What is the Alexander method?
The Alexander technique was founded by an actor, Frederick Mathias Alexander, born in 1869. Alexander believed that motor control improves by integrating mind and body through a conscious awareness of our body’s habitual movement to re-educate or relearn movement patterns. Awareness of one’s movements spatially can lead to a re-alignment of body position improving function. Perhaps it is due to the fact that Alexander was an actor with voice problems that this technique focuses on head, neck and spine positioning to aid physical expression. A focus of treatment is to lengthen, widen, and maintain upright posture of the spine, neck and head.
How can the Alexander method help Parkinson’s?
The Alexander technique works with balance, posture, flexibility and agility of movement. Significant claims for Alexander are not yet scientifically proven. However, many do experience benefits. For many, the Alexander method including integration of the mind and body, the focus of work on our movement habits to establish a more fluid and efficient pattern of movement is very effective. One study of 93 people with Parkinson’s improved on measures of disability and depression compared to a group getting massage or no treatment. Another study in health volunteers found improvements in pulmonary (lung) function tests thought to be due to an improvement in posture and inhibition of ‘slumping’. Taken together, the Alexander technique may be helpful for posture, speech and expression given these findings and the emphasis on postural awareness to aid expression. However, much research still needs to be done to prove the benefits of this technique over other exercise programs.
You must be dedicated and committed to multiple treatments for success. It is important to find an exercise program that is comfortable for you. A class can help keep you motivated and on target with your goals. It is highly recommended that you see your health care provider to diagnose and treat any new symptoms or problems before beginning work with the Alexander technique. It is also safe and helpful to start treatment for movement problems with a physical therapist that can then establish safe guidelines for use with this therapy.
How do I find a Alexander practitioner or class?
Be sure that your instructor is properly trained and that you feel comfortable under their instruction. Talk to your instructor before class so they are aware of your Parkinson’s symptoms. Be sure to discuss problems with balance, restrictions in movement or pain if you are experiencing these problems. The American Society of the Alexander Technique offers a 3-4 year training program that must be completed to become a certified practitioner. Log onto The American Society of the Alexander Technique www.alexandertech.org for more information on this method of movement control and to find a teacher near you.
See the Feldenkrais Method for more information on movement re-education techniques.