Performance Benefits of the Alexander Technique
Although the Technique is most often associated with back pain, people come for Alexander Lessons to improve their abilities and skills in activities as diverse as dancing, singing, public speaking, rowing (the British team that won the Olympic gold medal had Alexander Lessons), dressage (them too!) horse riding, archery, and playing a musical instrument. Anything that involves using the whole self from juggling for jugglers to acting for actors will benefit by improving what alexander called ‘The Use of the Self.’ Even if you aren’t an opera singer but spend your time looking after children or sitting at a computer, it is likely that you will see some improvement in what you do by learning the Alexander Technique!
Alexander Technique for Improved Breathing and Voice
Alexander began his quest because he had voice problems. He lost his voice and set out to investigate way. He discovered a tendency to tighten up and use excess tension, to ‘get ready’, and do horrible things with his neck, rather like some singers do today.
Most of us do interfere with breathing and voice production, ant learning the Alexander Technique can help us to prevent this, leading to less vocal strain and a better quality of voice in both speech and singing. For this reason it is included in the curriculum of the major acting and drama schools in the UK.
The Technique has also been widely endorsed by professional singers of both classical and popular music, including Sting, Sir Paul Mccartney, Leslie Garrett, and Michael Mccalleon, senior voice tutor at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).
Music and the Alexander Technique
Its not just singing that can be improved, the Alexander Technique has long been associated with professional musicians the world over. Learning to sit, and stand, and hold the instrument without interference with the body are all conducive to better performance, and less self induced back and neck pain. Many violinists suffer neck and shoulder pain due to interference with the neck caused by not holding the instrument properly.
Yehudi Mhenuen, Paul McCartney, James Galway, and the conductor Sir Adrian Boult have all been great advocates of the Technique.
Alexander on Stage
Improved use of the self enables an actor to move in a more natural manner, and from a ‘point of neutrality’ the performer is more able to adopt the movement styles necessary to portray character. It enhances spontaneity and vitality, increases stage presence, and helps actors and performers to overcome stage fright. It is even used by clowns and storytellers both to give presence to the work and to maintain agility during slapstick routines.
Fred Astaire was an excellent example of good use, but he was a very rare case of someone with natural good use. Most of us need a little help!
Sports and Fitness
The state of relaxed alertness that the Technique brings can be a great help for sports and athletics. The increased level of bodily awareness, along with better breathing and improved balance and correct muscle tension, are all conducive to improved performance. People engaged in competitive sports do not like to tell everyone what has given them their competitive edge, but we do know that gold medal winning rowing and dressage teams have used it to enhance their winning edge.
Just About any Other Activity!
Of course every activity is improved if we use ourselves in a better way, and our clients include doctors, housewives, computer programmers (they really get into a mess), office workers, students and so on.
“We already notice, with growing amazement, very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure, breathing, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness, resilience against outside pressures, and in such a refined skill as playing a musical instrument.”
Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen, Nobel Prize winner for medicine and physiology:
© 2013 – The Alexander Centre