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  • Writer's pictureRuth Hull

The Alexander Technique

About three weeks ago I slipped and hurt my back. It was so sore that I couldn't sleep that night and couldn't sit comfortably on a chair the next day. So I took some remedies and also practised the Alexander Position for 20 minutes three times a day for the next few days. Within a few days my back was better :)

Don't let the word "practise" put you off the Alexander Technique because by "practise" I mean lying on the floor, doing absolutely nothing and just relaxing!

This unique technique was developed in the 19th Century by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor and teacher. He was struggling with chronic voice problems but couldn't find any solution. So he started experimenting with the positioning of his neck, shoulder and spine because he believed this was crucial to good health (Audette and Bailey, 2007). He then went on to develop a very gentle therapy that slowly re-educates the mind and body on how to most efficiently use the muscles.

"If you change the way your head, neck and back move, then all other movements in your body can improve. Thus it can help every area of sport technique, from running style to golf swing or tennis serve." - Brita Forsstrom

The therapy itself takes many years to learn and practitioners or therapists are referred to as teachers because they help you re-educate your body. If you're struggling with a lot of musculo-skeletal problems then I suggest you find an Alexander Technique teacher near you and dedicate some time to working with them. The easiest way to find a teacher would be to find your country's national association of Alexander Technique teachers.

When I was in my twenties I had a lot of back and neck pain because I have scoliosis. I worked with an Alexander teacher for about ten sessions and the results have been life long. Whenever I start to feel a lot of pain (or when I'm feeling mentally stressed and tense) I lie on the floor in the Alexander Position and although I'm not an Alexander teacher myself, I often recommend my clients do the Alexander Position. It is unbelievably simple and relaxing!

The semi-supine alexander technique
The Alexander Position helps realign your spine and reconnect your body and mind.

What is the Alexander Position and how do you do it?

In the Alexander Position all you need to do is lie on a firm surface, make the adjustments listed below and relax.

  • Lie on your back on a firm surface such as the floor. I usually lie on a carpet or yoga mat on the floor. Don't lie on your bed because that is too soft.

  • Place a book under your head. The thickness of the book will depend on your body, but essentially you want a book under your head to prevent your head from tipping backwards and your neck curving. Your neck and spine should be in alignment.

  • Bend your knees and have both feet resting flat on the floor. In bending your knees your lower back will relax more.

  • Have your feet shoulder width apart.

  • Now rest here for approximately 20 minutes.

You should feel really comfortable in this position. As you're resting try to be aware of the weight of your body on the floor. Allow all parts of your body that are in contact with the floor to become heavy and melt into the floor. My Alexander teacher used to say to me "imagine your muscles are slowly turning into thick honey and let that honey melt right through the floor, down, down, down."

Benefits of the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is different to many therapies in that you don't simply feel better after the treatments, you actually learn how to use your body correctly and so avoid a lot of unnecessary tension and pain. Practising the Alexander Position regularly also helps you relax, unwind, let go and be present. The more you practise it, the better you will feel. And it is so easy!

"Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” - Eckhart Tolle

If you're really struggling with backache, neck pain or other musculo-skeletal pain then subscribe to my blog and you'll get access to my special 'subscribers only' page. Here you'll find a Magnesium Rich Salad Recipe that can help relieve muscular cramps and spasms. You'll also find some tips on how to improve your sleep and once you're sleeping well your body will start healing itself :) Subscribe now at the top or bottom of this page!

The video below is a short introduction to only one of the exercises from the Alexander Technique. If you're interested in taking it further, then please find a registered teacher who can help you.

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