Alexander Technique (method)

September 17, 2007 at 11:56 PM · Is the Alexander Technique worth studying?

Replies (48)

September 18, 2007 at 01:56 AM · Yes.

Buri will be along shortly to answer your questions.

September 18, 2007 at 02:21 AM · Emily:

Great comment !

I am still laughing !

September 18, 2007 at 10:52 PM · Greetings,

I belive AT is one of the most important tools -ever- available for violinists. It often seems to me that most players are so concerne dwith the tools of the trade they cannot belive something that doe s not directly involve a fancy fingering or bowing exericse can influence their playing. Yet those who take the trouble (and high expnse) to learn this life approach can experience a much increased joy in playing and longevity as a performer. Some objective points:

1) Almost every good music institute I know offers courses including one of the sponsors of this site Hah!. Bad news- they tend to be poor quality group sessions.

2) When I first read Basics I had a feeling Simon Fischer did AT. When I read Practice it was blatantly AT derived in many places (in the best sense). So I read the acknowledgements and they icnlude Walter Carrington who died recently but wa sa stduent of FM Alexander and on of the true great masters. I recently read that Mr Fischer studied with him for ten years so there is a guy who really knows his stuff.

3) Other great teachers such a Mr Weilerstein pracitce and use this art in their lessons.



September 18, 2007 at 11:11 PM · That sounds pretty good, Buri, but what is AT?

My wife thinks it's close to Kineseology which she studied in college.

September 18, 2007 at 11:25 PM · Greetings,

Ray, if you search through this list you will find many detialed descriptions of AT, mostly by me. A good web site to check is Barbara Conable.

Its interesting- defining AT is not the same as descrinbign what typically happens in the early stages of learning AT. I have been lucky enough to study AT with at least half a dozen of the top AT teachers in the world and they all define it somewhat differnetly in terms of language. Indeed I wa sonce on a teahcer tainign program with one of the people and she put all the trainees on the spot by demanding them to define it in one or two sentence sas though they were at a party and an interested bystander had just shot a question at them hoping for a short answer. It was amazing how difficult those experienced trainees actually had in coming up with a coherent answer and it really focused their minds on what AT meant to them.

Some brief responses I have heard from great teachers are*

1) Its saving energy.

2) I teach movement. Student: But, we are often exploring though and philosphy in depth in your lessons? Teacher: Yes. Thinking is movement.

3) Its a precursor to any human activity.

4) You can do no better than to line up all FM Alexanders books in a long line and read the titles in order as though they were a paragraph. (Its reads something like ` Mans regaining of his natural inheritance though conscious control blah blah)

A good combination read is any book by Jeremy Chance (my main teacher) and a book by Alcantra on AT you would have to google for as I can@T remeber the title.



September 19, 2007 at 02:43 PM · Thank you, Buri. Had a lesson earlier and it was interesting. I will admit the teacher, Katherine, made some back pain go away for awhile. Since I'm going to try it I'll post how it goes here and what happens.

September 20, 2007 at 04:22 AM · Greetings,

glad you had a good time. I think its quite importnat not to see it in terms of fidning a new position that relieves pain. A true story:

I was at a seminar with a great teacher and one student said

`I belive AT is a fraud. I have been to five differnet AT teachers. I got relief from a lifetime of shoulde rpain in each lesson and then after i got used to the new psoition it came back`

T) Really? How many lessons did you have with each teacher?

S) Just one.

T) well, try to understand that AT is not about fidning a @correct` anything that resolves a problem. It offers you choices and then you take responsibilty for changing everything that is troubling you.

An AT lesson will often offer immediate relief to a specific problem. But, the process is much differnet. The teahcers hands are helping your muscles to remember how they used to be before you became progresisvley more misused from a very young age. There is -no- learning something new takign place. You are making an infomred , concious decision to try using your body in a differnet way and have to be prepared to make mistakes.

To give you another angle, I once had a discussion with a violinoist who had gone to a physiotherpiat who trained olympic athletes. The player contracte dher trapezium muscles while playing and with the aid of a bio feedback machine she learned to contact a differnt set of muscles that blocked this negative action. I talked this over with my AT teacher and he said it was the absolute antethesis of what AT does. An AT teacher would simply use her hands to allow the player to stop misusing her body by payign attention to primary control. The contraction is bypassed. It is not a question of setting up a new habit in conflict with the old. Incidentally, that is what we do when we prescribe a specific exericse to `relax` a surface problem in playing. We are setting up a newer and deepr conflcit between the new and the old which is only vaguaely understood by the player later when they comment `Oh, I used such and such an exercise to release this tension. Of course, under pressure the old habit sometimes comes back. But, I know what to do.....`

What AT does is by pass the original wish that created the problem so you are creating a whole new set of commandsa for actions that do not involve misuse of the body. This is what a child does naturally.

sO, At goes to realky deep levels once you get past the basics which will probaly involve learning about the primary control through simple actions such as standing and sitting.



