Alexander and Pilates Together
Pilates and the Alexander Technique are two very different ways to improve function by focusing on the body. The Alexander Technique teaches you how to “unlearn” the subtle but habitual movements that cause discomfort, pain or poor performance. Using verbal directions and gentle physical guidance of your head and back, the teacher takes you out of your usual kinesthetic experience—-your sense of what feels like the “right” bodily position. The Alexander Technique is very gentle, yet often profoundly effective, and it’s applicable to everything you do.
In Pilates you learn to exercise in a very precise way, strengthening and stretching your muscles with a particular focus on those around the abdomen and close to the spine. Pilates movements can be customized, making them appropriate for either beginners or people with specific issues.
The small movement habits that change the relationship of your muscles to your bones are present when you exercise just as they are present in all of your other activities. It is likely that you are strengthening them with exercise. Those habits, often involving unintended muscle contraction, can cause discomfort, poor performance, or very real pain. The first thing you may need to learn is not a new exercise, but how not to do the habits, which you’re typically not even aware of. The Alexander Technique actually enables you to change what your nervous system is telling your muscles to do. That’s done by teaching you to change your thought in a very specific way. You learn to inhibit the way you actually begin your movements and also to direct your muscles to move in a healthier pattern with less tension.
As you become more familiar with inhibiting and directing your muscles, you can apply that to Pilates exercises which help you to strengthen them within the new patterns. Those exercises will often help you to become more aware of your habitual patterns. So combining the Alexander Technique with Pilates exercises enables you to change those harmful patterns more easily and quickly. In addition, the Alexander Technique can be effectively applied to any of your activities, not just exercise, yielding additional positive change in how your body functions.
What is right for me?
Students often come wanting to take just Pilates or just the Alexander Technique. When you first arrive I will assess your general movement pattern, find out if you are experiencing discomfort, and ask what you’re hoping to achieve. The exact format of a lesson depends on each student’s wants and needs. It is most likely that we will start with the Alexander Technique, performed while you’re lying down, sitting, standing and doing some of your daily activities, all fully clothed. If you’ve come for Pilates, I may suggest waiting until you’re a little more familiar with the Alexander Technique. It would give us time to re-train those subtle habits a bit, so that when you start strengthening your muscles with Pilates you are doing so in a new beneficial way, rather than reinforcing the old habits.
If you come expecting only Alexander, I might ask to put you on the Pilates machine for just a moment. It lets me give you gentle guidance to help you move in specific ways that enhance your functioning.
Whether you are a boomer experiencing discomfort, a musician wanting better sound, a writer with back pain at the computer, or someone with a very particular condition, I will always use the Alexander principles to teach you. Depending on your situation, we may add Pilates. The two methods are quite different but they’re based on very similar ideas about what our bodies need to function effectively as well as the clear link between mind and body.