How the Alexander Technique can improve posture and lengthen your look

Photo by Startraks

Q: Is the Alexander Technique a good way to improve posture?

A: Elaine Kopman, certified teacher and founder of the Toronto School of the Alexander Technique says yes, but emphasizes that the practice is “more about poise than posture.”

The aim is to improve the way the whole body is integrated in movement, not simply whether you’re standing straight, says Kopman.

Created by Australian F.M. Alexander in the late 19th century, the discipline is now attracting the likes of Victoria Beckham, who’s keen on avoiding developing the dreaded “slump.”

Beckham’s love of towering high heels likely doesn’t help the cause, but there are plenty of other things we do in our high-fashion lives to interfere with coordinated movement: consider the simple act of sitting. F.M. Alexander argued that when you’re in a chair or couch or seat of a car, your lower back collapses — not a recipe for maintaining strength in our cores.

Don’t confuse this with Pilates, though. The Alexander Technique is more about “changing our set of internal directions between the mind and body,” says Kopman. “People operate in parts, not wholes,” she says. “What the Alexander Technique aims to do is help people recognize the force of their own habits, and bring instinctive [movement] to a conscious plane.”

What that means is first trying to become aware of how we move, and then teaching our minds to tell our bodies to move differently—more efficiently, more comfortably. “You can’t get rid of tension in the body,” says Kopman. “But you can redistribute it.”

And the musicians and dancers attending the class I observed can attest: each said the technique not only improves the way they practice and perform their arts, but has made things as simple as chopping vegetables at the kitchen counter more effortless. Over months of practice, each one of them found random aches and pains in their bodies eventually vanished.

AT is taught in a unique way as well: each student works one-on-one with a certified teacher. (When you’re trying to reset thought patterns that guide individual movement, a group class setting just doesn’t cut it.) As Kopman puts it, “habits reside in our nervous system, not our muscles” — so interrupting the thoughts that keep us shackled to poor habits of movement we’ve developed over a lifetime is nothing your average trip to the gym will help.

As for Beckham, while it’s not likely she’ll give up her stacked heels any time soon, the Alexander Technique may help her ward off some of the wear and tear on her body over time.