September 20, 2007 at 12:29 AM · This is an analogy I gave to my AT teacher (as my initial understanding of it)after we had worked together for a few months: AT is about dealing with abuse. If a person is to come out of an abusive situation, one of the most crucial things for her to learn is what’s like to live in a non-abusive and nurturing situation; what’s like to be healthy and to be loved by someone very close to her. Abuse victims will not be able to escape the abusive pattern they live with unless they know the other side of the world, so to speak. AT initially offers our body just that – what’s like to not misuse/abuse our body. Of course, to be healed or recovered from abuse, it’s not enough to have one taste of healthy loving situation. I think Buri’s story supports the point that it’ll be a lengthy process involving a lot of work and efforts for us to finally learn how to use our body correctly as a matter of habit. Although I’m not a psychologist and know very little about helping the victims of abuse, I’ll stick with this analogy.

September 20, 2007 at 12:55 AM · Greetings,

that`s an interesting analogy Yixi.

One small thing that may be important. AT teacher`s do stress a greta deal (usually) that one is not learning anything new or new habits. It is this very subtle distinction between learning a new skill (yoga, Pilates, playing the violin) and unlearning which is fundamentla in separating AT form anything else one can study. It relaly is unique in this regard. It can be quite a struggle to get into the habit of stopping and not doing at all the choice points of our daily life.



September 20, 2007 at 01:03 AM · Buri, another analogy I'm sure you won't like is AT is philosophy -- the good kind of philosophy that goes beyond its language but right into insights and hard hard work of one's head and intuition. It's okay we don't agree on this but I know I'm on to something here:)

September 20, 2007 at 06:25 AM · Greetings,

It`s true AT can become very philosophical depending on the person and how far they want to go, although I would be careful not to confuse your elegant concepts of philosophy with the PHil 101 taught at would love my main teacher here in Japan- Jeremy Chance. He pokes fun at himself a lot for becoming to wordy and thinking, often recounting tales of his teacher cutting him off abruptly and curtly telling him to get back to what it is really all about: `feel ease in the neck so the head goes forward and up and the back widens.` Past a certain level @foward and up` -can- become a very complex issue.

I have a sneaking suspicion you might be trapped in your head though ;)



September 20, 2007 at 11:18 AM · My daughter had about 8 months of AT lessons before she went off to college, and plans to have "refreshers" when she returns home for holidays. She found it very helpful in terms of providing a foundation from which to play, free of habits and physical tendencies built up over the years -- not as a violinist but just as a person -- that interfered with her playing.

I think Buri hit upon a very important distinction in that AT is not about imposing a new set of habits but instead seeks to help one's body find its relaxed default position. One of the things I looked forward to observing each lesson was watching my daughter grow taller before my eyes. It's striking the extent to which we go through life all bound up.

September 20, 2007 at 10:41 PM · Greetings,

thanks for your comments Peter. It is truly amazing how `imprisoned` the majority of people are. One of my favorite AT teachers is a Swiss lady called Rose Marie. I attended one of her teacher training seminars where she was showing how careful one has ot be in freeing people. In her case she was a person of such warmth and compassion she could go a lot further than most pros in releasing the energy flow ion the spine. The result was on ocassion an earthshattering experience for some (realising what it meant to be free and how much ha dbeen missing combined with a great wave of ebenrgy) such that they cried or even screamed. Rose Marie would always know exactly when to step in and give them a big hug and support them through their fear to the other other side. However, that is not the norm by any means and it takes a really experienced teacher to do that safely, if at all.

My first lesson with her I walked into the room and she just put her hand over my heart and said `I don`t know what you are carrying, but you have got to let it go. Not only did I cry at that point (always good to with people you live on different continents to) but at another stage in the lesson she triggered such a shift that a tree I wa slooking at jumped sideways about one meter. Made me think of the matrix. I have had similar experiences in body work where the healer appears to jump in the air when actually a perceptual shift has occured.

Fortrunatley regular lessons are more low key... but the tallness thing is interesitng. I used to visit a Japanese sensei a couple of times a month for a few years and -every time- I came home, becuase I wa sabout two cms taller, I banged my head on the door frame. Some people say this is why I come across as brain damaged most of the time,



Incidentally, the conept of adressing the wish rather than creating adversial habits is discussed in great depth in `Indirect Procedures` which is one of the most clearly musicain oriented AT books

September 21, 2007 at 11:53 PM · "I have a sneaking suspicion you might be trapped in your head though ;)" Absolutely not! :Q ... Hey wait a minute, Buri, wasn’t it you who said there's no mind and body differentiation in AT? To me the head/mind is the body so if I’m trapped in my head/mind then I’m trapped in my body. How else can I be alive as a mortal being?

