The Trainer Knowledge Sharing, or TKS, is an opportunity for DIAKADI trainers to create and informal information session on an an area of their expertise once a month. In April, Trainer Rachel Stallman discussed The Alexander Technique. Interview and summary by Alicia Ruth, Movement Intern.

When and why did you decide to study this method? How and where did you go about it?

I learned of the Alexander Technique in New York City in 1998 because I landed an administrative job in an office for a school that trained Alexander Teachers. The way the Alexander Technique refines the mind/body connection struck me. The hands-on work and discussions with my first teachers affected great positive change in my movement and breathing, not only in performance and specific physical pursuits, but in all aspects of life - like mindfulness.

I was able to solve a chronic knee issue and lower my anxiety levels considerably. I continued private sessions with various teachers for five years and then started the teacher training program myself in 2003. The training to become an Alexander Technique Teacher is 1600 hours over 3 years.  I began at The Mathews School in NYC and completed at The Centre for the Alexander Technique in London.

What type of individuals do you work with using this technique? Who do you find benefits the most from its application?

My Alexander Technique clients have tended to be performing artists and people who have found the Technique to deal with chronic pain or repetitive stress issues. Since I am also a personal trainer, I have worked with runners and martial artists looking for new ways to deepen the quality of their physical practices. The Alexander Technique benefits anyone who is interested in refining their mind/body connection and developing more physical awareness.

The Alexander Technique and its history.

Developed by F.M. Alexander (b. Australia 1869 – 1955) in the 1890’s, the Alexander Technique is a form of body awareness education designed to recognize and correct reactive, habitual limitations in movement and thought. Motivated by vocal problems which were hindering his ability to work as a professional actor and speaker, Alexander conducted an in-depth self observation by which he discovered optimal anatomical/physiological relationships in the body. His method teaches a way of changing physical habits and unnecessary tension patterns that can get in the way of natural postural ease and function, resulting in natural ease and improved coordination of movement and breathing. It can be applied to any activity.

Basic Concepts

Optimal Relationship of the Head Over the Spine, which Alexander called  “the primary control.”  This head/neck/back relationship or pattern in the body stimulates an effortless upright or “anti-gravity” response in the spinal extensor muscles and organizes more dynamic movement of the limbs.  Rudolph Magnus (1873-1927), a pioneering Swiss physiologist and author of several books on posture and functional neurology, describes this pattern from a neurological perspective: “… in the brain stem, from the upper cervical cord to the midbrain, lies a complicated central nervous apparatus that governs the entire body posture in a coordinated manner. It unites the musculature of the whole body in a common performance.”

Recognition of the Force of Habit: Develop a non-judgmental awareness of postural habits in all aspects of one’s physical life.

Inhibition: Stop or pause before an automatic reaction occurs. Use the window of time between a stimulus and response to consciously choose a new pathway or way of moving.

Direction: Apply conscious intentions or cues to direct the body into a more optimal state of functioning. Some examples might be to “release unnecessary tension from your neck, jaw and shoulders, allow your rib-cage to move in breathing, widen your feet and think about the weight going through the arches and distributing evenly.”

Alexander moved to London in the early 1900’s where he maintained a thriving practice and opened the first school for training teachers in his technique. Over 100 years later, movement practitioners of all kinds continue to find relevance in his work, studying and teaching the Alexander Technique around the world.

Further Reading

Body Learning, An Introduction to the Alexander Technique by Michael J. Gelb

Body Awareness in Action by Frank Pierce Jones

Master the Art of Working Out by Malcolm Balk and Andrew Shields

Master the Art of Running by Malcolm Balk and Andrew Shields

The Use of the Self by F.M. Alexander

Feel free to email Rachel with any further questions at: stallman.rachel@gmail.com