What is Alexander Technique
“Change involves carrying out an activity against the habits of life…”
Life is a process of continual change and yet our responses to it are often bound by unconscious habitual behavior. The Alexander Technique teaches us to unlearn these unconscious responses developed in early childhood. It is a powerful method of dealing with physical and mental stress and of encouraging personal growth. It offers insights into how we function, as well as a method of allowing changes to happen, moving towards a free and more balanced expression of the whole self.
Alexander found that we all share common habits of “misuse”. Our use affects our functioning. The way in which we do things in our daily lives is central to the Alexander Technique. By learning to change how we do things we fundamentally effect every aspect of our experience. When you come to an Alexander Technique lesson with a particular physical problem, I will not focus on that problem, but rather what you are doing, in your use, to cause the problem. We will be primarily interested in observing whats going wrong rather than trying to get it right, and also how you react to different situations. I will encourage you to take responsibility for improving your own use. As you start to recognize that something you are doing may be causing your problems, you realize it is your choice to learn how to alter that situation. Basic principles we we will work on in the course of your Alexander Technique lessons include: observing your whole self and getting to know your habits in many aspects including sitting, walking, breathing and talking.
F.M. Alexander’s Findings
F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) started his self observation using mirrors while speaking. He saw that he pulled his head back and down, and sucked in air causing the throat area to be depressed. He raised his chest, narrowed his back and tightened his legs feet and toes which interfered with his balance. After working with many people over the years, he came to realize that it was these patterns of misuse, which formed the primary misuse from which all other misuses followed. He practiced stopping these patterns of misuse in the hope that secondary misuses could be prevented. Relying solely on his feelings proved to be undependable, and the power of his habit and lack of conscious control had great influence on his movements. His solution was to replace this tightening and uncoordinated pattern by a relationship of the head neck and back which allowed the spine to lengthen and the back to widen. This would bring about an overal improvement in the use of the self which would result in an improvement in overall functioning. Instead of trying to do it right he decided to give all his attention to stopping doing it wrong. This emphasizes the process of changing rather than the results. Alexander called this paying attention to the means wherby rather than endgaining. Instead of trying to do the right thing, he tried thinking the right thing and doing nothing. Here he recognized the inseperable nature of body and mind, or in his words, a psycho-physical unity. He described this thinking as giving directions to his nervous system. When he wanted to react to a stimulus, he decided not to, so as not to stimulate the old wrong use, and he called this inhibition. His main concern was how he performed an activity and not about having accomplished the activity. It was possible to move from an instinctual habitual response, to one that was under conscious control and direction.
Alexander Technique Lessons
During Alexander lessons, we become aware of how we misuse ourselves and allow a new improved use of ourselves to develop. On average a minimum of 20-30 lessons is needed to be able to maintain a level of good use independently from a teacher. The purpose of the work is to bring about improvement in the primary control. What you experience during a course of Alexander lessons varies. Though the touch of my hands is very subtle, your nervous system will be assimilating new information and changes will occur on deeper levels. I inhibit and give directions with my mind, and these signals are transmitted through my hands. I will guide you through movement that does not interfere with my or your primary control. Through self observation, you’ll find yourself in a process of developing self awareness, getting to know yourself in a new and different way. I will help you discover your habitual patterns of misuse, and give you an experience of functioning without them. I will teach you to inhibit interferences that are causing misuses and redirect a new improved use. As your body gets used to the changes your new use will begin to feel more familiar. Your sensory information will be more reliable and good use will begin to feel familiar and right. You will be able to rely on your senses once again and allow reasoning and feeling to work together in harmony.
My Experience with Alexander Technique
At age eleven, I was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis. Due to my young age and severity of my double curvature, the doctor’s advice was surgery. I was told that my scoliosis would progressively worsen with age, participating in sports would be difficult, surpression of my inner organs would continue and pregnancy and birth would be most difficult if not completely out of the question. As my father was against surgery, my parents looked into different forms of treatment, resulting in my wearing a brace until the age of 18 accompanied by physical therapy to continue strengthening my back musculature. The idea was that the brace would stabilize my curvature during my growing years so that it wouldn’t worsen. There was no perspective of improvement. This option was dramatic for me as a young girl. I was extremely self conscious about the way I looked and moved wearing a brace. I felt handicapped and isolated. For as long as I can remember, I always suffered from back pain. I started playing the piano at age four and practicing long hours without support of my back was a daily routine. “Luckily”, I didn’t know any better. As the years went on, my condition stayed stable. At the same time, my brace did all the work, so there was no consciousness about how to use my body. As the brace numbed my whole torso, there was absolutely no awareness or feeling. I remember the feeling of physical and mental freedom I experienced the day I didn’t have to wear a brace anymore. I had to learn to move and feel freely in a way I was never able to do before.
