Recommended Reading List for Alexander Technique

Many remedial massage and chiropractic clients coming to Melbourne Combined Natural Therapies often ask for book recommendations on the Alexander technique so that they might find out a little more about it before committing to lessons.

Many of the Alexander technique students visiting the Southbank clinic also are keen to read Alexander technique books to support clarify and expand upon their lessons.

You may have spotted a couple of the titles listed below at the clinic already.

Whilst putting together this list I came across this description of the Alexander technique which I thought summed things up quite nicely:

“F. M. Alexander (1869-1955) saw the individual as a whole, and talked not of ‘the body’, but of ‘the self’, not of ‘posture’, but of ‘use’.  The aim of the Alexander Technique is not to teach you to do what is right, but to help you stop doing what is wrong, through a series of practical procedures which awaken your awareness of the way you use yourself and allow you to develop your innate potential.”

  • How to Learn the Alexander Technique – a Manual for Students by B & W Conable

Intended to be read by people from all walks of life in conjunction with Alexander technique lessons, this book introduces the concept of body mapping and creating greater awareness of habits.  It also includes practical sections specific to musicians, actors, singers and dancers.

  • Principles of the Alexander Technique by Jeremy Chance

This introductory guide teaches how to co-ordinate mind and body effectively so that our thinking is clarified and our movements become naturally lighter.  It also includes a chapter on how to practise the technique at home as well as a useful resources section, illustrations and photographs.

  • How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery by Missy Vineyard

Leading Alexander technique teacher Missy Vineyard thoroughly explains and teaches the central skills of the Alexander technique through simple self-experiments, and she offers engaging stories of students in their lessons to show its effective application across a range of disciplines, including the performing arts, athletics, health, psychology, and education.  Vineyard is also the first Alexander technique teacher to draw on cutting-edge research in neuroscience and to synthesize those findings with Alexander’s theories and techniques.

SPECIAL INTEREST:

There are special interest books on the Alexander technique which cover topics such as swimming, running, working out, dance, music, singing and horse riding.  Your Alexander technique teacher is able to look at any activity with you from simple everyday movements to the more specialized.

Take a look at past Alexander technique articles written by Melbourne Alexander technique teacher Cal Savage on the Melbourne Combined Natural Therapies website to read about applying Alexander technique to running, sports performance and yoga.

  • The Art of Swimming by Steven Shaw

Steven Shaw is an English Alexander technique teacher, previously a professional swimmer and founder of the Shaw Method of swimming.  Shaw’s method takes the Alexander technique into the swimming pool – focusing on releasing tension from the head, neck and back.  Shaw has evolved a unique way of breaking down strokes into a series of therapeutic movements, which can be practised individually or with a partner, in a pool or on dry land, which combine to make it possible for anyone to re-craft their strokes in a way that promote good body use and avoid injuries.  This way of swimming not only feels freer and more open; it is graceful and has a sense of flow, often absent from the way many people swim.  Shaw looks at the most popular strokes – front crawl, back stroke, breast stroke and butterfly – focusing on maximum efficiency and minimum strain.

  • The Art of Running by Malcolm Balk

Applied to running, the Alexander technique encourage good body use, greater awareness of the way the body functions and moves, teaches how to release tension and run without risk of injury.   This unique approach radically improves results, both in training and competition and Malcolm Balk, an English Alexander technique teacher explores easy to adopt ideas.

Cal Savage is available to take Alexander technique and running lessons at the Tan track in Melbourne’s CBD to look at applying Alexander technique to your running style.  Phone the clinic in Southbank on 9645 9923 to make an appointment.

  • The Art of Working Out by Malcolm Balk

Although gym membership is on the increase, the way people actually exercise in the gym is rarely correct and frequently causes injury.  I am a regular at Genesis Gym in Southbank and see it only too often – the desired effects are not achieved due to bad technique and many personal trainers have only a couple of months education in correct technique whereas Alexander technique teachers train full-time for 3 years to achieve the skills necessary to make the appropriate and essential changes in use that can last a lifetime.  A gym work out should be pleasurable and fulfilling (and hard work!) but often ends up being frustrating, can cause injury or becomes boring.    By applying the Alexander technique to your exercise regime you can promote coordination, balance, posture, body awareness and efficient body use which all result in greater flexibility, strength and stamina.

Cal Savage is able to work within corporate gyms and residential gyms to teach you how to apply the Alexander technique to your gym routine.  Please phone the Melbourne clinic for more information.

Rebecca Nettl-Fiol and Luc Vanier utilize their ten years of research on developmental movement and dance training in this book to explore basic principles of support and coordination and of how to use the Alexander technique in dance and other activities.  Amply illustrated and supplemented with a DVD that demonstrates the concepts and applications of the Alexander technique, this book will be highly instrumental for dancers, teachers of dance, and anyone interested in giving everyday movements more efficiency, dexterity, and elegance.

  • Indirect Procedures: A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique by Pedro De Alcantara

This book is written by an experienced professional musician and Alexander teacher and a regular visitor to Melbourne. De Alcantara looks at the applications of the Alexander technique to instrumental and vocal technique, sound production, interpretation, daily practice, rehearsal routines, stage fright and common health problems of musicians.

  • Voice and the Alexander Technique by Jane Heirich

In this book, designed for both teachers and students of the speaking and singing voice, Jane Heirich addresses some common problem areas: breath management, voice projection, resonance building, breaks in the vocal range, and the relevance of overall poise to vocal output.  The step-by-step approach through which she takes the reader allows new skills to develop for both beginning and experienced students/performers.

