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â€œPain, a lot of pain,â€ Lori Davis says when asked what drew her to her career as an Alexander Technique instructor. â€œI was in a lot of chronic pain: my jaw, my back, my knee, everything. I tried all the normal things that people do â€” chiropractor, massage, physical therapy. I had a fabulous physical therapist who got me pretty stabilized. But, I couldnâ€™t manage on my own. I would go see her, sheâ€™d put be back into place, Iâ€™d feel good for a day, and then Iâ€™d bend over and put my back out again.â€
Davis remembers half-jokingly asking her physical therapist if sheâ€™d need to keep coming to her for the rest of her life in order to manage her daily routine. At this point, her therapist recommended that Davis take lessons in the Alexander Technique. This was in November 2002. For the next 2Â½ years, Davis took weekly lessons in the technique created by Frederick Matthias Alexander in the 1890s.
Alexander, an actor, began studying his own habits and behaviors after becoming frustrated when all of his stage performances ended with a lost voice. He felt that there must be something he was doing to cause this to happen, so he began using mirrors to watch himself and determine what was going on.
â€œWhat he noticed was that when he was projecting to an audience, he would puff out his chest and pull his head back,â€ says Davis. â€œWhat was happening is he was depressing his larynx. Thatâ€™s why he kept losing his voice. So then he thought he just wouldnâ€™t do that. But the problem is, it was a habit and he couldnâ€™t stop doing it just because he wanted to stop doing it.â€
Alexander set out to find a method that would indirectly change his thought patterns and actions. The three cornerstones of the technique he developed are awareness (getting out of auto-pilot and noticing our thoughts and behaviors), inhibition (stopping a habit and making another choice), and direction (guiding our thoughts and movements in a more beneficial way).
This technique helped Davis with her pain and markedly improved the quality of her life, eventually leading to her decision to become an instructor and share the technique with others. She now shares an office space with a doctor in Aloha and takes weekend and evening appointments for those wanting to learn the technique. Most of the people who come to see Davis fall into one of two camps: They are either sufferers of chronic tension or pain, or they are performance artists.
â€œMy role as an Alexander Technique instructor is to give my students the tools to manage themselves,â€ she says. â€œIt empowers people to really pay attention to what theyâ€™re doing and do something about it when theyâ€™re going wrong.â€
Where people often go wrong is in everyday situations like sitting down in a chair, bending over to pick up an object, or hunching over a computer. Davis teaches her students how to improve posture, change their approach in daily habits, and use the technique to alleviate pain.
â€œI wanted to benefit others because I got so much benefit out of this technique,â€ Davis says of her decision to take on a three-year training course that required 1,600 hours of study. â€œI wanted to tell people about it because nobody really knows about it, even though itâ€™s been around for over 100 years.â€
The technique is better known in performing arts circles, and its famous followers are as varied as Julie Andrews and Sting. The technique is also taught at performing arts schools, such as The Juilliard School in New York City and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Music in London. Davis says sheâ€™s living proof that the technique can also benefit the average person, the one who works a stressful job (Davis put in long hours as an administrative assistant), spends a lot of time at a computer, and often slouches down, tenses up or clenches the jaw without thinking about it.
â€œItâ€™s really fun to see people change,â€ Davis says, â€œAnd to see them be able to do things they havenâ€™t been able to do in years.â€
Davis can be reached at 971-344-4355. Her Web site is www.alexandertechniqueportland.com
BY KRISTEN FORBES Â The Beaverton Valley Times,Â Mar 11, 2010
(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com)