During my graduate piano studies in Germany, I was advised to take a few lessons in the Alexander Technique to help improve my playing. At that time, I’d never heard about the technique nor did I have any expectations. My one wish was to improve my piano playing. Little did I know how greatly the technique would influence my future on all levels. Over the years while establishing myself in The Netherlands, the technique continued to occupy the main part of my thoughts. After the birth of my second child, it was time to re-establish my relationship with the technique. I started taking private lessons again in preparation to do the Alexander Technique teachers education in Amstelveen, The Netherlands. I learned that the technique was just a very normal part of daily life. I didn’t have to change my profession or give up anything in order to really understand it. I could use it in activity and thought. It is a way of life. After the birth of my third child, I started studying the Alexander Technique. When I started my Alexander lessons at the conservatory, I saw it as a tool that would help me to improve certain skills. As time went on, I discovered that there were complex processes leading to change and growth within myself that were indirectly improving all my mental and physical daily activities.
My experience learning the Alexander Technique not only greatly improved my back pain and piano playing. Through working on myself, I have developed a great sensitivity for my immediate surroundings and the world as a whole. I have learned to accept differences in people, cultures and religions and realize that it is in our diffences that we’re equal. What will integrate our society is to go forward upon difference rather than conformity. The caring of the self acknowledges that it’s unit is the individual, therefore if you disregard anyone in a group of any sort, you’re excercising an untrue unrealistic vision leading towards separation. Good use of the self is a requirement for a civilized society. This is where the Alexander Technique can be of great importance and influence.
Presently, I’m living in the Netherlands, am a proud mother of four children, concert pianist and certified teacher of both Piano Performance and the Alexander Technique. Over the years I have focused my alexander teaching on music, sport, horse riding, pregnancy, scoliosis, trauma and addiction recovery.
Alexander Technique for Musicians
Making music is a complex coordination of mind and body. Sitting, standing, holding an instrument, managing breath and stress levels, adjusting to subtleties within an ensemble and hard working. The Alexander Technique is an approach to movement that helps you meet these high demands, reduce tension, nervousness and pain. It can be used to prevent or recover from injury, headaches and repetitive strain. It can promote endurance and help you access higher energy levels and expression. The Alexander Technique is a means to finding inner balance so that music can flow without effort. Today it is taught and used in many prestigious institutions, festivals, and orchetras world wide and has helped musicians of every kind.
An Alexander Technique lesson allows you to observe how you interact with your chosen instrument and style. It combines three skills: 1) body awareness, 2) ability to undo excess tension and 3) the use of thought rather than muscular tension to encourage more efficient movement. The teacher promotes these skills with a unique touch that stimulates awareness, muscular release and the body’s ability to find it’s own balance. Her role is to re-awaken one’s natural support system through touch, observation and coaching in specific skills that will help you to promote freedom in all of life’s daily activities.
Once you learn more about the body’s logic you have a new lens through which to view how it can work best in a variety of situations. The Alexander Technique is a way to regain poise and clear the system for fuller expression to keep your body free and comfortable.
Alexander Technique for Sportsmen
In practicing sports, we tend to use more effort than necessary, the result being muscle tension that we’re often unaware of. The Alexander Technique is simply about learning how to lessen undue muscle tension. It’s about cultivating an alignment of one’s head, neck and spine that has characteristics of ease, control and coordination, known in Alexander terms as Primary Control. It takes practice to be able to think about more than one thing at a time. The Alexander Technique teaches us to pause in the midst of any activity in order to assess our level of muscle tension and lessen it. These moments of pause, called inhibition, become almost instantaneous with practice, and can be carried out without interrupting the activity. The Alexander Technique is now being increasingly adopted by recreational and competitive sports people. Athletes involved in running, dressage, swimming, cross-country skiing and hammer-throwing recognize the benefits that come with training in the Alexander Technique: 1) General fitness – how to avoid wasting energy, 2) technique – ensuring that you’re actually doing what you think you’re doing, 3) avoidance and recovery from injury – not using your body in a way which imposes unnecessary stresses on joints or other tissue.
