The Alexander Technique was founded by Australian Shakespearean actor Frederick Matthias Alexander and remains the darling of many actors and other famous people, like George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Robin Williams, James Earl Jones, William Hurt, Keanu Reeves, Hillary Swank, Paul McCartney, Sting, Dr. Andrew Weil, Jackie O., and many more.
Apparently actor Alexander had a case of vocal hoarseness so bad that he couldn’t work, apparently incurable by medical science at the time. He modified the position of his chin and chest, moving his head forward and up before he spoke, which gave him relief. Then he realized that the new head position seemed to relieve muscular tension in his whole body, as well as lengthening his spine. Modifying the posture of his whole body helped even more, relieving tension all over.
Less hands-on than Rolfing, Alexander teachers lightly touch the base of the neck while the patient’s balance shifts as they change positions, from sitting to standing or standing to walking. Other exercises involve the teacher observing and educating as the patient is supine, squatting, lifting objects, using the computer or the cello bow or in other positions that are typical of their daily life. The goal is to re-teach movement habits that normally happen without thinking, but that contribute to stress and pain.
This reeducation stresses ease of movement, returning to a carefree way of moving, much like when we were young children. Along with that comes improved coordination and efficiency of movement, but patients also claim there is an easing of head and neck pain, and several studies have verified its effectiveness for that. Patients also seek relief of stress and related disorders, TMJ, carpal tunnel, breathing problems and stage fright, as well as finer poise and grace to a better golf game or aria.
Although some Alexander teachers teach small groups, it is most often done one-on-one for ten to 40 sessions. For a list of certified local teachers, see http://www.amsatonline.org/teachers.