An Introduction to the Alexander Technique

Becoming a master of any instrument doesn’t come without its costs, but it’s not just a question of time and energy –  you can also feel the effects on your body.

Many artists have neck and back pain from holding a heavy instrument for hours at a time. Other musicians may experience weakness in their arms from keeping their handheld instruments elevated throughout practice. Anyone who plays a musical instrument regularly is bound to notice physical effects, especially as they age.

If you or your child are noticing soreness or pain as a result of practice, one way to seek relief is through the Alexander Technique. This decades-old method of producing better posture works by making you more self-aware of your movement and retraining yourself to be kinder to your body. While this technique takes a lot of thought and energy in the beginning, once you’re familiar with it you’ll likely notice you can implement it naturally.

What is the Alexander Technique?

There are lots of ways for musicians to release tension, including massage and chiropractic care. But while those methods seek to offer temporary relief from the tension, the Alexander Technique aims to stop musicians from building it up in the first place.

If you decide to implement the technique into your practice, you will need a teacher who has a master-level understanding of it. The technique has three main objectives:

  1. Teaching you about body awareness
  2. Undoing painful tension that currently exists
  3. Using conscious thought to keep future movements efficient and tension-free

Your teacher will watch you play your instrument, looking for places where your body is keeping tension or movements that promote bad posture. From there, you will be guided through a series of movements that help you use less force to achieve the same positions. Over time, your teacher may be able to simply place their hand on your back or neck to trigger your own awareness, which will encourage you to make a small change.

How Has It Helped Musicians?

The Alexander Technique is used by lots of people, not just musicians.

At least one study from the University of Southampton in 2008 showed the technique has significant promise for helping ease chronic pain. Of the 460 participants, those who got Alexander Technique lessons saw more improvement in their symptoms over time than those who received massage or painkillers.

While studies on the Alexander Technique as it has helped musicians may be limited, plenty of artists swear by the technique. Everyone from violinists to flutists to pianists are likely to notice:

  • Less neck and lower back pain
  • Improved mobility in the lumbar region
  • More awareness of when tension begins to build
  • The ability to tweak movements to loosen muscles
  • Better coordination overall

All of these benefits make it easier to practice for longer without pain. With less attention paid to symptoms, you can focus on perfecting your musical craft.

Is it Right for You?

The Alexander Technique can help with a variety of issues, and you don’t have to be experiencing major muscle tension to find it beneficial. The technique is a great drug-free option for anyone who is concerned that their posture or movements are leading to stiffness and discomfort.

If you think the Alexander Technique could help you or your child feel more comfortable while playing a musical instrument, why not look into your options today? Be sure to find a teacher who is an expert in the methodologies, as they know which specific movements will lead to a pain-free and efficient practice for many years to come.

For more insights into learning music at any age or skill level, visit the California Music Studios blog now.