What if I told you that a simple tap, a few cue words, and being more aware, could help change the effects of years of pressure and strain in your body? Don’t believe me? Well, then you haven’t tried the underground healing methodology The Alexander Technique. First, ask yourself what you are doing, then stop, and just observe your body. This was the advice given to me by a popular Alexander Technique teacher, Michal Erez, when I expressed interest in wanting to understand more about the practice.
The technique was developed by F.M. Alexander, a theater actor in the late 1890s, who suffered from laryngitis every time he'd perform. But oddly in his day-to-day life, Alexander's voice was fine. In fear that this condition might end his career, he started to study his speaking habits in the mirror. Surprisingly, he noticed a great amount of tension in his neck, shoulders, face, and chest. Just by relaxing the tension, he saw an immediate shift and improvement in his ability to project on stage without losing his voice. The shift was so extreme, others even asked Alexander how he was able to overcome his nervous habits—and the Alexander Technique was born.
In the same vain as physical therapy or acupuncture, The Alexander Technique is supposed to help rid the body of bad habits like poor posture, stress, and tension by using the connection between the mind and body. It's especially great for those who notice themselves holding tension in certain areas of the body, whether the neck, shoulders, back, face, or hands. The good news is that there are no needles or exercise bands involved. The technique is more of an educational process; it involves working with a teacher. Together, you observe cues, sensations, and feelings to help you change unwanted pattern behaviors. The process is meant to teach you awareness first, above all else, and to use that awareness to undo bad habits your body has grown accustomed to (you might recognize you're holding tension somewhere, for instance, acknowledge those tense feelings, and then cue yourself to relax).
The Alexander Technique has become very popular among artists, actors, and musicians but it hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet. Why? “Because artists understand that their body is their tool and gives signals when something is off. Artists use that for their craft,” says Erez, “to create excellence in whatever they do.” Another theory as to why it’s only become popular among a small set is that it’s not a quick fix. These days, people are always looking for instant gratification, but the technique takes patience, responsibility, and a lot of work. However, this personal responsibility is invaluable. Practicing the Alexander Technique is the type of discipline that’s able to create the muscle memory you need to overcome bad habits.
“I’ve learned that the body knows where it wants to go,” says Erez. ”You don’t have to fear your body, I’m here to help you become less inhibited, and to go and just live your life—the best life.” You can read more about the Alexander Technique and find a teacher here.
Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.