For the past couple of months I have been seeing an Alexander to help improve my mobility for general benefit and to improve my dance. This post is about the benefits I had on doing this so that you can decide if it is something for you.
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander technique is a system that helps you move more efficiently so that you can perform your tasks (whatever they be) more efficiently. It was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander who was a stage actor who had troubles keeping his voice throughout a play despite all doctors at the time telling him he was in sound health. After watching himself in the mirror as he practiced acting he noticed oddities in his posture. By focusing on his posture he found his issues was resolved. He later saw others with the same issue and noticed that by focusing upon posture and self awareness that anyone could improve their efficiency and their overall well-being.
He developed a system that could be used by what he called 'teachers' to impart better habits of movement upon his 'students'. I am unsure why he did not call them patients, but it might be because it is about teaching people better habits.
The typical session involves you taking various positions, standing or sitting or laying down, while the teacher will place hands on you to encourage the relaxation of certain muscle groups. They will also ask you to conduct certain movement as they guide your body. There will also be some imaging techniques, which are very familiar to most dancers. Finally, in my case at least, you get some exercises to do at home.
The best thing about the technique for most is that the method is very easy on you. You spend much or your time laying down so you get the benefits with little effort.
As a dancer I like to think I am fairly aware of my body and movement. I have been working on that to improve my dance for some time now. However, I still found more awareness from these sessions. Especially with parts of my body my teachers of the past have mentioned. Especially letting my shoulders drop. Since doing these sessions I have:
- Felt less pain when in general - we all have aches and pains at times
- Been able to adjusts what I do to limit the onset of fatigue and strain - most notably when walking while on holiday in Tasmania, which is where Frederick Matthias Alexander was born, so that was poetic
- Felt more grounded in my feet - I have some pronation, which now feels reduced
- Felt less aches when dancing
- Felt more control over my posture when dancing
I would recommend this to anyone - it worked for me so it should work for you. Even if you do not get benefit from it, you at least know you have worked out that you're in good shape. However, you will probably have some issues that can be resolved. For dance I would especially recommend it if you have any of the following issues:
- Contracted shoulders
- Hunched posture
- Poor hip movement
- You fall into steps at times
- You ever feel pain from dancing for longer periods
- Stiffness in your back
- Poor head position
Where to find a practitioner
In these days of the internet it is very easy to type Alexander technique and you local area into a search engine and find someone near you. I found one a block away.
This is a pretty good article on how to be a better dancer from the perspective of an Alexander teacher - The Biggest Mistake Dancers Make. It shows both what Alexander teachers know and gives advice on how to dance better.