The Alexander Technique was something I’d tried in order to improve my back problems. It’s had a significant effect on my back, but a side effect was it’s effect on my attention.
For those of you that don’t know, the Alexander Technique is essentially a method of retraining your postural habits. An AT instructor will begin by observing and analyzing the way you move when doing everyday things, such as:
- Standing / Sitting down
- Picking up your coffee
- Tying your shoes
- …basically anything you do with your body (hey now).
We subconsciously use more muscle tension than we need to while doing these things, leading to tension, pain, and anxiety. A good AT teacher will make slight adjustments to your posture, and help you gradually retrain these habits so that any activity – walking, sports, etc. – is far more effortless.
While I still have a long way to go with the technique, it’s already had a great result on my back, and overall well-being. An interesting side effect (and the topic of this blog post) is its effect on my attention.
While I work throughout the day, any physical irritation is a distraction: an itch, pain somewhere, tension in my neck, a stomach rumbling. My Alexander Technique training helped to make me more aware of these things, and when I feel tension I can now calmly adjust my posture, eliminate the distraction and get back to the task at hand.
The AT teaches you to take a moment and observe the different parts of your body which you may be inadvertently tensing up, and consciously unclenching them. In AT lingo, you’re “freeing” them: AT people use terms like “free your neck,” and “let go of the jaw,” and “let go of any facial tension.” Sure enough, after doing AT for a bit, I became aware of tension I didn’t know existed – in my forehead, neck, jaw, around my eyes. And as a result, my face, neck and back became less tense and less of a distraction.
Another way the AT has affected my ADHD is in the area of impulse control. Part of AT practice involves practicing “inhibition.” Inhibition, as AT people teach it is the habit of hesitating before you react to something (rather than reacting impulsively).
Quite often, people with jumpy temperaments (e.g., many ADHD people) speak or act quite impulsively. In a conversation, each time feel the impulse to speak, we follow it – even if it means rudely interrupting. While Vipassana Meditation is far more attuned to help an ADHD person improve this sort of thing (I’ve had big effects with it), the Alexander Technique’s concept of inhibition seems to be right in line with it.
While I wouldn’t choose it as a primary therapy for ADHD, I’d encourage trying the Alexander Technique if you’re looking to improve your posture or coordination, eradicate back pain, or just have a calmer sense of self-control in your body.