Kinesiology Review 2020;9:190–198
Charlotte Woods, Lesley Glover, and Julia Woodman
This article was written for a special issue in the journal Kinesiology at the request of the Editor, and draws on the extensive experience of the authors both as researchers and practitioners. While the journal readership can be assumed to have an interest in human movement, they may not have direct experience of the Alexander Technique (AT). The paper therefore attempts to convey what is distinctive about the AT as an aid to individual movement and ‘health’, in its broadest sense.
Unlike many other interventions that support human movement and self-care, the AT is not a treatment but an educational process: the student learns practical skills that they can apply in everyday life. This learning process is extremely difficult to capture in a few words because it involves direct experience. The paper therefore uses an extended illustration of the early stages of learning the AT and the types of changes it can bring about. The text describes and explains how the teacher guides the student to an awareness of habitual responses to stimuli in their environment that they were not previously conscious of. In turn this awareness can, for example, help the student reduce muscular tightening in anticipation of pain when moving, change habits that hamper breathing, or reduce over-reaction to perceived threats in the social or physical world. The quieter, less reactive state that this learning process ultimately brings about can offer far-reaching benefits. These go well beyond ease of movement and allow for positive changes in other aspects of individual functioning: physical, emotional, cognitive and social.
The article begins with an overview of the AT: its purposes, the evidence for its effectiveness and historical background before describing and explaining the initial process of learning the AT in detail. It concludes with learner perspectives on their learning experience drawn from qualitative research studies.
The publication is not open-access but you can read the final accepted version here.
The paper complements an article published in the same journal issue that that summarises how the latest research in a range of disciplines is revealing evidence of the types of changes that the AT brings about, and contributing to scientific explanations of the AT’s benefits (Cacciatore TW, Johnson PM and Cohen RG (2020) ‘Potential Mechanisms of the Alexander Technique: Toward a Comprehensive Neurophysiological Model’ Kinesiology Review, 9, 199-213).
The Alexander technique is an educational self-development self-management method with therapeutic benefits. The primary focus of the technique is learning about the self, conceptualized as a mind–body unity. Skills in the technique are gained experientially, including through hands-on and spoken guidance from a certified Alexander teacher, often using everyday movement such as walking and standing. In this article the authors summarize key evidence for the effectiveness of learning the Alexander technique and describe how the method was developed. They attempt to convey a sense of the unique all-encompassing and fundamental nature of the technique by exploring the perspectives of those engaged in teaching and learning it and conclude by bringing together elements of this account with relevant strands of qualitative research to view this lived experience in a broader context.
Keywords: complementary health care, mind–body, movement coordination, self-care, self-management, whole self
Charlotte Woods retired from a Senior Lectureship at the Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester in 2016 after almost forty years of international experience in education. She qualified as a teacher of the AT in 2017 and is a member of the STAT Research Group.
Lesley Glover is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull. She is an HCPC registered Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist. She qualified as an Alexander Technique teacher in 2014 and is a member of the STAT Research Group.
Julia Woodman has a background in immunology research, and 20 years in biotech and medical communications. Her research on the AT includes a clinical trial of the effectiveness of AT lessons for chronic neck pain. Julia qualified as an Alexander teacher in 2006 and is Chair of the STAT Research Group.