My Neck, My Back, My Breath Support is Whack: A Simple Guide to Alexander Technique for Your Desk.

So, what exactly is Alexander Technique?

Developed in the 1890’s and named after its creator, Frederick Matthias Alexander, Alexander Technique is an educational process that attempts to develop the ability to avoid unnecessary muscular tension by retraining physical movement.  Frederick began his journey in an attempt to address his voice loss while working as a Shakespearean Orator (Public Speaker). After doctors found no physical cause, Frederick began practicing his speeches in a mirror and took note of what habits he noticed within himself. He hypothesized that a habitual conditioned pattern (of pulling his head backwards and downwards) needlessly was disrupting the normal working of his total postural, breathing, and vocal processes. Frederick reasoned that he was damaging his instrument while speaking and believed that poor habits in posture and movement damaged spatial self-awareness. He also believed the technique was a mental training technique as well.

Now a days, some proponents of the Alexander Technique observe that it addresses a variety of health conditions related to cumulative physical behaviors. There is evidence suggesting the Alexander Technique is, so far, helpful for long-term back pain, long-term neck pain, and may help people cope with Parkinson’s disease.

How did you find out about this?

At the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where I studied and earned a BFA in Drama, we learned everything you could imagine about the professional acting world and more. However, one of the greatest gifts my classmates and I were given was the rigorous study of Alexander Technique. I was learning how to gain a greater awareness of my body, deepen my breath, and ultimately removing tensions that were restricting my full range of motion, physically and emotionally. Our Alexander studies were lead through classical text in hopes that we would gain the ability to protect our vocal instrument while opening ourselves physically and emotionally to our acting partners. Doing so, the goal became to live moment to moment, doing away with tension and letting our baggage go. This was extremely helpful to deepening the acting work.

Okay…How does this pertain to me?

Waitresses and nurses are on their feet all day and have perpetual back and leg pain. Sitting at a desk from day-to-day may seem less work on your body, but it can have all sorts of long term effects on your body. Your neck and your upper back can be severely affected, as well as causing lower back issues over time, if you don’t take proper care when sitting at the desk. Alexander technique practices can help with alleviating tension and pain as well as avoiding serious issues in the future.

In a smaller more day-to-day sense: Have a big meeting you are nervous about? Disappointed your boss and felt like you couldn’t let it go and can move on through your day? Woke up the next day with kinked neck? All of these tension causing moments can ruin your day, let them go  and float through your day by practicing these simple techniques at your desk! Here is a quick step by step guide to help you:

  1. Preparation
    1. Scoot to the edge of your seat
    2. Plant your feet, making sure they are hip width apart
    3. Find your tripods(the three main pads of your feet, the balls of your feet and your heels)
      1. To do this, find a comfortable middleground by rocking forward on the balls of your feet and back on your heels, noting the sensations of both. Then, rest between the two extremes.
    4. Mouth Breathers Unite:
      1. As annoying as this may be for some people, this is an important piece to deepening your breath
      2. Drop that jaw, get it out of the way, let it go and take a deep breath from your belly button (Diaphragm: The large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity in mammals and is the principal muscle of respiration.)
      3. Take a few deep, slow breaths here, focusing on lengthening that long beautiful spine, dropping your shoulders down your back, and clearing your mind of all the events of the day.
  2. Now that you are relaxed and floating
    1. On an Out breath drop your head from the Bull Vertebra(or the space where the Cervical Spine: Neck Vertebra, meets the Thoracic Spine: Mid Back)
    2. Once here focus on the top of your head lengthening away from shoulders and Bull Vertebra.
    3. While continuing to lengthening through the top of your head and breathing deeply from your belly button, Roll your head over one shoulder.
      1. Make sure your ear is parallel to your shoulder.
      2. Rest and breathe here for around 30 seconds letting gravity increase your stretch
      3. Repeat on the other side by rolling through center.
      4. Once you’ve repeated this step on the other side, roll through the center pausing in the middle (Bull Vertebra) and on an out breath, length up through your spine and allow your head to float off your newly released Neck, Shoulders and Spine.

Ah, I feel wonderful! Now what?

You can repeat these steps throughout the day. These relaxation techniques take practice and should be practiced often in order to find complete relaxation. In the beginning take a lot of time, pay attention to the sensations you feel, what emotions come up during these exercises.  The more you practice, the deeper the relaxation and the easier it will become.


Guest Post by Savannah-Lee Mumford, an SL Fitness Front Desk Associate
Savannah-Lee Mumford is in charge of the Social Media for SL Fitness as well as a front desk associate. Away from the fitness center Savannah-Lee is an actor/comedian and avid Musical Theatre junkie. You can usually catch Savannah-Lee performing sketch and improv at the Peoples Improv Theatre.


This Health & Wellness post is brought to you by SL Fitness at Starrett-Lehigh. For more information on this building amenity and service, visit the Fitness Center information page.