Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

A Technique for Better Sitting, Moving and Exercising

Jun 30, 2012 11:38PM ● By Cecile Raynor


When it comes to exercise, the common belief is “No pain, no gain.” As a result, some people do not even attempt to exercise, while others may overdo it and incur injuries that show up later. The Alexander Technique is a type of body-awareness training that teaches people how to move more intelligently in everyday life. When applied to exercise, this method helps people to avoid the pitfalls of misuse or overuse, which can lead to greater problems down the road.

The Alexander Technique is named after F.M. Alexander, an Australian actor who developed the method after suffering debilitating laryngitis. Upon discovering that excess tension in his body and neck was causing the problem, Alexander practiced ways to move and speak with greater ease. He eventually refined his method and began to teach it to others. Today many people turn to the Alexander Technique for relief from back, neck and joint pain when other modalities have failed. The British Medical Journal has gone on record to recommend this approach for addressing back pain.

Most people give no thought to how they sit or move through everyday activities until they get injured. Over time, the improper or inefficient use of muscles and joints can both weaken and strain them. The results can be catastrophic when a single movement suddenly sends someone’s back, neck or joint out of order. An exercise routine or even a seated meditation practice can sometimes do more harm than good if harmful, habitual patterns of body and mind are reinforced in the process.

Students who study the Alexander Technique can unlearn counterproductive physical habits with the help of teachers who offer gentle, hands-on and verbal guidance. The work helps people to free themselves from harmful patterns and realize that their bodies are not necessarily defective, weak or worn out; they are simply showing the signs of wear and tear and improper handling.

Alexander work teaches students how to let the postural muscles support effortless sitting and standing, use gravity for integrated motion by letting postural reflexes do their job and use appropriate muscles to perform specific movements. As a result, people learn to release their joints when bending and be more expansive in movements or poses, rather than muscling their way through them. They also learn to soften the joints on both sides of a muscle for safer stretching.

Cecile Raynor is a certified Alexander Technique teacher and Thai Yoga therapist who holds workshops, classes and private sessions in Brookline Village. For more information, call 617-325-0114 or visit