How students benefit from the Alexander Technique
By Tom Weiser, Alexander Technique Instructor
Alexander Technique is a way to learn how to engage in all the activities of life in a way that's open, relaxed, and energized in mind and body. This state is always available to us: we just have to learn to stop interfering with it!
I know that Alexander Technique works from my own personal experience. I suffered from terrible lower back problems throughout my 30s. I had frequent back spasms that would last for days or weeks. I was afraid to run, because it might trigger a spasm and result in days of pain. But I was also an avid swing dancer, so I'd often strap on a back brace, pop some ibuprofen and damn the consequences. Eventually, my pain progressed to weakness and foot-drop. I had surgery, after which the spasms lessened considerably, but did not go away altogether.
Soon after my surgery, I began practicing T'ai Chi and meditation. Several years after that, I began studying Alexander Technique. I have not suffered a back spasm since I began studying the Alexander Technique. I am now in my 50s and very comfortable in my body. I can run and hike without concern. I dance without injury, and even move heavy boxes and furniture. A few weeks ago, I spent three hours shoveling mud in the garden without even incurring a sore back.
Alexander Technique is an educational method: an Alexander teacher does not "fix" a student. Instead, the teacher helps the student notice and release patterns of tension and contraction, especially in the muscles that govern the relationship of head, neck and back. The teacher guides, but the student learns to do the work themselves.
Alexander Technique teaches that if you put undue stress on your body and mind in order to achieve a goal, you will achieve your goal less and less satisfactorily, and eventually you may injure yourself (which could stop you from achieving your goal at all!) The good news: you can learn to achieve your goals more efficiently and enjoyably without putting undue stress on your body and mind.
Imagine driving your car with the emergency brake set all the time. You couldn't drive at full speed, your gas mileage would be poor, and you would eventually wear out the engine, the brake or both. Almost everyone has habits that interfere with their easy, relaxed functioning. Eventually these habits can cause pain and injury. Some students come to the technique to "take off the emergency brake" and improve their performance. Others come to the technique because they've begun to experience injury and pain. MJ, for instance, was a professional vibraphone player who suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of habits of tension in his neck, shoulders and arms. Whenever he played a show with more than one set, he'd have to ice his wrists and take anti-inflammatory drugs. He considered surgery, but decided to try Alexander Technique first. In the course of his lessons, MJ learned to release those habits of tension, and as a result, his carpal tunnel syndrome abated, and he was able to play without pain.
I have confidence in the Alexander Technique based on my own experience, and I'm excited to help others learn to help themselves.
More about Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique teaches students to identify and change habits of movement that cause stress and fatigue, interfere with freedom of movement, and may contribute to injury. Through the exploration of simple postures (sitting, standing, lying down) and movements (walking, rising from a chair, squatting), students learn to undo dysfunctional habits of movement and develop a more efficient, easeful and powerful style of movement.
Alexander Technique addresses the way in which mental habits affect physical habits, and students also learn to effectively manage their mental and emotional reactions in stressful situations. Alexander Technique is applicable to any physical activity, and is studied and practiced by athletes, dancers, musicians and actors, people who are recuperating from injury, and those who simply wish to feel more at ease in their bodies.[Find a class]
Tom trained at the American Center for the Alexander Technique, the oldest certifying organization in the United States. ACAT's rigorous three-year program comprises 1600 hours of hands-on instruction. Tom is a member of the American Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. Tom has taught Alexander Technique in the CU dance department as well as the Naropa Music Department.
Tom is an experienced t'ai chi practitioner, a graduate, summa cum laude of Harvard University, a Master of Musical Composition, and is pursuing a Master's degree in Religious Studies at Naropa University. Tom enjoys singing and facilitating improvised music.