Against the grain

questionAlexander discovered a simple skill whereby people can overcome destructive habits and achieve significant health gains and improvement in performance -easily. He also made profound observations about the nature of human behaviour and the interconnectedness of mind and body, the organisation of movement and the quality of human decision making. Some very eminent people-Dewey, Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, Coghill heard what Alexander had to say and in turn supported his observations. Brilliant.

Why isn’t Alexander Technique a household name? Why isn’t Alexander celebrated by the mainstream and why on earth is Alexander Technique the last thing that people think about for dealing with problems? Most of my Alexander colleagues would have shared my experience of seeing many  clients improve their lives dramatically. I’m talking complete management of back and neck pain, abatement of RSI conditions, significant improvement in playing an instrument, rehabilitation from injury and so on, so forth and so much more.

Over at least the last hundred years, Alexander’s technique has been scrutinised by many scientists and medical luminaries. Recently there have been at least three random controlled trials carried out. In each instance, Alexander technique has been demonstrated to be effective, cost efficient and long lasting in its benefit-all without drugs and invasive surgery while working in with the pupils existing treatment. I don’t know of measures that have been used to quantitatively measure improvement in sports people and in musicians, actors and so on (Janet Davies in Australia is currently carrying out a study-results to be published). I do know that Alexander is given some credence in many performance institutions around the world. Do you know of any studies done with musicians or performers? I’d be interested.

So back to my question, why is Alexander technique relegated to the obscure? It’s interesting to me that many people I meet, speak with some respect about Alexander but in reality know nothing at all about it. In my work with companies there appears to be a great deal of respect for Alexander Technique skills and knowledge-especially when I carry out ergonomic assessments and do one-to-one coaching of clients. However, this does not translate into demand (in the marketing sense.) Companies, with a few exceptions, are not saying we should bring in AT teachers to deal with our ergo problem or our manual handling problem. That seems strange given that ergonomic and manual handling injuries are consistently high, expensive and chronic in Australian workforce. Why aren’t they being proactive about this? When they do call us in, the feedback seems to be very positive. Click on my Corporate link to find a download of research carried out by Mirela Mora i Griso from Spain and you will see that some big  European companies are now speaking very positively about AT training for their staff.

Aldous Huxley talked about the difficulty in describing what occurs with AT. He said (with apologies & to paraphrase) that it was a little bit like describing the colour red to a blind person.  I’m not so sure that I buy into that,  given that today there are so many books on AT available-dozens in fact and new ones coming out all the time. Do these books sell well?

Many of my Alexander colleagues are carrying out research and coming up with very interesting findings. In Australia, Michael Gleeson has been looking at AT and changes in the gait of elderly pupils. Janet Davies has been conducting research into impact of AT with classical musicians. Interested to hear more about this one. Nevertheless, I find it curious that my post office sells books on Yoga and Pilates but not a sausage on AT.  Is a mainstream acceptance of AT possible, enviable or necessary?

One of the issues for AT is that, in Australia, there are very few training schools.  I have been involved with both SOFMAS in Melbourne and SATT in Sydney and I can attest to the fact that the cost of training is high and there is next to no government assistance available. Consequently, the number of teachers in Australia is very low. If there was a surge in demand for AT the current teachers wouldn’t be able to cope. Does acceptance mean that vocational demand goes up and funding becomes available? Is that a pathway that is constructive for AT?

Now, from my experience, it is possible to promote an AT business in Australia and get a decent number of people through the door.  This rant isn’t about getting clients it’s about influence.

Given the scope of Alexander’s discoveries, given the continual destructive behavioural loops being played out by world leaders and world communities do you think AT should be more prominently placed within the psyche of the population?