Stress and poor posture are two of the most common reasons why tension and pain build up in the back, shoulders, neck, and head.

Anybody who regularly works at a desk will know how difficult it can be to maintain good posture throughout the day. And when we’re feeling stressed, many of us tense the muscles in our upper body, which can cause them to become tight and sore.

The Alexander technique consists of gentle, low-impact exercises that nearly anyone can practise to unlearn the unhelpful posture habits that we all pick up throughout life – with the aim of reducing muscle stiffness and soreness.

It can also provide effective stress relief and help restore balance to the body and mind.

We’ve put together this guide to introduce you to the Alexander technique and how it can give your health a boost.

What is the Alexander technique?

What is the Alexander technique

The Alexander technique is an approach to promoting healthier posture and movement by gently improving the relationship between the mind and the body.

The main focus of the technique is on unlearning unhelpful habits like slouching, which can have lasting consequences on how you move and carry yourself.

Developed by Australian actor F.M. Alexander in the 1890s, and now recognised by the NHS, the technique is seen as a way to inhabit the body ‘in the way nature intended’.

After experiencing untreatable chronic laryngitis, Alexander realised that his condition had been caused by a build-up of tension in his neck and body over the years. This led him to explore the idea of unlearning bad posture habits to treat issues with the spine, neck, and head – and also to help the body relax and release tension.

The technique is taught in one-to-one lessons with a qualified instructor – either at home or in a clinic. Sessions usually last around 30 to 45 minutes, don’t require any specialist equipment, and all movements are gentle and low-impact.

Clients are usually advised to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows for free movement.

Your instructor will watch how you move and position yourself in different situations (such as how you sit, stand, walk, and so on). Then, over the course of the lessons, they’ll gently guide your movements with their hands to teach proper posture, focusing mainly on the relationship between the head, neck, and spine.

Most people need around 20 lessons to get the full benefit of the Alexander technique. The idea of these classes is to learn how to apply the technique in your day-to-day life. This will hopefully mean that once you’ve finished your course, you no longer need instruction to stand, sit, and move in healthier ways.

For a demonstration of how the technique is taught, you might want to check out the video below.

How can the Alexander technique improve your health?

How can the Alexander technique improve your health

There are various ways that the Alexander technique can benefit your health. For example…

The Alexander technique can help to relieve muscle aches and pains

Advocates of the Alexander technique claim that it can reduce muscle aches and pains, especially those surrounding the spine and the neck. As many of these are caused by unhealthy posture habits, learning how to correctly move your body can relieve pain and prevent it from developing in the future.

Studies have shown that taking lessons in the Alexander technique can reduce long-term back and neck pain, and even help people with Parkinson’s disease tackle everyday tasks with more ease.

The Alexander technique can help to reduce stress

Reducing soreness and stiffness in this way can have a tremendous effect on a person’s stress levels. While it’s impossible to eliminate stress entirely, not having to deal with the additional stressor of muscle pain – especially when sitting at a desk or trying to sleep – can be a big relief.

If you’re looking for more ways to relieve stress in your life, you might like to check out our article; 9 simple stress relieving activities. Or, if you think that a more permanent change might be in order, our list of 6 low-stress jobs to consider if you’re looking for a change might be helpful.

The Alexander technique may help with repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome

The Alexander technique claims to help those with repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.

While there haven’t been enough studies on the subject to say for sure, researchers have suggested that these conditions are ‘learned’ in the same way as the unhelpful habits targeted by the technique. So, it seems that practising the technique can help to ease symptoms.

The Alexander technique can help performers reach their full potential

Supporters of the Alexander technique claim that it can help performers like singers, musicians, actors, and dancers reach their full potential. If you’ve ever been a performer yourself, you’ll know how important posture can be.

To see an example of how the technique can help with this, check out the below video. The woman in the video found that the Alexander technique reduced symptoms of her central tremor for a couple of hours after each session.

Are there any risks associated with the Alexander technique?

Are there any risks associated with the Alexander technique?

As the Alexander technique is very low-impact, the vast majority of people won’t be putting themselves at risk by practising it.

However, if you have an injury or condition in an area surrounding the spine, neck, or head, the technique may not be suitable for you, as it could put unnecessary strain on your body.

In either case, it’s always worth speaking to your GP before signing up for any sessions, to check whether the Alexander technique is right for you.

How to get started with the Alexander technique

How to get started with the Alexander technique

If you think the Alexander technique could be beneficial for you, it should be fairly easy to find a teacher.

You can learn more about finding a teacher on the NHS website. Lessons tend to be given in a private, one-to-one format, and cost between £30 to £50 on average.

It’s also possible, in some cases, to be prescribed lessons through the NHS as part of outpatient treatment for chronic pain.

To get the most out of the technique, instructors recommend weekly lessons until you’re ready to apply the skills learnt to daily life, without the need for instruction.

Final thoughts…

We hope that you’ve found our guide useful – whether you think the Alexander technique could help you, or you simply enjoyed learning something you didn’t know before.

For more articles and guides on giving your health a boost, why not check out the general health and fitness and exercise sections of our website? You’ll find articles like 15 low-impact exercise ideas and 12 rewarding activities to do while walking.

Or why not check out the virtual fitness classes running on Rest Less Events?

Have you practised the Alexander technique before and, if so, has it helped you? Or do you have any tips of your own for reducing aches and pains and improving posture? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.