Parkinson's and the Alexander Technique
|San Rafael, CA 94901
Parkinson's and the Alexander Technique
Unless you are in the arts or sports, you might have never heard of the Alexander Technique. Most people ask if it’s like Feldenkrais. As a matter of fact, F.M. Alexander, the originator of the Alexander Technique, and Moshe Feldenkrais, were contemporaries, deriving their methods through healing their own physical problems.
So, what is the Alexander Technique?
In our culture, we often talk about wanting to live wholly, yet many aspects of our lives are fragmented, especially when it comes to our body. Through gentle touch, the Alexander teacher helps a student become aware of patterns of movement and reactions to the world that can affect one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. A teacher teaches students what it means to move from the whole and live in their bodies, being present to the joys of being physical beings. C.J. Jung, the psychologist, stated that only through the body can we experience our wholeness and individuate, finding our true Self.
An Alexander Technique lesson can involve walking, sitting, standing, "table" work, any movement that suggests movements that we do multiple times a day. We learn how the human body is designed so we can allow it, through non-interference, to express its ability to move in a balanced, easeful way. The Alexander work helps get us out of the way so chi (energy) can flow, enlivening us.
Which brings us to Parkinson’s Disease. The Alexander Technique cannot, of course, cure Parkinson’s. However, it can help manage it in its early and mid-stages. Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s – problems with balance, stiffness, freezing and multiple vocal issues – can be exacerbated by a lifetime of inefficient movement. As we peel away unhelpful habits and clarify how our bodies are meant to move, the symptoms of Parkinson’s don’t gain traction as quickly as they would otherwise. This can be the difference between continuing joyful hobbies and not.
In a University of Idaho report published in 2020 in the Gerontological Society of America Journal, (“Lighten Up! Postural Instructions Affect Static and Dynamic Balance in Older Healthy Adults”) the researchers state “Thinking of upright posture as “effortless” reduced muscle activation and improved balance, while thinking of upright posture as “effortful” made balance worse. This may partly explain the benefits of embodied mindfulness practices such as tai chi and the Alexander Technique for balance in older adults.”
The Alexander Technique can help people from all walks of life, but for those living with Parkinson’s, it can be another tool in the basket of continued well-being.
Monica Norcia was certified as an Alexander Technique teacher by the American Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique in 2002. As a voice teacher, she helped develop a course on the Alexander Technique for Parkinson’s through the Poise Project, which has now been developed internationally. For the past two years, she has co-taught a course at the Jung Institute with her husband and AT teacher Larry Ball on the Alexander Technique and Jung. She teaches both Alexander and voice in her San Rafael home and studio. Monica is an avid aikido and yoga practitioner.
If you or a family member are interested in lessons, please call me at 415-203-1114.
What Alexander Students Say:
“I highly recommend Monica Norcia. What I have absorbed from my Alexander Technique practice is invaluable and I am sure will last my lifetime.” - Jerry W.
"I worked with Monica for 8 years and found her to be an exceptional voice teacher. She’s fully trained in the normal methods of music instruction and the biomechanics of voice production, but she is also expert in Alexander Technique, a more powerful method of training professional actors and singers. I was not a singer, but a radio host doing voiceovers. Monica had the flexibility to meet me and each of her students wherever they are and create an effective curriculum just for them." - Stephen H.