Discovering that not trying so hard can mean moving further, faster and with less effort comes as a pleasant surprise to many people. The Alexander Technique gives us some simple ground rules through which we can observe ourselves, in order to achieve a gradual general improvement in poise and coordination, as well as reducing the risk of injury.
Alexander Technique for Horseriding
A Rider’s crookedness, unevenness, tension, lack of balance, co-ordination, lack of ease or suppleness is often the source of a horse’s unrest. Suprisingly, our every day things we do effect our horseriding skills. Stress, strain, tension and poor postural awareness affect the ease with which we move. Stress filled lives plus bad furniture design contribute to many painful problems. The way we sit, stand, turn and pick up things is so deeply ingrained and taken for granted, that when put right, it will feel wrong. The Alexander Technique can help the rider develop suppleness, co-ordination, correct muscle tone, stability and sensitivity. These are the foundations of good balance and control needed before a good relationship can be established between a rider and his horse.
In an Alexander lesson, a teacher uses gentle guiding hands as you sit, stand and walk which helps you to become aware of your habits of tension and how they interfere with your movement, coordination and posture. Paying attention to the balance of the head and it’s relationship to our neck and back is our main focus. Working also, in a saddle on a wooden horse, is a way of exploring your position with guidance from a teacher to help you release out of tension without the complications of a moving horse. The aim is for riders to have an increased awareness of how to work on themselves so they can manage to change their own difficulties with greater efficiency. The Alexander Technique can be particularly useful for: 1) Riders wanting to improve their balance and have a clearer communication with their horse. 2) Riders who suffer from pain due to injury or tension. 3) Instructors wishing to improve their knowledge and understanding of positions and application of aids. 4) Dressage riders. 5) Riders starting again after a gap wanting confidence and suppleness. 6) Riders who care about the horse’s well-being. 7) Someone riding for the first time.
Alexander Technique for Pregnancy/Child Birth
Many of the health problems brought on by childbearing can be traced back to faulty posture and poor patterns of body use developing over previous years. Using the Alexander Technique during pregnancy allows you to become more aware of your faulty patterns of body use, and how to undo them. You will be encouraged to give more attention to how you perform simple daily tasks as well as more complex activities. Through developing more sensitivity in your body, you can adapt more effectively to change which is of special importance during pregnancy and birth itself. The Alexander Technique gives you more control over the reactions to the pain of contractions and helps you not to interfere with the powerful force of child labour, therefore promoting natural child birth and reducing the need for medical intervention. The Alexander Technique can also be of great help in the early months after birth and help to cope with the demands of feeding, lifting and carrying your baby and the extra chores that having children inevitably brings. The Alexander Technique has the practical knowledge of how we move and coordinate ourselves and respond to stress which enables women to give birth in the easiest and most natural way. Preparation for birth is largely about learning to cooperate with what is, in essence, a powerful involuntary process. This allows being able to exercise what Alexander calls conscious control in order to prevent ourselves from falling back into habitual ways of dealing with stressful situations - especially pain - by increasing tension. The better your body use and stress management skills, the easier you will find it to give birth with confidence. The Alexander Technique has a clear vision of the whole person, and it is an approach based on not dealing with symptoms as much as seeking to improve functioning as a whole. It is concerned with how we respond to stress and offers practical knowledge for living life in the moment. It provides a model of how we coordinate ourselves and how different body parts relate to each other, and shows how mind and body are interconnected.
