Technique to help yourselfBy Sharon Cook
June 18, 2008
The daily grind of modern living often takes its toll on our bodies in the form of back ache and neck pain.
But thanks to a Shakespearian actor, the late FM Alexander, there is a technique which can help us re-educate how we handle our bodies.
Sharon Cook spoke to a Reading practitioner of the Alexander Technique and became hooked on the idea.
It does sound hard to believe that simply by learning a different way of sitting you could cure a persistent bad back or scrunched up neck, aching knee or dodgy elbow.
But practitioners and followers of the Alexander Technique believe they have really found a simple yet highly effective way of overcoming a whole host of health problems which far too many of us simply put up with day after day.
Beverley Hall discovered the Alexander Technique some years ago.
“I have been teaching it since 1997. I was attracted to it because of pain,” she laughed. “I had four children in a very short space of time.”
Though her children are now grown-up Beverley reckons many people discover the Alexander Technique simply because they have tried other approaches which have not helped.
So how does the Alexander Technique work?
Actually, it’s very simple – here’s the ‘science’ bit.
It’s a self-help technique, Beverley explained to City Woman, which aims at teaching the individual to undo bad habits, which can lead to pain and discomfort.
“Teachers use verbal instruction and hands-on guidance to help people change their physical habits, what we call their misuse.
“Then gradually people’s movements become more natural again and their movements become easier and freer.
“We almost take people back to the beginning the way you are holding your head, whether you are knotting up your knees or not. It’s about learning how to use ourselves in a much more natural or balanced way
“A lot of musicians use the technique because they get performance-related injuries. A lot of actors use the technique, sportspeople and people with Parkinson’s.
“Three out of four people suffer from some kind of back pain. This is a good way of helping people with back and joint pain.
“It also helps people to become much more aware of how they use themselves and their daily living.”
Beverley adds people often say they are working at a computer all day, but don’t know how to change it. But if you become more aware of one body part in relation to another, your body becomes more efficient.
In fact Alexander Technique teachers are employed right across the country in specialist colleges, drama schools and choirs to work with children to improve their performances.
And drama schools need an Alexander Technique teacher to get their accreditation, which shows how seriously the methods are taken.
Indeed it was the Shakespearian actor Frederick Mathias Alexander, after suffering badly from laryngitis, who pioneered the techniques which are still in use today.
Beverley treats more women than men and will also see children and couples.
“It’s certainly very empowering,” she said.
“It’s about being aware and it means you are thinking about how you do things.
“We often get so busy in our daily lives and the last thing we think about is what we’re doing with our own body. We need to think about how we are using our bodies.”
The Alexander Technique is not viewed as a therapy, but rather a teaching method.
“With the Alexander Technique many aspects of it do feel very relaxing and very nice,” said Beverley.
“But it is a student/pupil scenario and they have to follow the verbal guidance of the teacher. That’s why we call it teaching or re-education rather than a therapy.”
Beverley adds there is no massage involved and there are no yoga-like exercises. She is merely passing on the tools for how to solve your own problems, helping people to achieve their own optimum performance.
Listening to Beverley makes a lot of sense, reckons City Woman.
It is very easy for us all to learn bad posture from other people. For example, said Beverley, if your dad is round shouldered, as a child you might emulate that because you think that is natural.
“As you grow up you can pick up bad habits along the way. Those habits, if carried out on a daily basis, can actually cause bad posture, joint pains and back pain.”
But Beverley, who turned 60 this year, adds that for the experience to work it is very much up to the individual to want to take on board what they learn.
She also adds that leading a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t have to be a disaster if you know how you are using your own body.
“When you buy a cooker you get an instruction manual,” said Beverley.
And she added: “We almost have to learn how our bodies work by copying other people. Some models are very good, some are very poor.”
Having trained for three years to become accredited herself, Beverly is very aware of how her own body functions and she was also drawn to Pilates, which she also teaches.
“But I’m not a scary, wash-board, Lycra-clad kind of person,” she laughed.
If you want to book any treatment with Beverley, who works in Caversham, you can call her on (0118) 946 3460 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website will be up and running soon.
An initial consultation, with treatment, costs £38 for one hour, with follow up appointments at £32 for 40 minutes.
Each programme of treatment is tailored to the individual and Beverley reckons most people are looking at something around five sessions.