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View Poll Results: Alexander Technique - friend or foe?
Yes, Alexander Technique is clearly good science. Now I'm going to post some evidence. 1 9.09%
No, Alexander Technique is bunkum and woo. Now I'm going to post some evidence. 2 18.18%
On Planet X "Alexander" is a swear word and you just insulted my mother. 8 72.73%
Voters: 11. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 24th October 2006, 04:29 AM   #1
brettDbass
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Alexander Technique

Having done a little searching for ten minutes I find myself surprised that I didn't find any pieces on debunking of the Alexander Technique.

Checked with skepdic, skeptic report, skeptic.com and did some more general googling but nowt, zip, B-all.

So, seeing as there's no apparent consensus of opinion, what are your thoughts on it?
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Old 24th October 2006, 04:31 AM   #2
Cuddles
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Is there anything wrong with the Alexander technique? Isn't this basically just making sure you have a decent posture instead of slouching around the place? Sounds OK to me, even though I'm a dedicated sloucher myself.
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Old 24th October 2006, 08:39 AM   #3
TobiasTheViking
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I did it for a few years.

As i remember it it was mostly posture. And it did help with my back(though my back still sucks).

If there is anything other than posture in it, i didn't realise it at the time.
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Old 24th October 2006, 08:47 AM   #4
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As I understand it the focus is on improving your approach to life and mind, with postural correction being one part of the bigger process.

I read this some years ago in an "Introduction To" book, which went into the most detail when describing why it's essential to go to an approved tutor to learn, which will cost you money, which will make them money... and then the alarm bells started to ring.
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Old 24th October 2006, 09:15 AM   #5
Miss Anthrope
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Alexander is most often used for Acting

Hi, new gal here, first post. I took the Alexander Technique for acting/performing reasons. It's useful for putting yourself at ease on stage, helping to relax/improve posture as previously stated. I found it useful as a tool to relax during a performance, helping my singing and overall appearance of confidence. I haven't seen any outrageous claims about it, but I wouldn't doubt the dubious and lacking in rational thought might twist it as such. There are people who use flowery, new age language to describe how it "centers" them, et cetera. I guess it depends on how you approach it and buy into any peripheral hooey. I don't see anything mystical in it, nor was it advertised as such. It's just a way to learn relaxing technique.
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Old 24th October 2006, 09:21 AM   #6
tkingdoll
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Originally Posted by Miss Anthrope View Post
Hi, new gal here, first post. I took the Alexander Technique for acting/performing reasons. It's useful for putting yourself at ease on stage, helping to relax/improve posture as previously stated. I found it useful as a tool to relax during a performance, helping my singing and overall appearance of confidence. I haven't seen any outrageous claims about it, but I wouldn't doubt the dubious and lacking in rational thought might twist it as such. There are people who use flowery, new age language to describe how it "centers" them, et cetera. I guess it depends on how you approach it and buy into any peripheral hooey. I don't see anything mystical in it, nor was it advertised as such. It's just a way to learn relaxing technique.
That sounds fair, and like Yoga in that respect. You can do it with the new-age hooey, or you can just do it for the stretching, the result is the same.

One of the best tips I learned from the Alexander Technique is to stand up straight and breathe steadily through the nose when brushing ones teeth - it stops that horrible gagging that some people experience. And it works! Might be psychological, but it costs nothing so hurrah!
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Old 24th October 2006, 09:30 AM   #7
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Useful for musicians, singers, and equestrians as well as actors (Alexander was an actor/reciter who found himself losing his voice - the Technique is the results of his analysis of what he was doing to screw it up and how to stop doing it). If interested, find an instructor who speaks knowledgeably about anatomy and physiology rather on the more nebulous aspects of the work, or somebody claiming to cure arthritis or the common cold.

You can generally get an introductory lesson for free or a nominal charge (adult education workshops are a likely source).
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Old 25th October 2006, 08:26 AM   #8
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Thanks chaps, I think I will look into this further.

Have a smilie, on the house.

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Old 2nd April 2009, 05:00 AM   #9
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The British Medical Journal published research into the Alexander Technique and lower back pain. Being a newby I can't post a link but if you search BMJ and Alexander Technique you should find it easily enough.

I'm studying to teach it and am always looking for reasoned argument on any side. What attracts me to it most are the mental disciplines required to get results in the way we use our bodies because they in themselves appear to be very beneficial in day-to-day decision making/appreciation of life etc.

Rgds,
BDd
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Old 2nd April 2009, 05:18 AM   #10
Professor Yaffle
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Originally Posted by BartiDdu View Post
The British Medical Journal published research into the Alexander Technique and lower back pain. Being a newby I can't post a link but if you search BMJ and Alexander Technique you should find it easily enough.

I'm studying to teach it and am always looking for reasoned argument on any side. What attracts me to it most are the mental disciplines required to get results in the way we use our bodies because they in themselves appear to be very beneficial in day-to-day decision making/appreciation of life etc.

Rgds,
BDd
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/aug19_2/a884
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Old 2nd April 2009, 05:39 AM   #11
Rolfe
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The Alexander technique is always the way to go.

Life is too short for painstakingly unpicking every little knot, slowly and laboriously peeling off the layers of packaging one bit at a time. Who needs a tin full of assorted bits of second-hand string anyway?

