Difference AT and other…

2 Dec 2010

How does the Alexander Technique differ from other therapies that are focused on posture and movement?

An important difference  is that with the Alexander Technique one accomplishes the desired changes by releasing excess muscular tension, and not by directly strengthening or adding tension to muscles by means of exercises. For instance, if somebody has a ‘sway back’ the usual advice is to tilt the pelvis and tighten the stomach muscles; thus adopting the ‘correct posture’ by tensing extra muscles and doing exercises. But unfortunately this standard method has negative side-effects (just try it out for yourself):

• restricted breathing as a result of excess tension of the stomach muscles
• inability to maintain the new posture due to the fact that creating and sustaining more muscular tension is extremely tiring
• reduced flexibility of movement after adopting the new posture because it involves more muscular tension
• The uncomfortable feel of the new posture, which makes it more difficult to maintain

The fact is that, aside from these negative side effects, this method fails to address the root cause of the problem. The Alexander Technique takes a very different approach. It views a sway back as the excessive tensing or contracting of the lower back, which is part of an unhealthy, habitual pattern involving the whole body. This is often accompanied by poor coordination and too much tension in the neck, shoulders and legs. If one recoordinates the whole body, thus enabling all the overworked muscles in the whole body (including the lower back muscles) to work less hard; this also solves the problem but without any negative side effects. The breathing remains free, muscles no longer have to work harder than necessary and you avoid the ‘yo-yo effect’: adopting the new posture full of good intentions, being unable to maintain it, slouching again, re-assuming the new posture and so on.

Alexander Technique teachers only consider a solution to be a truly successful one if the body benefits from it as a whole. There is no advantage if only a part of the body (the lower back) benefits while at the same time other parts of the body are negatively affected.

Another difference is that the Alexander Technique teacher does not strive to treat a specific part of the body to make it better. If someone comes to us with back problems or wrist problems we do not treat those specific areas. At least, not without taking the patterns of the whole body and mind into consideration. Naturally, providing treatment for a specific body part may well be necessary, but this is not what Alexander Technique teachers are trained to do. We teach someone to recoordinate the movement patterns of their whole body and mind as a result of which:

• unhealthy habitual patterns (both physical and mental) are altered
• excessive tension is reduced, more balance regained
• some muscles no longer need to work so hard, while other weak muscles indirectly and imperceptibly become stronger
• joints, blood vessels and nerves are given more space, breathing is freeing up

In this way, problems that have been caused by unhealthy habitual patterns can be resolved and prevented.