Pilates and Alexander: The Men, Their Discoveries, and Their Legacies

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Why the Alexander Technique?
by Carrie Wood

The Alexander Technique (A.T.) can help with your exercise regime.Whether your routine involves Pilates, Tai Chi, cardio or weight training, the A.T. can help to improve the use of the self, thereby increasing the benefits of exercise.

Pilates is excellent for building core strength, but often, Pilates exercises are intended for those who have already developed an advanced use of the body. I highly recommend lessons with a certified teacher of the A.T. before beginning a Pilates program.

I have been teaching fitness for 7 years, a time that has included a personal evolution through Yoga and Pilates certifications. Yoga is fantastic for reducing stress and tension and improving the connection with the breath.Pilates is great for building core (back and abdominal) strength, but neither of these approaches has helped me to improve my overall use of, and connection with my body like the Alexander Technique. The A.T. has helped me to attend to my body in a way that is nearly effortless, at least physically, and therefore non-invasive and nurturing.

I continue to both practice and teach Yoga and Pilates (and other exercises), but the Alexander Technique has changed the way I teach, improving my own use and awareness.When teaching, not only can I demonstrate an exercise more specifically and indirectly, but I can also see and feel the quality with which a client is performing an exercise, improving my ability to deliver specific and constructive feedback. In short, the Alexander Technique has made me a better fitness teacher.

Good Use, Better Shape

I started the A.T. because of recurring wrist and shoulder pain. I had tried Yoga and Pilates, and studied each of them for several years, but with the benefit of hindsight, I realize that my successes were relatively mild.Through A.T., I began to realize that my pain originates in the way I use my body, including when I perform Pilates exercises and Yoga postures. Pilates and Yoga are great for maintaining a general level of fitness, but the use of self, as taught through the AT, helps to avoid the pain and discomfort that most exercise regimes can instigate.

Now entering my second year of consistent Alexander lessons through my teacher training course, I can begin to return to my Pilates or Yoga regimes with a lot more ease and a lot less pain.

Good Alignment through Pilates, Great use through the Alexander Technique

I am now in the second year of a teacher-training program for the A.T. I notice my use of self continues to improve through daily A.T. lessons, and as I begin to put my hands on others while maintaining this use, I try to transfer this knowledge to my Yoga and Pilates instruction. It is fascinating now to put my hands on people and see how their bodies work as a complete unit, as opposed to my previous perspectives, which saw the body as a series of smaller components, like the pelvis, shoulders or abdominals. After encouraging people to attend to the whole, and incorporate this perspective into their exercises, I notice improvements to their entire body alignment and use.

Pilates Habits

It is also revealing to put my hands on a client who has been practicing Pilates for some time. If they have been taught well, they will have a stronger body and better alignment relative to most others, especially when performing an exercise. However, in nearly all cases, Pilates practitioners can still improve the overall functioning of their bodies. Joseph Pilates developed fabulous principles for using the body, notably precision, center and breath. Pilates can also help to correct muscle imbalances and improve posture. Yet, without good use of the self, developed over time with attention and awareness, performing Pilates exercises well can be very difficult. It is important to learn how to do exercises with precision, but it is of more importance to start to bring some of that precision and awareness to ones daily routine and life

As my use improves, performing Pilates exercises involves my whole being in an almost effortless fashion. Perhaps this is how Joseph Pilates meant it to be?

Carrie Wood has devoted her career to understanding the mind/body connection, and to supporting clients who want to live healthy lives. She is a certified personal trainer and a qualified teacher of Pilates and Hatha Yoga and since the writing of this article has qualified as a teacher of the Alexander Technique. Carrie has years of experience in personal and group fitness, with particular expertise in back health and posture. She designs individual injury and illness rehab programs as well as integrated programs for healthy living. You can learn more about her at alexanderandexercise.com.

For more information about the Alexander Technique visit: The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique

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