The Alexander technique, the Feldenkrais method and Yoga are disciplines that improve posture, both by increasing awareness of how we use our muscles and by teaching techniques for relaxing them. The Feldenkrais method and Yoga also place great emphasis on good breathing techniques.
The Alexander technique
This technique was devised by Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor whose career was beset by vocal problems. He noticed that, when starting to recite, he tensed his neck muscles, which caused his head to pull back and compress his vocal cords. He realised the importance of correct posture and developed a technique that focuses on correcting damaging habits of posture and movement.
The Alexander technique can bring about numerous health benefits, from relieving back pain to alleviating stress. Alexander technique is usually learned on an individual basis from a teacher, rather than in a class or from a book.
The Feldenkrais method
Developed by the Polish-born Israeli scientist Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-84), this technique is based on a synthesis of Eastern and Western body concepts. Feldenkrais developed an interest in the Eastern martial arts while living in Paris as a young man – he founded the first Judo club in Europe. His technique originated when, suffering from a recurrence of an old football injury, he began to experiment with gentle movements to re-educate the muscles and avoid pain.
In Feldenkrais classes, pupils repeat gentle sequences of movements until they can be achieved smoothly and easily. Pupils are encouraged to develop an awareness of how the movements are achieved and how slight adjustments can promote tension-free posture and movement. The improvements in posture bring improvements in breathing, circulation and general wellbeing.
Hatha Yoga, the form of Yoga that has become popular in the West, focuses largely on stretches or postures (called Asanas) and promotes good posture and breathing. Basic Asanas that encourage good posture include the Mountain, a standing posture which encourages correct alignment of the body; the Lotus, a sitting posture that promotes concentration and good breathing habits; and the Corpse pose, a lying posture that promotes total relaxation.