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What is the Alexander Technique?

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Alexander Technique (AT) is a method for developing embodied awareness and mindbody coordination so that you have greater control of how you do the things you do.

Okay...what is mindbody coordination?

Mindbody coordination is the connection between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Here's an easy way to understand it:

Sometimes we know something to be true.

For example, I know I'm going to be late if I don't leave at 5.

But it doesn't feel true because I'm still under a blanket in my pajamas. My body feels relaxed! Most of the time, we do what feels right. That's why, in this situation, it's easy to end up sitting around until you look at the clock and go, "oh sh*t, I'm late," at which point you'll feel some physical tension and feel like you need to go.

Conversely, things can feel very real to us even if they don't reflect reality or even our beliefs. A great example of this is clenching your jaw. Many of us tense our shoulders or clench our jaws when we're working, and this physical feedback gives us proof that we're indeed working. Now if I asked you, "does clenching your jaw help you do your job well?" or, "do you really need to tighten your shoulders when opening your email inbox?" I'm sure you'd say no! But if you sat at your desk and relaxed your body, it wouldn't feel like you were working, would it?

In both cases, there is a gap between what we consciously think/know/believe and what we physically do or feel. This connection between our thoughts and actions is mindbody coordination is what we strengthen in the Alexander Technique.

And how can the Alexander Technique help?

Alexander Technique helps us to strengthen our mindbody coordination through embodied awareness. That means not just understanding a fact or principle intellectually, but connecting that concept to your physical experience.

How does it feel to believe you can work without clenching your jaw? I'll bet that if you spent a week sitting at your desk and consciously relaxing before you started working, your belief about what it feels like to work would start to shift.

And the opposite! What can I learn from my physical sensations about what I believe to be true? (Hint: What do you notice in your body when you think about your parents?)

Embodied awareness is critical because... we do what feels right to us. I can tell you all day that you don't need to tighten your shoulders when you're working, but the only way you're going to make a change is if it starts to feel true to you.

This is why people frequently want to learn AT when they have chronic back pain! In my view, it's not because AT is categorically better than PT or massage. It's because they know there's a gap between what they know (that they have the capacity to move/sit/dance/etc without pain) and what they habitually do (spend their time moving in ways that cause or exacerbate pain).

All the information in the world isn't going to change those daily habits if it doesn't feel right or true.

Makes sense! How do I learn it?

You learn by doing! As you probably know, awareness alone is not enough to sustain change. And if you're not in the habit of tuning into your body, suddenly deciding to pay more attention doesn't mean you're going to understand what it's telling you or what to do with that information. It takes practice!

That's why AT lessons are designed to be experiential. There are a few core principles of the Alexander Technique, all of which work together to help you cultivate mindbody unity and conscious control of how you're doing the things you do.

In lessons, you'll learn these principles in an embodied way through experiments, discussion and reflection, and practice where we apply the principles to activities you typically do. This gives you:

  • Experience and understanding of what it means to embody beliefs

  • Practice expanding awareness and consciously engaging with activities where you might typically be on autopilot

  • A clear, achievable method for cultivating mindbody unity in everything you do

Want to learn?

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