September 22, 2007 at 04:39 AM · Greetings,

it`s not so much a question of mind body differnetiation as where you keep your energy to the detriment of the rest of you ;)

An interesting exercise to shift energy down towards the center which is very useful just before a performance is rest the palms of the hands on the fron ring cage and tapwith all you fingers on the sternumn very rapidly and quite solidly. You can move the hands up and down a litlte so that you are ta-pping on the whole height of the rib cage,



(trapped in my little toe)

September 22, 2007 at 05:18 AM · Moving the energy down is a very good advice, but uh... this tapping thing probably is designed for men with flat chests?

September 22, 2007 at 07:40 AM · um, yes. you have to sort of move things around a bit...

September 22, 2007 at 03:54 PM · But if I tap on her chest to ease her butterflies

before a performance I'll get slammed into

the wall.

September 22, 2007 at 07:11 PM · Slamming someone into a wall is an effective way to get rid of butterflies, even if it is socially less than ideal.....

I vote for AT, Tai Chi, Yoga, all good systems of posture and energy management. AT seems to focus on musicians, so it would seem to be the best candidate for prompt results.

March 12, 2008 at 04:43 AM · I’ve dug this old thread out because I think it’s time to revisit this issue. To me, learning AT is somewhat parallel to learning the violin: if I want to see progress, then I have to keep at it and to take regular lessons from a good teacher until I’m really “there”.

The AT teacher I had last year was great. My sciatic pain (triggered by violin playing with too much tense) literally disappeared within two sessions. I was progressing fast and feeling great, but then I reached to something like a plateau. I stopped lessons, got lazy with reading and thinking about it. A few months later, the pain came back and it affected my violin playing and just about everything else.

After having worked with a new AT teacher for two sessions, now the pain is gone again. Am I going to take weekly lessons forever? No, can’t afford it. But I can’t afford not to take lessons either.

What’s your experience?

March 12, 2008 at 04:44 AM · Greetings,

ixi , it wouldn`t surprise me if someone of yuour intelligence and ability could elanr enough within about ten lessons. After that begun to taper off. Once a month, once every two months until anut twice a yera is enough.



March 13, 2008 at 02:05 AM · That’s good to know, thanks Buri. I guess AT is more forgiving than playing the violin in that with AT you can take a break after the initial learning and then go back to it quite easily, for me anyway. Still, it’s like doing scales, the effect maybe subtle most of the time but you just can’t get away with without doing it every day.

By the way, now I’m back reviewing the DVD by Jane Kosminsky and Deborah Caplan and discovering more things, but I think students should be cautioned that, like violin lessons on DVDs, DVD cannot replace teachers but should only be treated as a good supplement to lessons. Without the body learning it through the AT hands, watching the DVD or reading AT books can be really misleading.

March 13, 2008 at 02:11 AM · Yixi,

I'm taking lessons about once a month now and am still making improvement. I started by taking about 20 lessons about biweekly, then tapered off.


March 13, 2008 at 10:06 AM · Alexander Technique often gets considered as a 'treatment' but it is actually educational and it is taught by teachers so we can learn how to look after ourselves and apply the principles of the technique for ourselves. There is no real need for ongoing lessons over years if we actually do use the technique in daily life to help us be more upright, free and expansive. It requires us to think and be aware as much as we can, without it becoming a straight jacket. It's there to help us feel good. You can't get it from a book or DVD; I say this despite having written a book about it myself. You need one-to-one lessons for a while, then maybe refresher sessions periodically should you so need/wish.

I've been using the Alexander Technique for 36 years and been a teacher for 14 years. If you ask me "is it worth it", I'd say it depends on what you want from it. If you want treatment, go to a therapist. If you want to make changes to how you use your body, to make the most of yourself personally, professionally, socially as well as in performance and if you want to have more control over your own life, health and well being, then the answer is yes. A one-off Introductory Alexander Technique session with a qualified teacher will give a better idea of the potential.

March 13, 2008 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

Noel, as usual your wodnerful posts always induce a wry grin from me. What you are sayign is so important.

My main teacher (Jeremy Chance) repeatedly stressed that AT is not tretament or therapy although it frequently w\serves that fucntion indirectly. He told me that AT simply makes one aware of what one is doing in response to a given situation and give sthe body space to do soemthing differnet thatis not harmful. However, the underlying causes may remian if it is too much for the individual organism to deal with at this stage and then treastment of some kind is needed.



