Monday, May 27, 2013

Fix me please … will I get pain relief?

Alexander Technique may help your pain disappear in just one or two lessons.  No guarantees, but it can happen. However, depending on your needs, there is much more to be gained.

Pain relief experienced by recent clients

  • Diane in Adelaide felt great relief having had excruciating back pain for two days after a long reading session, followed by some heavy gardening.
  • Greg in Fitzroy found that his lower back pain ceased after a workshop in which I gave advice on adjusting the chair seat so it tilted forward rather than back.
  • Ruth in Carlton came to me with excruciating shoulder pain. It went after one lesson, though she came for many more lessons to address underlying tension. 
  • A worker in Southbank told me that she could stir food on the stove without pain – after following my advice to her and her work colleagues at their monthly work meeting.


What do we teach?

Interestingly, teachers of Alexander Technique do not try to ‘fix’ the pain. We aim to teach you :

- how to sit, stand and move in new ways,

- an awareness of the habits that pull you down,

- an ability to consciously make choices that avoid these habits, and

- to work towards a mind-body unity that makes all this possible


Education or health therapy?

So is Alexander Technique a form of education or is it a health therapy? FM Alexander, the founder, always insisted that it was a form of education – addressing psycho-physical coordination. Interestingly, Alexander used this term or others such as use of the self. The term ‘Alexander Technique’ was popularised after his death. Since then it has also become known as a health therapy, written about in books and websites dealing with holistic health, and recognised by health insurance funds.

On a recent visit to Australia, American teacher John Nicholls suggests the distinction between education and health is not very helpful (Nicholls 2012). I like the description of Alexander Technique on his website ( Here are some extracts (in inverted commas):

“The Alexander Technique re-organizes patterns of chronic tension that have unconsciously become a fixed part of how we move, breathe, and act in the world”. It doesn’t rely on relaxation or exercising to release this tension. It focuses instead on “consciously addressing the primary coordination of postural support, movement and breathing”. By this means, “tension could be transformed into available, coherent energy”.

“All activity then becomes far more energetically efficient. Physiologically, the specialized guidance of an Alexander teacher’s hands and verbal instruction can re-distribute tone between the support muscles of the neck and back, the breathing muscles of the trunk, and the movement muscles of the limbs. Psychologically, this brings about a whole new awareness of what it means to be supported, to be breathed, and how to allow appropriate effort to arise from this self-sustaining background without interfering with it.” (my italics)

New skills

This involves learning new skills, which may take several, or many, lessons. Increasingly the skills can be applied in daily life. Nicholls also argues that “this heightened awareness of physical coordination can bring with it that greater ability to be in the moment, consciously present, grounded and uplifted, which is sought after in so many psychological and spiritual disciplines.”



John Nicholls (2012) Keynote address. Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Alexander Teachers, April 13- 15, Canberra.  
Images - copyright  Auremar