Many years ago I was introduced to the Alexander Technique for tendinitis of the knee, but I learned that it had actually been developed by an actor who had asthma and kept losing his voice when he would project during performances. His name was Frederick Matthias Alexander and he was an Australian man (1869-1955). At that time, and even now, when one strains one's vocal chords a doctor will recommend not speaking for a period of time to allow them to heal. Alexander would take the doctor's advice and say nothing for a month, only to have his voice die out again once he started performing.
He decided to take it upon himself to figure out what he was doing wrong to cause his voice to be strained. Setting up mirrors all around a room, he began to practice performing and noticed he would push his head forward in order to project his voice. It was this misuse that took his neck out of alignment during periods of strain that seemed to him to be the cause of his vocal tension. He also noticed that when his head went forward the rest of his body went out of alignment as well causing strain throughout.
He developed the principle to keep the head "forward and up" which means that it should float at the top of the spine at the first vertebrae and in fact all movement should begin from that point, rather than leading with the chest or hips as many of us do, especially when we are in a hurry. I literally learned how to get in and out of a chair, stand and walk popping my heals up to release the knees forward, use my legs without straining my hips and back and even walk to one end of a room and turn around without straining the knees or ankles. I learned how to lift items off the floor in using the monkey pose with feet neutral and in a lunge position.
I took lessons for several months and my entire posture changed. Besides knee pain, I also had irritating, lower back pain from being sway backed and wearing high heels and that was cured too. I learned how to identify my misuse, and correct it. There is a good deal of conscious effort that goes into this technique before it becomes second nature and I continued my lessons once a month for about two years even after my knee no longer hurt because I felt this technique was so incredibly valuable. I have never had tendinitis since and that was over 20 years ago.
I have also never lost my voice and my entire career revolves around public speaking often without a microphone. For the first 15 years of teaching fitness classes, I averaged 10 per week. In the last 13 years of teaching fitness classes full time, I have averaged 22 classes per week. When I am not teaching fitness, I am lecturing in the classroom or on weekends at Orientations and conferences. I am constantly using my voice and thanks to learning the Alexander Technique over two decades ago, my voice has remained smooth. I am so grateful for the tip I received from a friend to try it out. I have truly benefitted from it.
If anyone would like more information, just do a search on "Alexander Technique." You never know, there may be a teacher in your area. At the very least, there are books and recordings of the principles. My teachers were Sherry and Bruce Oliver of California and they had a school and offered a two year progam that trained people to teach the technique.
Written by master instructor Sabrina Fairchild for community.spinning.com blog on 3/25/2011
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