March 16, 2008 at 03:38 AM · Thanks Terry and Noël!

Noël, I think I understand why you said AT is not treatment and that one should go to a therapist for treatment. But I do treat AT as a treatment as well as (and probably because of) it’s so educational. It’s a treatment because it does bring very quick positive effect on me. But most importantly, a therapist can make me feel good each time I’ve got a treatment, but that’s not a self-sustainable mechanism, quite unlike AT. What I’m finding most difficulty right now with AT though is that the language thing seems to be so rigid. For instance, it took me a long time to figure out what “up and forward” means, and this is just a beginning. I suspect it probably doesn’t have to be this way.

So Buri, you are Jeremy Chance’s student! His book is one of my favourite AT books, very elegant and practical.

March 16, 2008 at 08:45 PM · I took it in a class and I didn't get a whole lot out of it. If possible, private lessons are probably best.

March 17, 2008 at 06:18 AM · Hard to imagine AT being "taught" in a class. Based on having had about a dozen private lessons (so far, continuing) I've found a lot of the value has been learning to both sense, read, and direct my body (especially muscle states and movements) and applying that to playing the violin. I can't see gaining that knowledge by any other means than at the hands (literally) of a skilled teacher. Highly recommended, by the way.

March 17, 2008 at 06:41 AM · I agree. I’ve been to one of the group classes and found that while it was quite informative as an introduction to AT, I didn’t learn anything remotely close to what I’ve learned in private lessons. Certified AT teachers here often give group lessons at community or university health centres to people who want to try out something new without committing too much financially. One of the AT teachers told me that she used group lessons/workshops to screen students too, as AT is not for everyone. As much as AT experts being strongly against viewing AT as treatment, I think the best way to attract more students would be in centres that dealing with chronic patients, and that it could start with group education.

February 24, 2009 at 09:44 AM ·

is it vital to seek an AT instructor who specializes in musicians if my pain is playing-related?

Also, can someone recommend a good primer on the technique? Michael Gelb's book seems to be highyl rated on, has anyone gone through it?


February 24, 2009 at 10:29 PM ·


absolutely not,. The best lesosns I have had have actually been from dancers but thta`s probably a coinicdence. The tehcnique is not about addressing your violin playing. Its about you learningto use your body well whatever you are doing.  You could just as well be chopping vegetables as a route to understanding. Throuhgh the undertsadning youcan modify your own playing.

The ebst book I have found is actually by Jeremy Chance.   I suspect he might have published again sicne I last bought his workks but he is one of the most progressive and knowledgeable teacher sin the world.  I studied with him here in Japan for a time. AWesome.



February 26, 2009 at 04:32 PM ·

Chiefly on Buri's recommendation (thank you, Buri!) I started lessons in Alexander Technique this year. Initially I planned to write a blog about it on, but that would not have been very interesting:

Lesson 1. Don't get it. Lesson 2. Still don't get it -- and so on.

But after eight lessons I finally get the idea that I'm learning something, or rather unlearning something. I could not have learnt this from a book: a book cannot give you feedback onwhat you are doing, nor can it guide you manually towards balance. Apart from balance, the main thing I'm learning is to leave my body alone :) . And another thing: an accurate image of where things are in the body: the spine, the joint between atlas and head, and the hip joint. Even if I knew, an old body image kept from childhood  still influenced the way I moved.

Sleep has already improved dramatically, and I'm sure violin playing will, in the near future.

February 27, 2009 at 11:52 AM ·

Hi all.

I'd like to know from the experts in AT, what's the difference between 'alternative medicine' and Alexander Technique? I ask because I found it labeled as 'alternative medicine'

Are you aware of some kind of scientific research showing the possitive effects of it, compared of the ones gotten with some kind of placebo effect or other alternative medicines?

Thanks in advance for the information.

February 27, 2009 at 03:07 AM ·


to describe it as an alternative medicine is lumping it indicriminately in with a whole plethora of fields and is very misleading.    I wrote some kind of explanation of AT on this site which you can find in either my blog section or under  Buris studio (silly name).

This was followed up by an explanation from another person on this site who is actually a very experienced AT teacher.

Basically its about using the body well which most of us do not.   For further reading check out the web site of Barbara Conable.   




February 27, 2009 at 12:09 PM ·

Hi Buri, the main arguments for labeling something as alternative medicine is, as quoted from the link in the link (now edited to work properly)....

