Go find a full length mirror. Now turn side-on, have a look at yourself, and say what you see. No, don’t immediately try to stand up as straight as possible, like someone just jammed a pole down your shirt; try and stand the way you actually stand – or slouch, as will most often be the case.
Not great, is it? Most people find that their backs are slightly arched so that their bellies protrude a bit, their heads jut forward from their necks and their spines are generally taking a kicking at both ends. As a species, we don’t seem to have coped especially well with this whole ‘standing erect’ thing that we’ve evolved for ourselves.
The Alexander Technique is a method of teaching yourself to improve your posture – and to keep it that way. Awareness of what our bodies are doing from minute to minute is bizarrely lacking, and the Alexander Technique shows you what your body should be doing and how it feels.
The Alexander Technique is what comes up most often in teaching for public speakers, actors and musicians, because when nerves and stress are unconsciously making you contort your body into scrunched up, uncomfortable postures, you’re not likely to give your best performance.
But more and more the Alexander Technique is being brought into play in the everyday world, a world in which people spend increasing periods of time hunched over their gizmos and their steering wheels, or jammed into crowded Tube carriages in odd positions. The Alexander Technique is starting to become popular for the masses who are becoming aware that the bad posture of everyday life is likely to cause problems later in life.
I did music at university, and a whole lecture ended up being devoted to the Alexander Technique. We were shown how to lie ‘semi-supine’, in a position that encouraged our bodies to rest in attitudes that caused no pressure on our spines and allowed our muscles to release tension. Standing once more, we attempted to ease our spines into the shape formed in this position (physically helped by our teacher’s capable hands when necessary), and most people instantly felt lighter and more relaxed – and an inch or two taller.
The Alexander technique also involves various exercises that help deal with freedom of movement, and return to a better posture after repetitive movements. These vary, though, depending on your lifestyle and what your Alexander teacher thinks will benefit you best. Here are a few suggestions of recommended places in London to book yourself into an Alexander Technique class:
Central London – Mayfair
Tel: 07850 979508
West London – Hammersmith
Tel: 07722 047 576
East London – Canary Wharf, Lewisham
Tel: 020 8690 0801/07940 033728
North London – Islington
Tel: 020 7359 0651
South London – Wandsworth, Battersea
Tel: 07703 219182