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The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Alexander Technique – as a form of Health Education

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NICE have just produced new guidelines for Parkinson’s in adults and have continued to include a specific mention of Alexander Technique for people experiencing problems with motor control and balance. This is good news as initially they had sought to remove the reference to Alexander Technique as they thought it was just a form of physiotherapy, which it is not, but it's a mistake that happens all too often.

Fortunately, both STAT, the professional body for Alexander Technique Teachers, to which I belong, and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council were able make submissions to correct the mistake. This sort of mistake regarding classifying the Alexander Technique is very common; it has never been readily classifiable in terms of existing taxonomies, although if it was to fit anywhere it might be within health education, albeit a specialist form of it. This is how Walter Carrington, who was Alexander’s assistant and took over Alexander’s training course, classified it. 

For the Alexander Technique is something you learn, so that you develop constructive conscious control. It is not a treatment, it is a re-education of habits that have built up over the years so that your general functioning improves. You are therefore a pupil when you come for your Alexander lessons, not a patient. You have a responsibility to learn and that might mean that you have to re-learn how to learn. I know I did; prior to my Alexander lessons, whenever I approached trying to learn something, I used far too much muscular tension in the wrong places and this impaired my learning, as well as contributing to making the sciatica that was crippling me at times much worse than it needed to be. 

That sciatica was my reason for first seeking out an Alexander Technique teacher. In this I am like many others who first come for lessons, in that I was seeking help for a specific problem. My teacher did what any good Alexander Technique teacher does and approached the problem indirectly by focusing on my general co-ordination and helping me to establish some sort of use of my self. This allowed me to develop my conscious control so that not only could I inhibit the muscular tension in the wrong places when I was looking to learn, but that I could then move more freely without crippling myself and start to live more normally. In this alone, there was a great gift but there were other gifts which over time have become my reasons for continuing to use Alexander’s technique to further develop my conscious control, most notably in helping me to be more present, more accepting of my self, freer in my movements, more relaxed when with company and more balanced and freer in my thought and action. I could go on but my reasons are all now to do with living a better life, the foundations of which are the fundamental re-education which Alexander’s work provided me with. 

And that fundamental re-education involves putting one’s use first, so that one does not damage or harm oneself even when physically fully engaged. This is at the heart of Alexander’s work when considered as a specialist form of health education. But, it is more than that; it is a way of consistently enhancing performance in all activities and ultimately living a richer, more fulfilled life through having balance and control, all of which are of course are dependent on maintaining the best standard of general functioning that one can. Which is where Alexander work, is incredibly useful and what makes it appropriate to categorise it as a specialist form of health education.

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.

The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.

I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.