Alexander Technique for Scoliosis
The spine has four curves which are natural and healthy for us as upright beings. The natural curves of the spine curve from front to back and back to front. Some people’s spines also curve side to side, which is called Scoliosis. A variety of factors may contribute to Scoliosis, including spinal deformities, genetic conditions or one leg being longer that the other. Around 80% of cases of Scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause. In addition to Scoliosis affecting the spine, it also affects the ribcage, hips and legs. People with Scoliosis often stiffen to hold themselves up or collapse and sink down into the lateral curve. They are often fidgety, uncomfortable, and have trouble sitting or standing in one spot for even short periods of time. A person who was treated with a brace or surgery may have developed harmful habits in relation to the treatment. The Alexander Technique can help a person with Scoliosis stop the habit of stiffening to stabilize themselves and instead allow their deep postural support muscles to do the work of holding them up. They may still maintain the structural curve, but can undo the unnecessary tensions and collapse around it, resulting in being able to comfortably maintain upright posture, feel more relaxed, and breathe with less effort. The Scoliosis will also likely look less noticable. The Alexander Technique can bring ones attention to ways in which they may be habitually pulling to one side or compressing themselves, which could be contributing to the onset or worstening of a lateral curve. The person can become aware of these habits and learn how to release up through the curve rather than compressing it down further.
For people being treated with a brace, through Alexander Technique lessons the person can recognize that they may be developing poor breathing habits while wearing the brace. Lessons can help them learn to allow fuller, more expansive, natural breathing when the brace is off. They can also learn how to maximize their breathing while wearing their brace, by allowing for as much expansion of the ribcage and abdomen as possible. It helps the person to become more aware of their body as an integrated, working unit from head to toe, which will help keep the back toned.
Alexander Technique for Trauma
Trauma can take on many forms : a bereavement, divorce, recovering from an injury, accident or surgery, or being overtaken by fear or nerves. Reguardless of the kind of trauma, it usually causes a strong physical reaction within the body. The tensions that are created as a result of a trauma may lead you to an Alexander Technique teacher in order to find some sense of release or comfort. When someone experiences a trauma, the body will tighten. This tightening is actually appropriate in reaction to the trauma, and needs to be respected. A premature “taking away” of these muscular tightenings that present themselves, before the trauma has been fully worked through in the body can be detrimental. Working with Alexander’s principle of inhibition is more effective in this stage. The focus of the teacher is on listening with her hands and her whole being, to the pupil and the multiple stories and messages the pupil’s body may be holding on to. Through this listening, a safe containing environment is created in which the pupil is able to gradually become more present with themselves. This enables relief on all levels to gradually take place naturally and spontaneously. From this place, the pupil is more easily able to gradually allow layers of physical and emotional holding, protecting and reaction to whatever the trauma was/is to dissolve and no longer have such a painful hold on them. The work usually necessitates a slower pacing than in conventional lessons. The process can be invaluable and hugely rewarding, truly allowing the pupil to grow through and out of whatever the traumatic experience has been.
Alexander Technique for Addiction Recovery
Alexander Technique is increasingly being integrated into programs for addiction treatment and relapse prevention, the most common being: substance abuse, sex, relationships (co-dependency), gambling, and food. The Alexander Technique is a practice of awareness to help individuals stop automatic reactions and habits, and learn distress tolerance skills to cope better with stress, emotions, physical discomfort and triggers that lead to addiction. Alexander Technique compliments relapse prevention, cognitive therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and other behavioral health programs such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Chronic daily stress, poor posture and activities such as sitting and using a computer keep our muscles continually tensed causing “fight or flight” responses that release stress hormones into our bodies and brain. Alexander Technique helps us to stop cycles of fight or flight responses through:
Releasing muscle tension and staying more relaxed and expanded in posture and movement.
Changing automatic stress responses and redirecting habitual behavior and thoughts.
Learning better posture, body mechanics and coordination in movements and activities, including standing, sitting, walking and speaking.
The Alexander Technique promotes calmness and keeping muscles more relaxed, helping to reduce stress hormones release which helps reduce or stop trauma, stress and anxiety responses and improves distress tolerance and stress management skills. Alexander Technique differs from other mind/body practices due to a unique teaching method of gentle hands-on guidance and verbal direction provided by the teacher.
Kimberly Dawn Harrison
Dawn… Start with today
06 2013 0290
For information about the prices of lessons, please contact me by telephone or email.
