Thursday, March 1, 2012

Postural Posting

You've likely never heard of the Alexander technique, or its founder, F.M. Alexander. Alexander was an Austrian man who made his career as a stage actor. Born in 1869, Alexander often performed Shakespearean plays. Unfortunately for Alexander, he often developed voice loss during his performances and was even said to have had chronic laryngitis. Obviously these obstructions would cause an actor - especially one focused on orating - great dismay.

After seeing many doctors and voice therapists and the like, Alexander began to think creatively about his problem. No matter what the doctors told him, his problem kept recurring. He was not ill, nor was he a doctor, which would challenge and make the process of coming up with a solution a task meant for someone thinking outside of the box. Spending many hours in front of the mirror watching himself stand, act and speak as he would during a performance, Alexander finally formed the hypothesis that his posture and other physical factors could be harming him and affecting him in such a way that rendered him speechless.

You can see F.M. Alexander here in a headshot from the 1890s. Going deeper into Alexander's hypothesis, he further believed that the total of one's posture could affect the way air flows up from the lungs and affect, for better or for worse, how one is able to speak. Regardless of how much time and deep thought it took Alexander to come up with a plausible solution, he clearly was onto something. While this technique may not be very well known, even today, it seems that Alexander's technique of adjusting one's posture can be quite beneficial.

The Alexander technique, therefore, requires a trained professional to examine a person (or even animal's) posture in order to provide them the optimal posture for movement and activities. Only lightly placing the hand's on a person/animal, the instructor corrects posture and head movement during a variety of actions to improve the person's overall well-being.While actors and musicians have benefited from the Alexander technique, it is quite popular in equestrian circles, and even for athletes, as better posture has been seen to improve stamina and obviously better breathing practices.

Here's a video to help you better wrap your mind around what an instructor might do during a session. While this off-beat method of improving circulation, breathing and overall physical health might seem insignificant or very random, think about the field and domain from which the idea was developed. First of all, Alexander was no doctor by any means and yet his work has inspired such scientists Fritz Perls, the originator of Gestalt therapy. It almost seems like a combination of an etiquette lesson combined with physical therapy. 

Alexander's determined mind may not have been "Big C" creative to come up with this technique, but with no support from the medical community and no background training, he undoubtedly needed creative inspiration to formulate what has become known as his technique. Relieving the body of necessary tension helped Alexander and has helped many people across many disciplines. Quirky? Maybe. But the technique has inspired many individuals to study it and earn professional certificates in order to help others, many of whom swear by its results.

You can read more here And for everyone's reference, I learned about this technique during a public relations class, where our class client was one of the 10 registered Alexander technique instructors in Illinois.

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