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Natural Therapies - The Alexander Technique

A photo of an Alexander Technique session

Richard Brennan has been teaching the Alexander Technique since 1989. He is the director of Ireland’s only Alexander Teacher Training College in Galway and is the author of seven books on the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique was devised over 100 years ago by Frederick Alexander, an Australian actor who kept losing his voice while performing. Alexander was determined to find a solution to this curious problem and discovered that the underlying cause of his problem was poor posture causing an over-tensing of the muscular system.

Throughout our life many of us develop a wide range of detrimental habits, which manifest in later life as back pain, neck problems, arthritis, breathing problems, repetitive strain injury, headaches, hypertension, sciatica, insomnia and even depression. The aim of learning The Alexander Technique is to become aware of these harmful habits and learn new ways of sitting, standing and moving that will put less stress on our body.

The Alexander Technique can also help us to become more aware of balance, posture and co-ordination while performing our everyday actions. As children, our posture and ease of movement are a joy to watch, but as we start to tense our muscles in reaction to many of life’s worries and concerns, our posture deteriorates. Hunched shoulders, stiff necks and slumped bodies can directly cause ill-health. We often have four or five times more muscular tension in our bodies than is really necessary. In fact, without realising it, many of us make our whole life much harder for ourselves than it really needs to be.

The Technique is usually taught on a one-to-one basis and the Alexander teacher will help you to be aware and let go of unwanted muscle tension that is at the root of many problems. This will be done with verbal instructions and with help from his, or her, hands. There is no manipulation, medication or any need to remove any clothing apart from your shoes.

Many people who practice the Technique experience a general feeling of lightness throughout their bodies and even describe the sensation as ‘walking on air’ or ‘moving with no effort’. People often say that they feel much calmer and happier even after just a few Alexander lessons. This often results in less overall tension and a greater ability to cope with life in general.

It is important to realise that the whole process of re-evaluating the way in which you move does take time, as you are dealing with unconscious habits that have often been present since childhood. Many people who have taken lessons say that the Technique has not only helped them to be free from pain, but they say that they look and feel years younger.

CASE CONFIDENTIAL: ‘The Alexander Technique really helped my back pain’

Rosemary* from Waterford

I had suffered from lower back pain for over 10 years and tried a number of different things, but nothing really lasted. My pain would come back again if I did gardening, sat at a computer for any length of time, washed my hair in the shower or even stood holding a glass of wine at a party.

I started to think about posture and how that might help. From searching on the internet I found out about the Alexander Technique and how it teaches your body and mind to get better. I had two sessions in Dublin and was amazed to find that my back pain was gone. I also did what the teacher said and lay on my back every day with my head on a book and my knees facing the ceiling.

I was so happy with it that I went every week for 18 months. I discovered that the Alexander Technique is a therapy through education – it teaches you to undo bad habits but you do need to be willing to change.

During the session you work on getting up and down from a chair – lots of us put unnecessary work into this. When lying on the table the therapist helps you to release your neck and shoulders and free all your joints.

I found that the Technique stops things from getting you down and I found other things became easier too, like my work and personal relationships

For more information please contact Alexander Technique Ireland www.alexander.ie or The Irish Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique www.isatt.ie

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