technique

I began my study of the Alexander Technique in 1980 with Kitty Wielopolska.  She had been a member of Alexander's first training course in London.  With my first lessons it became clear to me that this teaching of mindfulness of body was invaluable, not only for me as a musician, but as a tool for finding freedom and balance of the body/mind.   After receiving my certification to teach in 1984, I began taking private students, teaching classes, and giving presentations and workshops at many schools, theatres and performing arts organizations.  These included the National Association of Teachers of Singing Annual Convention, the Puppeteers Guild of Pennsylvania, the Annual Voice Symposium in Philadelphia and the University of the Arts.   At my studio, private students receive lessons in the Alexander Work.  They often come because of chronic pain, or occupational injuries; or they may be actors, musicians or dancers whose professions demand a high level of physical skill and endurance.  By learning to be present in the body and aware of their ‘use’,  and with guidance and practice, they become free of unnecessary tension and effort, able to move in a balanced, free and efficient way without strain.

Teaching certificate from the Wielopolska School of the Alexander Technique (1984)
Senior Teacher, M.AmSAT  (American Society for the Alexander Technique) since 1992