Alexander Technique and Physical Therapy
The Alexander Technique


By Idelle Packer, MS, PT, CTAT
certified teacher of the Alexander Technique

The FUNCTION OF CARDIOVASCULAR/PULMONARY SYSTEM is to provide both physiological support (oxygen delivery), as well as a mechanical support (respiratory/trunk muscle/postural control) for movement.
The muscles of respiration are the muscles of postural support. Every muscle that originates or inserts into the trunk is both a respiratory and a postural muscle. External and internal forces that affect the function of the respiratory muscles also affect postural responses. Learning to control postural responses (postural reeducation, balance training, movement coordination training) will benefit respiration; likewise learning controlled breathing techniques will benefit postural control, balance, and movement coordination. Any study of breathing coordination should include postural coordination and any study of postural coordination should include breathing coordination.

F.M. Alexander (founder of the Alexander Technique), nicknamed "the breathing man", included the breathing mechanism in his view of the body's total coordination. He recognized that the diaphragm's motion was supported by the frame of the spine and ribcage, and that a preferred spine and ribcage alignment depended on the head/neck spine alignment (primary control). He demonstrated the relationship of postural coordination and the breathing mechanism: as the spine realigned and the rib cage shifted and became more mobile, fuller inhalation and exhalation could occur with ease. Alexander developed a technique to maximize both postural/movement coordination and breathing coordination. Another innovator in the training of controlled breathing was Carl Stough, nicknamed "Dr. Breath", who developed techniques to enhance breathing coordination, working first with emphysema patients, and later with teachers of the Alexander Technique and others who wished to enhance their understanding of the breathing mechanism.
  1. Pulmonary dysfunction
  2. Pain resulting from surgery, trauma, or disease
  3. Apprehension or nervousness
  4. Bronchiospasm or impending bronchiospasm in asthma
  5. Airway clearance dysfunction
  6. Restriction of inspiration resulting from musculoskeletal dysfunction such as scoliosis, kyphoscoliosis, or pectus excavatum, obesity, pregnancy, pulmonary pathology (fibrosis, scarring - result of radiation therapy), Neurologic weakness (spinal cord injury, Parkinson's, myasthenia gravis), or following abdominal surgery (c-section, hysterectomy, intestine repair, etc.).
  7. Congestive Heart Failure, pulmonary edema, pulmonary emboli
  8. Rib fractures
  9. Debilitated or bed-ridden patients (with poor airway clearance).
  10. As complement to instruction/performance in instrumental music, dance, acting, singing
  11. As complement to athletic performance, aerobics, Pilates, Yoga
  1. To decrease the work of breathing (energy conservation)
  2. To improve alveolar ventilation
  3. To improve airway clearance by improving cough
  4. To increase strength, coordination, and efficiency of respiratory muscles
  5. To teach the patient how to respond to and control breathing (pacing activity with breath control to decrease dyspnea with exertion)
  6. To assist in relaxation (neck, chest, and accessory respiration muscles)
  7. To mobilize and maintain mobility of the thorax
  8. To increase self-control and confidence in self-managing disease or dysfunction
  9. To reverse paradoxical breathing (mal-coordination of diaphragm, intercostals [rib muscles], and abdominal muscles)
  10. To maximize function: enhance performance and sense of well-being
Copyright © Idelle Packer 2007
For more information on the respiratory program, contact
Beacon Healthcare 828.254.4899 or Body Sense 828.687.0407

Collaborative effort improves lifestyle for the respiratory patient
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"We shall probably find the best practical illustration of the need for correct sensory experiences in guidance and control if we consider
sensory appreciation in it's connection with the psycho-mechanics of respiration."

FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual Centerline Press (1985) first print p. 193