How does the Alexander Technique reduce anxiety?

Anxiety robs you of your proper inheritance:
joy in everyday life

Anxiety comes in many guises and with great or small iintensity. You have likely experienced quite a range of anxious feelings.

  • You find yourself frustrated by traffic jams.

  • You narrowly avoid a car crash.

  • You survived a traumatic accident, but it won't leave you alone.

  • You suddenly lost your job.

  • You might lose your job.

  • You feel 'nervous' without knowing why.

  • You got a well-deserved promotion but suddenly wonder whether you are up to the challenge.

  • You have just been diagnosed with a serious disease.

Just like everything else we accomplish with the Alexander Technique, we attack anxiety by indirect means. [See Anxiety Examples]. You experience anxiety because you are responding with a 'fight or flight' response to real or imagined events. (For our purposes 'imagined' events are real. They create the same responses in the human organism as 'real' events.) This response is not all bad. In earlier times, when we encountered a sabre toothed tiger on the trail we needed to marshall all our resources to deal with the situation. Our survival in the present literally hung in the balance. We seldom run into such creatures in our lives today, but there are certainly situations that produce the same physiological reactions.

A huge influx of chemicals into our bloodstream greatly improves our chances of surviving these immediate threats. However, we pay a price in damage to our physiology. It is well worth the price if our reactions are speeded up and we can miraculously avoid a serious car crash. The trouble comes when we react in a milder form of these reactions to situations where our life is not really threatened. Even where the threat is real we harm ourselves if the reaction lingers after the situation has been resolved.

Alexander noticed that much mischief is wrought by what he termed 'an unduly excited fear (or startle) response'. Biologist Robert Sopolsky has written a cleverly title book,Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, discussing the implications of this. Watch the short video below for a dramatic illustration of this.

Sopolsky's comments and your own experience will convince you that being startled by a door slamming or being petrified by the need to speak in public are indeed very real stimuli. There is, however, a more subtle aspect to this. A sort of 'low grade' anxiety or nervousness can become a habit. It can seem minor enough that it is even not noticed much of the time. However, the bio-chemistry is still taking its toll.

The following sentence is important. Read it twice. The Alexander Technique deals with anxiety in the same way it deals with all other aspects of the human condition: it gives you the tools to choose your response to stimuli. Just to make sure you read it twice, I will say it again: The Alexander Technique gives you the tools to choose your response to stimuli. As Alexander said: "You are not here to do exercises, or to learn to do something right, but to get able to meet a stimulus that always puts you wrong and to learn to deal with it." This is not done by lecturing you about how bad it is to be anxious or stressed out. It is not done with exercises. As you work with your teacher in a very gentle and non-threatening environment, you will find easing of anxiety happens just in the course of life itself. You may notice a somewhat dramatic shift. More likely you will change your reactions gradually, perhaps imperceptibly. One day you will notice you are calmly dealing with a situation that you previously dreaded.

Anxiety: Return to top

An Alexander Technique Lesson

An excellent introductory video

Several experienced AT teachers discuss the work.

Sandy and Forrest Hawkins,
AmSAT Certified Alexander Technique consultants
Call us with questions or to book an appointment:
We are located near downtown Boquete





"We can throw away the habit of a lifetime in a few minutes if we use our brains."
F.M. Alexander

Alexander on
'Stage Fright'

Pedro de Alcantara relates the following in his excellent book, (Indirect Procedures,) geared to applying the Alexander Technique to musical performance:

"An actor before he was a teacher, Alexander used to direct his own pupils and trainees in plays that were performed publicly. Writing about one of these productions, he said that because his sudents had prepared their performances along the principles of his Technique, 'the idea of "stage fright" was one that seemed to them the merest absurdity. It may be said that they did not understand what was meant by such a condition.'"