  • Yoga and the Alexander technique by Karyn Chapman and Kate Morris

This comprehensive approach to applying Alexander technique to your yoga practice will assist in regaining strength, flexibility and poise and prevent some of the common mistakes of practice for both beginners and more experienced students. Chapman and Morris’ book is an ideal accompaniment to Alexander technique and yoga lessons.

Cal Savage offers private tuition in applying Alexander technique to your yoga practice at Melbourne Combined Natural Therapies in Southbank.  For more information on how the lessons are run please look for yoga on the Melbourne Combined Natural Therapies website.

  • Pregnancy and Alexander Technique: The Alexander Technique Birth Book: A Guide to Better Pregnancy, Natural Childbirth, and Parenthood by Ilana Machover and Jonathan Drake

This Alexander technique book is designed to explore how applying Alexander technique to all the aspects of childbirth and parenthood can make the process easier on the body, from learning how to use your body well as it changes through each trimester to positions of mechanical advantage during natural birth and beyond this is a very useful book for all expecting parents.

Cal Savage is able to provide private Alexander technique lessons or design a suitable Alexander technique and yoga session which cater to each individual’s specific needs during their pregnancy.  Call the Melbourne clinic on 9645 9923 to make an appointment.

  • Mastering the Art of Wearing High Heels by Chyna Whyne

You may have spotted this one in the clinic and wondered what it’s all about – I love this one; very light hearted and humorous so easy to dip in and out of.  Mastering the Art of Wearing High Heels has 10 hot tips on how to walk sexy in high heels.  Chyna Whyne aims to allow women to become more gentle yet more powerful, more effective and efficient, calmer and wiser, and more stunningly beautiful in high heels.  And it’s all through applying the Alexander technique!

For anyone whom would like a more complicated read(!) and a more science-based text you might like to try the following:

  • Freedom to Change: The Development and Science Of The Alexander Technique by Frank Pierce Jones

Frank Pierce Jones trained with F.M. and A.R. Alexander from 1941-44.  For 25 years Jones conducted original scientific research into the technique using a variety of methods including multiple-image photography (investigating changes in movement patterns), X-ray photography (examining the head-neck relationship) and electromyograms (measuring muscles in different head-neck relationships).  Jones explains some of the underlying mechanisms at work, including how the conscious mind activates anti-gravity reflexes.

  • The Use of the Self by F.M. Alexander

From the words of Alexander himself; you can’t get better than this if you wish to discover the Alexander technique.

The Use of the Self is the last book Alexander wrote and details how he made his discoveries and pioneered a method of improving the “use” of his body musculature in all positions and movements, curing his vocal problems without medical aid.  Anyone having lessons in the Alexander technique will recognise the pitfalls and experiences of Alexander in themselves.

DVDS ON ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE

Learning to Crawl Again      

This DVD will show you how you can learn to swim freestyle with ease and efficiency.  It has been designed to help swimmers of all abilities ranging from those new to front crawl, to experienced swimmers wishing to refine their stroke.  The DVD combines footage of dry land practices, underwater and above water sequences, guiding you through a series of easy-to-follow progressive steps, teaching you to use the legs to achieve the most efficient body orientation, coordinate the arms to generate maximum propulsion without strain and breathe with ease without tensing the neck.

Breast Stroke with Ease

Many back pain sufferers avoid breaststroke out of fear of exacerbating their condition but this film shows how you can swim breaststroke without putting strain on your back or joints and develop a way of swimming breaststroke which strengthens the back, develops a balanced and effective leg action, improves core stability and teaches you to breathe without straining the neck or upper back.

A Shaw Way to Fly – Enjoy Butterfly

This DVD takes the viewer through a series of easy-to-follow progressive steps enabling you to swim butterfly stroke with improved flexibility and mobility of the spine, core stability and allow you to strengthen and broaden the muscles of the back.

FOR CHILDREN:

I only came across these books for the first time the other day and think they are just amazing.  Costin has written this series of 4 illustrated books for junior school teachers and adults to experience with children, which cover some of the principle ideas in Alexander technique; being present; habit; end gaining; the directions.

The Thinking Series by Janette Costin

One story is about discovering you have a choice between being present with yourself and what is going on or not.  Costin encourages simple questioning; when is it more useful to know what is going on with yourself and the larger environment around you?  How can you make choices if your mind is somewhere else?

The second story is about being caught up with habitual worrying and how a new experience can bring about change as well as how changing responses can alter the way a child speaks or stands.  For example, being up and balanced on the feet takes away the heavy feeling about reading in front of the class.

Another story illustrates the way we can stiffen when focusing too intently on the end result.  The child in this story has lost his easy running when thinking only of the finish line.  “End gaining” interferes with his natural use; if you take away the stiffening or tensing it is possible to re-gain a more balanced system.

The last story has a child whom would love to ride a horse but is unsure of moving away from fear and tension and finding support and trust within themselves.  When the child is ready to let go of the fear and to trust the support of his instructor he finds support in many ways; from the saddle, the instructor, the horses back and his own spine, letting the whole system within remain freely active.

The best way to discover more about the Alexander technique is to have a lesson and the only way to learn the Alexander technique is to have a series of lessons.  The books recommended here are an excellent introduction and complement lessons.  To book in with Melbourne Alexander technique teacher Cal Savage in Southbank, call Melbourne Combined Therapies today on 9645 9923. 

 

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