I started the Alexander Technique due to slight scoliosis and a stretched nerve in my left lower back and I thought it would improve my posture which could only help my injury! I've got far more out of the technique than just improved posture! The first thing that I've learned is how to work with my Alexander Technique teacher and my body to control the pain! When the horrible muscle spasms start, I can now use breathing to help instead of lying on the floor helpless. Instead of focusing on what I can't do or do incorrectly, my teacher has helped me to understand what I do right and to do things that I didn't think that I could do. I found out that I have model hips rather than a twisted spine and that I can sit on an exercise ball without falling over! In short, the technique has made a huge difference to my life. I would recommend it to everyone and strongly believe that it should be on the NHS!
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 2015 Feb 9. pii: 1545968315570323. [Epub ahead of print]
Cohen RG, Gurfinkel VS, Kwak E, Warden AC, Horak FB.
A study called 'Lighten Up' has suggested significant benefits in balance and mobility for people with Parkinson's when they practised instructions based on Alexander Technique principles. The instructions included phrases such as 'notice that you are pulling yourself down and give yourself permission to stop doing it; let your head balance easily....let your shoulders and chest be open and light'. In contrast, no such benefits were observed with instructions that were based on popular concepts of posture correction (such as 'use your core muscles to pull yourself up to your fullest height...pull your stomach in, your head and chest up and your shoulders back'). A third set of instructions focused around relaxation were used as a control. These results for the Alexander-based instructions, showing increased upright postural alignment with decreased muscular rigidity, were particularly impressive considering there was no hands-on instruction.
Background. Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with stooped postural alignment, increased postural sway, and reduced mobility. The Alexander Technique (AT) is a mindfulness-based approach to improving posture and mobility by reducing muscular interference while maintaining upward intentions. Evidence suggests that Alexander Technique can reduce disability associated with PD, but a mechanism for this effect has not yet been established.
Objective. We investigated whether Alexander-Technique-based instructions reduce axial rigidity and increase upright postural alignment, and whether these instructions have different effects on postural alignment, axial rigidity, postural sway, and mobility than effort-based instructions regarding posture.
Method. Twenty subjects with PD practiced 2 sets of instructions and then attempted to implement both approaches (as well as a relaxed control condition) during quiet standing and step initiation. The "Lighten Up" instructions relied on Alexander Technique principles of reducing excess tension while encouraging length. The "Pull Up" instructions relied on popular concepts of effortful posture correction. We measured kinematics, resistance to axial rotation, and ground reaction forces.
Results. Both sets of experimental instructions led to increases in upright postural alignment relative to the control condition. Only the Lighten Up instructions led to reduced postural sway, reduced axial postural tone, greater modifiability of tone, and a smoother center of pressure trajectory during step initiation, possibly indicating greater movement efficiency.
Conclusion. Mindful movement approaches such as Alexander Technique may benefit balance and mobility in subjects with PD by acutely facilitating increased upright postural alignment while decreasing rigidity.