One of these in your pocket is your best friend.

http://www.swissknifeshop.co.uk/



















Oh, that wasn't what you meant?

Rolfe.
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Old 2nd April 2009, 05:58 AM   #12
TX50
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I think Rolfe has been at the unmixed wine again.
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Old 6th April 2009, 10:00 AM   #13
BartiDdu
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I'm afraid your response was too cryptic for me, Rolfe, but whether or not it's what you intended I woke up this morning with a possible connection to the Swiss Army Knife as a metaphor. Let's try this one:

The research in the BMJ shows a correlation between Alexander lessons and a lessening of lower back pain. Let's say there's 'an implement' in Alexander's work which is not unreasonable to think works. Then again, what I was saying in my post was about other advantages of doing 'the work' for which I am not able to offer research/empirical evidence. Is the suggestion I might be trying to flog the 'whole knife' when we can only really know that one of the implements works as claimed?
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Old 6th April 2009, 10:15 AM   #14
TX50
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I think Rolfe was referring to the Gordian knot (classical education rules, yeah! )
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Old 6th April 2009, 10:36 AM   #15
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I had to look up what the heck "the Alexander Technique" was. Please post descriptions of these things in OP. I'm listening to the mp3 on the front page of alexandertechnique.com (sign of woo: html from 1995). I even watched the 13 minute video.

They just never actually get around to explaining any actual mechanisms of this technique. UGH I hate that!
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Old 6th April 2009, 10:39 AM   #16
BartiDdu
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Doh! Thanks for that TX. A bit of Wikipedia later and it all makes so much more sense! Maybe I should refer to F. M. Alexander in future

Still, with my (mis)interpretation of the Swiss Army Knife metaphor I think the indication is I need to bring more scepticism to my study. I have to say I'm very impressed with the 'Open Mindedness' video on the JREF front page. I intend to do some reading and studying to improve my critical thinking skills. Mind you, maybe I should look into Greek Mythology too!
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Old 14th April 2009, 12:56 PM   #17
BartiDdu
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Originally Posted by Aerik View Post
I had to look up what the heck "the Alexander Technique" was. Please post descriptions of these things in OP. I'm listening to the mp3 on the front page of alexandertechnique.com (sign of woo: html from 1995). I even watched the 13 minute video.

They just never actually get around to explaining any actual mechanisms of this technique. UGH I hate that!
Hi Aerik,
I had my first AT lesson last May, have started training to teach it since September and have read all four of FM Alexander (1869-1955) 's books - and I've only got a partial (and maybe not woo-free) understanding of how exactly it works! Let's see for the sake of the exercise, and possibly assisting in your questioning, if I can help at all.

To start on solid physiological ground, it is generally accepted that the vast majority of 'signals' or 'commands' that operate our muscles originate from the brain. One branch of Alexandrian thought says if we consider brain activity to be 'thinking' then it is 'thoughts' that activate our muscular contractions.

It is my experience that many of us spend a lot of our lives tensing muscles in a way that is detrimental to our well being. In my case it could be for instance pulling my head back to get out of a chair (neck muscles not having a constructive role to play in getting me to my feet!) or even in lying down, where there is virtually no constructive role for muscles yet we still may be tensing loads.

The Alexander Technique puts forth the hypothesis that we have within us the means to use ourselves better than we generally do, that we have the capacity to learn to bring a lot more conscious control to our everyday activities (to change our 'thinking'). Alexander spent a long time experimenting and teaching himself then decades teaching others, and eventually training teachers.

He and his brother, AR Alexander (1874-1947) developed a way of using hands on people to help them stop doing things in a harmful way and could assist in learning to do things in a more helpful way. The hands-on side of things can seem very woo indeed, especially to a spectator! I still don't understand it - and I won't even start learning to do it for another 15 months. It may help with demystification if I give an example of an Alexander lesson I've had playing my fiddle. When playing, a teacher put her hands on my shoulder in such a way that drew my attention to muscles I was using that not only were not assisting in my playing but were hindering a freer flowing arm conducive to playing well. With her anatomical knowledge she could help me 'experiment' until I managed to 'find the off button' for the unhelpful tension, thus helping me play better and bring more conscious control to my general use. Every time I find ways of 'switching more off', it becomes easier for me on my own to find more to switch off.

There are to me two major benefits. The first is ease of motion and a new joy to physical activities due to an increasing lack of habitual interferences. But the real bonus to me, and as I mentioned in my original post, the larger of the values in this work is that the mental disciplines I'm having to learn in order to have a more conscious constructive control over my body has an immense impact on the rest of my life.

Alexander was an advocate of the mind and of reason. Whilst you will find physiological models in his work that simply don't add up, and what I find to be a cringeworthy interpretation of evolution, I think with time we'll find there is much of value in it to anyone who is inclined to take the first steps on the journey and is prepared to change the way they think!

In no way am I categorically saying it's not woo, and even my head of training for whom I have great respect comes out with some stuff that sets off my alarms! It's why I intend to supplement my Alexander study with a sharpening of my critical thinking skills to lessen the chances of my inadvertently letting some woo in unnoticed!

Thanks for the excuse to write this out. Any comments welcome

BDd

Last edited by BartiDdu; 14th April 2009 at 01:15 PM.
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