  • assert claims without supporting experimental evidence;
  • assert claims which contradict experimentally established results;
  • fail to provide an experimental possiblity of reproducible results;
  • violate Occam's Razor, the principle of choosing the simplest explanation when multiple viable explanations are possible;
  • can be accounted for by the fact that for psychological reasons, nearly any treatment will always provide at least some people will temporary pain relief, even if the treatment is totally ineffective. This is known as the placebo effect.

"Practitioners of alternative medicine generally believe in the efficacy of their techniques. In most cases, advocates of these methods have a near-religious certainty in the efficacy of their treatments; skeptics point out that the certainty of advocates is usually in direct proportion to the lack of peer-reviewed documentation"

If Alexander Technique is effective far beyond the placebo effect, shouldn't it be open to peer review? shuldn't the AT teachers be the most interested to promote such kind of exhaustive scientific scrutinity to gain a higher level of recognition by the mainstream scientific community?

February 27, 2009 at 03:27 PM ·

cesar, i have no idea what AT is or does except what i have read here, but to pin AT in the context of traditional vs alternative med may be forcing our hand.    there are many many aspects of our lives that either trad or alternative med can barely explain or cover.    to those that have benefited from AT,,,hey, go for it; better to the liver  than getting bloody drunk i would say!    because i do not fully understand in the contexts that i am familiar with, i accept.   besides, with violin learning, there are just too many similarities to list:  violin hold, bow hold, violin make, etc.  i would like to go up to perlman and ask: based on what study do you keep your bow hand pinkie up in the that? :)

take my word for it that i know the type that does peer review clinical trials, the cornerstone of modern medicine--i have  7 relatives in clinical medicine and a few are stars in their fields.  allow me to share with you that whereas they are high in "knowledge",  the department of wisdom can often be understaffed:)

consequences of physical ailments do not discriminate and have no respect for academic degrees.  one is not aware until one is.

February 27, 2009 at 04:40 PM ·

There are many more complex issues here than there is time (or room) for to respond to on an Internet website. But I think we need to keep in mind a few things:

1. Science is a method - a method of arriving at the best explanation of a phenomenon. We usually call that best explanation "truth" or "reality." Actually, however, any scientific "truth" is ultimately a theory, an hypothesis. We consider it as "truth" until a better explanation comes along (one that explains things better).

2. There is a difference between a theory and a belief.

3. A theory is an hypothesis that is always open to change, based on experiments and other aspects of scientific thinking and reasoning. In that sense, no theory represents the ultimate truth, but rather our best explanation currently, one that we can agree on.

4. A belief is an assumption that we accept as an unquestioned truth. One does not "test" a belief - one relies on that belief to explain the world.

5. There is nothing inherently wrong about having beliefs. If one wants to consider a belief as a scientific theory, however, then that belief has to be open to the kind of skeptical examination, experimentation, and critical logic that compares it to other "explanations" in the spirit of accepting the best explanation. Conversely, if one has a theory that one considers a belief, then one has moved out of the realm of scientific thinking and into the realm of philosophy, religion, related value systems, and other modes of thinking.

6. Occam's Razor (the idea that we always accept the "simpler" explanation) is often confused with Lloyd Morgan's Canon (which states that one should always accept that explanation that is lower down on the psychophysiological developmental level).

7. Therefore, of we consider the Alexander Technique as a scientific theory, it should indeed be open to the kind of intellectual and experiential scrutiny as any other scientific theory. It should also be able to survive the comparison with theories that are not only more "simple" but that involve more basic psychophysiological processes.

8. On the other hand, if we consider the Alexander Technique to be a belief, then all doubt is resolved. Use it in good health.


February 27, 2009 at 04:48 PM ·

sandy is a psychologist and i am a patient.  so i go to see him for consultation for, say, Stradless Syndrome.  we talk.  he sheds light of wisdom. i feel better.

coming home my wife asks: where is the proof that you actually feel better?

February 27, 2009 at 05:04 PM ·

Hi, Al: Yeah, that's what makes a field like mine so interesting. Where's the proof? In the case of my helping you to feel better, the "proof" is experiential and is yours alone, internally (unless you demonstrate some outward signs of, say, less anxiety that your wife observes and interprets the same way you do). Unlike medicine, there is no reliable, standardized, observable lab test or process for operationalizing the concept of "feeling better." I think that's why in areas like psychology or alternative medicine, there is so much room for an almost religious belief in ideas that are placed alongside of traditional scientific theories as if they are equivalent, and then are considered as "valid" in the same way as germ theory is considered valid. Beliefs and theories are apples and oranges. Too often we treat apples as oranges and oranges as apples. For example, creationism is a belief, NOT a theory. Those who want to treat creationism as a legitimate scientific theory have to first give up believing in it and start testing it and looking for better and simpler explanations. That, in effect, is what any scientific experiment does. And, conversely, those who "believe" in Darwin's theory of evolution need to stop believing and start looking for better explanations.
Nice discussion.

