Most of us recognise the importance of being physically fit, and we assume that if we exercise enough we will be. But if we develop poor habits of coordination in childhood, we repeat (and sometimes exacerbate) these habits throughout our lives in everything we do – regardless of how much we exercise. We may jog every week yet suffer from chronic back pain, frequent headaches, or an inability to sit comfortably for long periods. Fitness involves more than just exercising to strengthen muscles. It means maintaining a balanced, flexible, and coordinated use of ourselves in all our activities, throughout our day.
The Alexander Technique is a unique educational method that teaches us to do just this. Distinct from exercise, massage, or therapy, it teaches us to become aware of harmful habits and prevent them.
We learn to sit without slouching, to walk without feeling heavy or tired, to move through the day without headaches or an aching back.
Adapted from a pamphlet by Missy Vineyard, Director, Alexander Technique School of New England, Amherst, Massachusetts.
The Alexander Technique has helped many sportspeople since it helps one to remain composed under stress, and gives one the skill to incorporate ease into the performance of any activity. To many people involved in sport, the idea of not being ‘goal-oriented’ is difficult to grasp because it goes against everything they have been taught in almost every aspect of their lives.
It is common to see some runners and other sportspeople with teeth clenched, necks tensed, and faces frowning; yet over-tightened muscles usually cause movements to become awkward, and increase the chances of missing the ball or causing injury.
By applying the principles of the Alexander Technique we can start to correct our old habitual movements, and let go of over-tightening and inefficient effort, and replace these with more poised and graceful ways of moving. By becoming more aware of both ourselves and our surroundings we can gain greater conscious control over ourselves, and increase our chances of performing well.
Just as children reflect the poor reactions and patterns of being of adults, so horses rely on the rider for good coordination and poise. Many riders find that the Alexander Technique helps them to gain increased awareness and control of themselves so that they can feel the horse’s movement with greater accuracy. Usually, the root cause of a rider’s problems is poor balance. If a horse reacts adversely, most of the time it is because the rider is not able to keep his or her own poise.
“The Alexander Technique is one of the most valuable tools a rider can possess.” – Carl Hester, Olympic Dressage Rider