Discover the Posture perfect technique used by actors and performers that can help free your body from pain and tension and can even improve your speaking voice.
We all have body habits that feel right to us – the way we walk, scrunch up our shoulders and even the way we breathe. But these intrinsic patterns and tics may not always be the best way to use our body, and may occasionally be causing us pain. Alexander Technique teaches us how to be aware of our bodies, to observe what we habitually do and ultimately how to function in the best way possible.
The Posture perfect technique is more than a 100 years old
The technique, developed in Australia more than 100 years ago and now taught by 10,000 teachers worldwide, is a method for improving balance and coordination. It has also recently been credited with helping to relieve chronic back pain.
Becoming body aware Michael Shellshear from Sydney Alexander Technique sees students for problems ranging from flat feet, back or neck pain to carpal tunnel. He stresses that the technique isn’t a treatment but really a way of teaching people how to manage pain or recover from an injury by looking at their movement. “With sufferers of chronic pain we’re teaching them how to let go of inappropriate tension in a really profound way without drugs,” says Shellshear.
Clients need to become aware of how they use their bodies
Alexander teachers, who undertake a three-year teaching qualification, ask their clients to become aware of how they use their bodies and teach them how to better understand movement. This can be through something as simple as learning how to get up out of a chair without putting unnecessary tension on your muscles.
“When we use ourselves poorly it may take extra effort to perform a movement. It can result in imbalance, which can mean we will put more twist onto one side and there may be inequalities in the way we distribute our weight. With efficient movement our body weight is distributed very effectively, requiring less effort,” says Shellshear.
The origin of the posture perfect technique
The technique was the brainchild of Tasmanianborn actor, F. Matthias Alexander, after he had recurring breathing trouble on stage and loss of voice. When conventional medicine couldn’t help him, Alexander began observing himself with mirrors while reciting and discovered that as he started to speak he pulled his head back and depressed his larynx.
He realised that if you balance your head slightly forward, delicately on the top of the spine, the muscles tone themselves and the spine gains some elasticity.
Once people are better coordinated, there is a flow-on effect for the whole body, says Shellshear. “As people change the level of muscle tension that they need to complete simple activities, less effort is used and pressure comes off the whole body.”
The actors’ way Although the technique is used by people from all walks of life, it is particularly popular with professions that use their bodies, such as actors, dancers, musicians and professional athletes. It is taught in acting schools around the world, including the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney (NIDA). Mary Cerny, an Alexander
Technique teacher at NIDA, says the actors gain a sense of kinship with Alexander. “What I find with actors a lot is that their legs are really fixed and held onto and that stops them getting full resonance in their voice. Once they open up their head right down to the floor, then things really start changing with their speaking,”
“One of the powerful benefits of the technique is that you don’t try to stop doing the habit, but actually change how you’re using your whole self and you really bring the body back into its aliveness.”