February 27, 2009 at 06:07 PM ·

A recent study was recently completed

here is a more complete documentation of the study with a video


February 27, 2009 at 07:17 PM ·

Nice points Al and Sandy.  'one is not aware until one is' - tautologically, yet what's more, eruditely true!

With neuroscience testing and measuring the plasticity of the brain (e.g. through functional MRIs), we are now starting to see the proof in the proverbial pudding.  The realm of subjectivity is starting to become observable and the validity of talking therapies, or in the present context, learning therapies, may already have all the proof they need.  Soon, even the placebo effect may be 'proven', the power of the mind-body to heal itself.

On the flip side, as lay people all we really have is our beliefs, whether we believe the media or books which cite this reference or that experiment, whether we put our trust in our family doctors or the FDA (Health Canada, north of the border), there's no way for us to review, much less validate, the results of scientific method.  We've got only one life to live and it turns out that it's just a big, hopefully long, experiment of one.  Probably best to trust in reliable sources and statistical validity, but at every turn we must choose whom to trust, what to believe.  And even then we're out of luck if we're not riding the middle of the curve.

But to be fair, Cesar, I don't think F. M. Alexander (the founder of AT) nor any of AT's proponents make outlandish claims.  It is a method of self discovery in a long line of such activities (e.g. martial arts, yoga, meditation in the East, weight training, gymnastics, wrestling in the West, more recently, Joseph Pilates,  Moshe Feldenkrais, Eric Franklin; can we add Freud, Adler and Jung to that list Sandy, to close the Cartesian gap?) which may include therapeutic benefits among many others.  Even learning to play the violin may prove therapeutic if you get an ecstatic response to playing a scale well and in tune (sexy scales and whatnot).

There's a lot of information out there, but when push comes to shove I'd rather take the long road to self-discovery and only take a short-cut under the knife as a last resort, i.e. unless acute care is required, which is Western Medicine's forte.  But I've never busted a spleen playing the fiddle, not yet anyways (listening to myself play, however, is always a laughing matter... ;)


February 28, 2009 at 04:48 AM ·


esar, thakns for passing that on. its very interesting. But, accoridng to most of those criteria AT is not an alternative medicine.

  • assert claims without supporting experimental evidence;

Yes, I suppose so in that there is no well known large scale study done according to the criteria we use to define a controlled scientific experiment.

  • assert claims which contradict experimentally established results;

Not true.  Doesn`t contradict any known establsihed results.

  • fail to provide an experimental possiblity of reproducible results;

Not true.  The experiment could easily be set up if the money was available.

  • violate Occam's Razor, the principle of choosing the simplest explanation when multiple viable explanations are possible;

Not true.    AT is definable by how simple and fundamental its basic premise is,  which icnidentally is suported by Cogshills research in the physiology of animals.

  • can be accounted for by the fact that for psychological reasons, nearly any treatment will always provide at least some people will temporary pain relief, even if the treatment is totally ineffective. This is known as the placebo effect.

In geenral not so.    Some very sceptical people have had toally unexpeted results.    Plus my own experience has shown a tangible change after hands on adjustments which has been repeatedly verified by large bodies oflistens and viewers.  Are they all sufferning from a proxy placebo effect?

"Practitioners of alternative medicine generally believe in the efficacy of their techniques. In most cases, advocates of these methods have a near-religious certainty in the efficacy of their treatments; skeptics point out that the certainty of advocates is usually in direct proportion to the lack of peer-reviewed documentation"

Documentation of efficacy of AT is enormous if one equates the consistent results obtained over the last century by clients.  AT practitioners themselves are obliged to come to terms with the fact that it may not work for someone who does not have the necessary willingness to work on themselves independtly of a teacher.

Incidentally,  note that AT is the single most widely taught  technique of body use at muscial insitutes around the world.  Just about all major institutes have a practitioner on the staff.  Julliard,  Royal College,  Academy etc.      Do you honestly think they have all been hoodwinked. 



February 28, 2009 at 07:50 AM ·

Fascinating discussion! A lots an excellent points made by Buri, Al, Sandy, and Jeewon. 

