The Evening Class;Alexander Technique;Mind and body

Nicki Household

The objects laid out on the teacher's desk include several lengths of string, a pile of paperbacks and a miniature model of a human skeleton. As the class progresses, each of these items comes into its own. We use books to rest our heads on when we lie on the floor (little do the authors know of this ignominious use for their creations), the string demonstrates changes in the alignment of our head, neck and spine when we go from sitting to standing, and the skeleton shows how we shorten our necks and throw our heads back when we stand up.

The Alexander Technique is usually taught one-to-one, as it's a hands-on method in which the teacher monitors the student's posture, helping him or her to implement tiny changes that will eradicate tension. But this five-week introductory class aims to give an understanding of the basic principles, so students can decide if they want to take the method further.

Before being told about Frederick Mathias Alexander and the way he saved his acting career by identifying the bad postural habits that were making him lose his voice, each member of the class is asked why he or she is there. A couple are holistic practitioners who have come to broaden their knowledge, everyone else has neck or back problems. The technique is famous for its benefits to performers, but the only one of these present is Wilfrid the teacher, who's a pianist.

In this first session, the most crucial thing we learn is that good posture is about keeping the head balanced comfortably on the neck and maintaining the natural curves of the spine. To help us get better acquainted with the areas in question, we all say "hello" to our necks by touching them with both hands, and learn to appreciate the autonomy of our heads by gently nodding and rotating them.

Ultimately, we are told, this new-found rapport with our bodies will enhance our internal and external awareness.

Nicki Household

This class took place at Wandsworth Adult College, South Thames College, London SW18 2PP. Tel: 0181 918 7046

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Nicki Household

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