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New research indicates that Alexander Technique stand-to-sit movement improves both postural tone and general coordination

You may not know it but several hundred research papers have been published on the sit-to-stand movement. Those familiar with the Alexander Technique will know that this procedure, as well as stand-to-sit, are pivotal in learning to develop a better general coordination.

An improved integration between the head, neck and back – what FM Alexander, the founder of the Alexander Technique, called the “primary control” -- which then has a knock-on effect through the legs and arms, allows the Alexander student to move in a quite different way – less effort, lighter, more free-flowing and so on. It’s little wonder that over the years the Alexander Technique has acquired an increasingly positive reputation in terms of alleviating chronic back pain as the large scale Medical Research Council-funded study conducted by Professor Paul Little and published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 demonstrated. (See BMJ: ATEAM Research Paper).

Now thanks to the recent research of Dr Tim Cacciatore and his colleagues at the Institute of Neurology, UCL, some of the hidden secrets of the sit-to-stand and its relevance to the Alexander Technique have been revealed. The science might appear a bit daunting – lots of technical bio-mechanics and associated jargon – but the gist of it is that those with Alexander Technique training perform the sit-to-stand movement more efficiently than those who have not undergone training in postural behaviour.

The experiment consisted of comparing 15 Alexander Technique teachers and 14 matched control subjects in terms of age, height and weight. Participants in both groups were asked to sit on a height-adjustable backless chair and stand up “as smoothly as possible without using momentum” on five occasions while the movement and foot force were measured with cutting edge photographic equipment and a custom-built force plate.

The Results

The overall time taken to complete the movement was similar between the two groups, but there was a marked difference between the Alexander Technique teachers and those in the control group in terms of movement trajectory and overall muscle tone. There was also a significant difference in the amount of unnecessary and harmful spinal bending between the two groups in favour of the Alexander practitioners. Simply put, Alexander Technique teachers made less effort with the hip flexor and other leg muscles while opposing gravity in the act of standing than the controls.

Dr Cacciatore reckons that his research is a first step towards a more comprehensive understanding of the sit-to-stand movement. He says that future research on efficient sit-to-stand movement will need to examine “what cognitive and attentional processes are involved” and “how these mental phenomena relate to motor coordination”.

In the meantime, those of us familiar with the Alexander Technique know how important the sit-to-stand movement is in everyday life. Get it right and the support musculature of the body increases in tone allowing efficient breathing and circulation, but get it wrong and you are quite literally squeezing the life out of yourself.

©Sean Carey 2012

Those who want to see the research papers can view them here -

Cacciatore TW et al. Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practitioners of the Alexander Technique. Gait Posture 2011; 34 (4): 496 – 501 (Link to Gait Posture abstract)

Cacciatore TW et al. Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique Training. Hum.Mov.Sci. 2011; 30(1): 74-89 (Link to Hum.Mov.Sci. abstract)

Little P et al. Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain. BMJ 2008;337:a884 (Link to BMJ: ATEAM research paper)

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