Here is my $0.02:

First of all, Alexander Technique is not any type of medicine and I don’t think F. M. Alexander ever meant it to be medicinal. It is a philosophy, a way of self-examination, a technique for self-improvement, etc, therefore it has significant impact on our health. To call Alexander Technique alternative medicine is like calling health-eating, excursing, drinking plenty water, or playing violin alternative medicine.   
Actually I’m quite familiar with the type of arguments Cesar quoted. They can be cute and even persuasive, but a lot is part of the turf war among various practioners, who frequently ignore the fact that we are living in a complex world that, as Al has beautifully expressed, for the most part is untouchable by even the best science. It’s fun to argue theoretically, but when it comes to health care, science is one thing, access to proper care is entirely another, even costs is not much of an issue to patients living in countries such as Canada. Relying entirely on medical science and its certified practitioners for our health is just as foolish as believing that only strong army can bring the peace to the world, or that there is a single mechanism to save the environment.  Again, I’m not talking about alternative medicine here either. I’m talking about self-care. I’m talking about being smart, proactive and having a good dose of common sense, all of which can be found in AT. 
Kind regards.

February 28, 2009 at 03:41 PM ·

Buri and the rest of AT relatives, FWIW, I only showed a definition found at Webster's dictionary

I showed it from a TOTALLY NEUTRAL POV, it wasn't my opinion at all because I DON'T KNOW AT, and I couldn't give any opinion on something I don't know....

In fact what I looked was for answers and opinions to be anlightened on the subject, precisely because I'm interested on AT and I usually don´t like to jump on something before getting to know about it  not just from links, but also as much inside info as possible (it happened with the Suzuki Method before).

Anyway, after Buri's answer, I´m specially interested on these parts....

>assert claims without supporting experimental evidence;
Yes, I suppose so in that there is no well known large scale study done according to the criteria we use to define a controlled scientific experiment.

>fail to provide an experimental possiblity of reproducible results;
Not true.  The experiment could easily be set up if the money was available.

This make me wonder, ¿why isn't it worthy to set up such experiments? if they could be easily set up?

If there have been scientific experiments like I showed before regarding teaching music (Fujioka et al in Canada).... ¿why money would be an impediment to such scientific research with AT?

¿What would be wrong with AT benefits taking an analog testing that music benefits had (before there was just strong conviction, now each time more scientific research provide strong EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE regarding the benefits of music)?

Thanks in advance for any further info. Best regards.


March 1, 2009 at 03:33 AM ·

cesar,,, it takes money to conduct experiments, and often, the "better" experiments or clinical trials require a considerable sum of money.   in the usa, to have a medicine going through 3 plus stages of clinical trials, without necessarily getting final fda approval, the average cost is about 200 mil dollars.  

the study you were referring to, brain changes with suzuki kids, is of small scale which often is the deciding factor on resources required,  the power of the study, etc.  the other thing to pay attention to is where it is published.

besides, think about individuals with issues that can benefit from AT and compare that with a drug that can modulate a biochemical pathway.   the latter is so much easier to investigate and the former next to impossible to quantify and qualify. 

how come no one wants to spend money validating AT?  well, name someone who has the dispensable income along with the interest to conduct such a AT study.   any multibillionaire who happens to be a AT fanatic?  that may be the best bet, someone like a howard hughs or paul allen.  otherwise, people tend to spend money with the objective to make money.

lumpers tend to lump things together.  to put AT into alternative med to me is understandable.  one time a guy came up to me and asked which part of china was tokyo,,,i told him he was right.

if you believe something is right, AT or tokyo in china, just do it :). 


March 1, 2009 at 06:23 AM ·

Al, I agreed everything you said until reached your last two paragraphs, then I'm lost.  You were kidding, right?

March 1, 2009 at 11:58 AM ·

yes, yixi,  the tokyo china one was a joke, but it happened, knowing me.:)

the other part i think is quite evident in that we tend to put things in either/or catagories out of ignorance or for simplicity sake, instead of viewing them as a spectrum.  black/white, con/lib, prodigies/late bloomers:), etc etc.

forgive me if i am wrong, but i think AT has a very strong psycho-socio-physical component, a mind-body connection, a getting- to- know- self process,  making it difficult to study or generalize under  current scientific regimen .    one way to look at it is that science has not caught up with realms like AT yet.    we have not invented a posture-meter yet:).

even though placebo places a chunky part of up to 30% according to studies when human intervention is concerned,  it is not refutable that people may benefit from postural related self awareness and subsequent establishment of a more healthy routine.     besides chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular issues as a direct result of the modern age,  the other huge symptom-complex under or blinking brightly in the radar is,  you name it: cumulative trauma, occupational ailments,  fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc, etc, etc,,,things that were not present 100 years ago, i speculate.   i think it is highly suggestive that these human sufferings may be addressed by  modalities like  AT.   

