My Alexander Technique journey began when I developed a chronic injury. The problems started in 2013, when I went from 10 violin students to 35 in a short amount of time, and logged long hours hunched over the computer and my road bike. I developed a nagging ache in my right wrist that turned into relentless overuse pain in my neck and shoulder. The pain persisted for years. After unsuccessfully trying to manage my injury through massage and physical therapy, I tried an introductory course in the Alexander Technique.
In my first lesson, my teachers handed me a small metal spring and asked me to compress it. "What happens when you push down on the spring? What do you notice? What happens if you stop pushing?" This simple illustration was a metaphor for the spine. "Who's doing the pushing, or pulling down, on your spine?" As I played with the spring and considered this idea, I felt a sudden lightness and expansiveness. The other students in the class told me I had just gotten taller by releasing tension, all on my own! Alexander Technique teachers frequently use their hands to help students to move in new ways, which my teachers did a lot. But that first experience showed me that I could change myself, and that my coordination would restore to its natural, optimal design if I learned how to ask.
That first lesson remains one of the most important days of my life. I continued to study the Technique and, with my teachers' help, began to find true relief from my overuse injuries. I continued to get massage and chiropractic work and found a better physical therapist, which helped too. But the Alexander Technique created lasting changes in my movements and habits. Now, I play violin more efficiently and easily than ever. I can once again do the work I love without pain. I walk, run, and climb better, and I even stand two inches taller! Moreover, the Technique is a tool for life. I have improved tools for preparing for a performance, giving a talk, or teaching. I feel more clear, joyful, and purposeful.
So, how does the Alexander Technique work? Here's a quick primer: The most important joint in our body is at the top of the spine, where your head and spine meet. Do you know where that is? Most people don't! Put your fingers in your ears and nod delicately. It's way up there, inside your head, between your ears. That joint only nods. When the head and spine are in a fluid, easy relationship, this joint moves nicely and our movements are well coordinated. However, when we interfere between head and spine--and, over a lifetime, many of us do for various reasons--stiffness and stress can result. Like the spring, we become compressed. The Alexander Technique is a simple, yet powerful, tool for decompressing, allowing your spine to regain its natural shape and your limbs to move more freely. The Technique is how you ask to coordinate, so your system can inhibit old patterns and move in a new way. By restoring this natural coordination, all movements become more fluid and easy.