In addition I give lessons at the location of your choice within the the vicinities of Nijmegen and Breda
"My first encounter with the Alexander technique was years ago at a ballet lesson. We were practicing trying to allow a movement to come from a place of nothing, fully relaxed and natural. This awakend my curiosity. In 2016, I had the opportunity to explore the alexander technique through lessons with Kimberly. These complimented my work as a masseur and also my musical hobbies, piano and singing. What I’m learning is in essence very simple: to be in contact with myself in everything I do, in other words, becoming aware of my own core center and my own space in relaxation as well as in activity, whether I’m alone or in communication with others. Physically, this means always looking for a new balance in my posture, and from that point of balance, moving with ease. Working with Kimberly continues to be a great pleasure, due to her involvement, keen observations and sense of humor."
"Horse riding and Alexander Technique… what do they have in common? Much more than you might imagine! Both horse riding and Alexander technique focus mainly on movement. In horse riding, the attention is geared towards finding the most efficient way of moving utilizing the least amount of muscle tension for both rider and horse. A horse is not born to carry humans on their backs. Good horsemanship involves riding that doesn’t limit the horse’s movements in any way. The connection between horse riding and Alexander Technique for me personally is to be found in centered riding. In centered riding the focus is on postural movements of the rider. Kimberly and I worked together to translate what I learned in my Alexander Technique lessons on the ground, to riding on horseback. In addition to my alexander lessons being helpful to my use in my personal development, my students also appreciate this new light and effortless way of moving. They are able to experience riding without muscle pain, stiff neck, back and shoulders. It is invaluable for a rider to see her horse moving efficently and feeling happy!"
Horse motivation Instructor
"I’ve been taking Alexander Technique lessons with Kimberly for just over one year. I am a retired pediatrician and amature violinist. I started my Alexander Technique lessons due to servere postural issues. As time goes on, my posture is slowly improving. My weekly lessons with Kimberly have been an enormous inspiration to me. She is very thorough and patient in her explanations, and is very exact in pin pointing my issues and how to work with them. I’m learning to think more in clear directions as oppsosed to fixed positions. I’m slowly learning to recogize my habitual patterns and where I can use some improvements. Kimberly remains to be of great support in helping me work with the basic principles of the Alexander Technique."
Retired Pediatrician and Amature Violinist
"In my profession as a piano technician, I experienced trouble with my neck and hips over the years. I developed arthritis of the neck combined with bone deformation. The doctor’s advice was that I would have to learn to live with it; take aspirin for the pain, and stay as active as possible. In my search for help on the internet, I came across the Alexander Technique and met Kimberly. She emphasized the importance of getting to know your own body well and learning to detect where there is unnecessary muscle tension. Though my arthritis will never disappear, I’m now able to feel when I tense up unnecessarily and interfere with my postural mechanisms which cause me more pain. Due to the Alexander Technique lessons with Kimberly, I have learned to observe my body more carefully so that I am still able to work. Kimberly is a very trustworthy, kind and calm person to work with. She explains things clearly and allows time for you to develop an awareness of whats happening within your body. In addition, she is a concert pianist which also compliments my profession. As I also take piano lessons with her, I am learning to become more aware of my posture and relax more while playing."
"In The Netherlands, there are not very many Alexander Technique teachers that are also professional musicians themselves. This puts Kimberly in an acceptional position in that she is the only Professional Pianst/Alexander Technique teacher in the country! A quarter of the musicians wanting to follow Alexander lessons at the conservatory in Utrecht are pianists!"
Violinist and Director of the Utrecht Alexander Technique Institute for Musicians
"Kimberly is dedicated, serious and quick learning. I recognized her innate understanding of the basic principles of the Alexander Technique right from the onset of her studies. She was born with the disposition and natural ability to communicate the Technique with others, and has a motivating and inspirational effect on people. She has a deep understanding and respect for how people learn and develop. I have great admiration for her capacities and determination."
Alexander Technique Teacher
"Kimberly is a dedicated and determined woman who very clearly sees the necessity of the Alexander Technique for her own development as a musician and teacher. Her unfailing enthusiasm and curiosity for the work has allowed her to make fundamental changes in her manner of use of herself. She has tremendous insight, clarity of mind and hands-on skills that enable her to communicate her experience and understanding immediately and directly with others. She has experienced the benefits of applying the Technique to her piano playing and her piano students will most definately reap the benefits of the work she continues to do."
Composer - Alexander Technique teacher