March 2, 2009 at 12:43 AM ·


Cesar,  your post came across to me as as fairly neutral seeking of opinion.  I don`t think anyone is offended;)   It wa s intersting that a resource of such accepted stature as Websters should a) make the error of lumping AT  under altenrative medicine and b) be so aggressively biased againt alternative medicines.  I refer in particalr to the references to religion.  It actually made me think that some vested interests might have had a hand in some  of that defintion,  heaven forbid!  Actually I think the same accusation could be levelled at some practitioners and area s of what be default is called mainstream medicine although that is a can of worms you can open on your own.

In the meantime  just a few comments. AT has changed somewhat over the last century in the way it is taught. As Alexander worked there was an absenc e of language and explanation for the reason that words are -always- open to misconstruction and the interpretation is up to the individual.  AT was transmitted by the highly trained hands of a practitioner (still are) through the most simple daily action(s) primarily standing and sitting with the guidence of a teacher.   In those days this approach wa s acceptable I suppose although Alexande r tells a story against himself of how he gave a lesosn to a new client who, as he walked out of the door,  asked belligerently, is that all you do?    AT then, in my opinion,   initially tended to evolve,  especially in Britain, as a somewhat rigid system focused excessively on external aspects and looking right.   I think it might have become somewhat  stuck if it weren`t for a lady who taught my teacher whose second name (Marge something) I forget who attented a now notorious AT conferenc e in Britain decades ago and accused all the rapt particpants of having rods stuck up their arses. Trust an Aussie to speak bluntly.....   She had a very valid point because we now know that one can have very healthy use of the body within a slumped postion ,  although why one would choose to spend a life slumped I don`t know.   Marge also pushed open a whole new avenue of exploration by a very simple concept.  That AT was about sitting and standing and continuing to move (walking) and then further by showing how the intial rather strict and limited range of lesson material could be extended so that  one could do -any- activity in front of an AT teacher and be helped to understand what use of the body and the concepts of endgaining (focusing on the result and not paying attention to the process for superficial short term gain) and inhibition were. (About the only two importnat theoretical apsects of the work).   This promoted  a kind of split in the AT world and at this time the British end tends to be somewhat more traditional but very powerful while America and Australia tends to have more eclectic teachers. I don`t know about Israel which is now one of the most common users of the technique.   

As a result I think AT lessons tend to include a lot more verbal explanation which in my experience includes constant referneces to skeletal models and demonstrations of how the position of the skull and spine affects the body.  That is yawningly mainstream;) 

AT is also very strictly licenced (so much for alternative  medicine doing its own thing) both within governing bodies of respective countries and  also by governments themselves. You cannot take a few lessons and then advertize as a teaacher without getting into deep doo doo.

Personally I have recommended AT to hundreds of people over the years and only one of those has reported back with a bad experience an d that wa s after she had also spoken of a breakthough in the way she was feeling and moving after weeks of scepticism and frustration.  In that case the AT practitioner introduced a healing technique from another field (energy work) that violated her sense of what she felt she wa s paying for as well as intruding into an area of psychological trauma. This is one fo the reasons for the kind of controls placed on AT teachers.  One possible area of weakness is that they can fall prey to the previously refeerred to endgaining and start trying to do too much too soon.   One of the best teacher s I ever had the priviledge of working with used to repeatedly back away from clients even as her hands were obviously changing and freeing them so beautifully before our eyes.  When I  queried this she said it wa sa  question of endginaing IE she was succeeding so fast that she began focusing on the result and not the process.

Incidentally, I was once very badly injured by AT.  I went for some years to very long session with an astonshing teacher living many moons from my house.  One time my then wife accompanied me.  After a couple of hours work this teacher had helped me lwegthen and relax so many muscles I looked and felt so radically diffenret my then wife who had been watching started crying.   We got home late that night ,  I walked through the hallway and nearly knocked my self unconscious while ripping a huge gash in my scalp from one of the roof beams.   I usually cleared that beam by at least two cms. That wa s show much taller I had become for that day.

A final anecdote. I attended a teache rt raining seminar by the above trainer in which she wa s introduging us to putting hands on partners.   In fact on a partners chest.   I wa s paired with an astonishingly beautiful Japanese lady with a very charming chest.  I took the AT teacher aside and said that I did not wish to do the work because it would violate the person in question and that I had a dirty mind anyway (or something to that effect). She replied that if I trusted to what I had learnt about AT it would be fine.    The basic premise is that by being centered on your para/sympatghetic nervous system and use you remain distant from the person from an emotional and sexual perspective. The exercise went without a hitch and at the discusison afterwards the instructtor asked the woman in question if she had felt any s ense of sexual harassment or violation during the exercise.  The shy young woman burts out laughing and said it had nevr even crossed her mind.  Chalk one up to the power of prunes perhaps.

More idle ramblings,



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