From the category archives:

Breathing, Fitness & Sports

According to Nemours, asthma affects about 1 or 2 kids out of 10, making it the most common chronic disorder in childhood, currently affecting an estimated 7.0 million children under 18 years. While most common in school age kids, asthma can start at any age — even in a little baby or an adult.

Here we see the balance of the head, neck and torso that F.M. called the "Primary Control."

Over a century ago, F.M. Alexander spoke about some children being “poor breathers” from birth. He went on to say that these children entered life with less than optimal reflexive ease at the head, neck and upper back (The primary control) and needed help in order to overcome this deficit. Here is a story of one of my young students (I will call him Terry (not pictured)), and his AT experience.

Terry’s Story

Terry was about 9 months old, not yet walking when he started taking Alexander Technique lessons. He had presented with asthma from one month or less and had been rushed to the emergency room a few times. His parents were ill with worry about it, but gave him the medicines to control the symptoms and curb the attacks. His mother was a pupil and one day she brought him along, as she had no sitter. I noticed at once that this head/neck relationship was not as free as we’d expect in a child and then she told me about his condition.

I suggested we try “lessons” (I never charge a fee for such young children) and so we started then and there. At first Terry was fussy and didn’t like his head and neck touched but gradually he quieted down and seemed to enjoy it. We noticed a change that day in the depth of his breathing and it was decided he would come 3 times a week so we could see what help if any the Alexander Technique gave him. In less than 6 “lessons” he was able to take half the medicines and didn’t gasp for air or have the sudden onset attacks he had had before. But of course it was only 2 weeks. So we continued on for 6 months this way. He started to crawl and as he did, I worked with his head and neck because his inclination was to stiffen that area as he moved. He caught on quickly and as he went on to standing, getting his balance and finally walking, I went on with the work. By the time he was walking his head neck remained quite free (as it ought to be normally in a child this age) and the asthma was minimal. He was given medicine when pollens and allergens were bad and has not had any violent attacks since his 2nd week of lessons.

Terry is now 2 and a half. His asthma is nearly gone and his doctor is happy that he is “outgrowing it.” Terry and his parents are happier. Terry sleeps well and runs without effort because his breathing is free. If this continues he may not have it at all when he is older.


“I do not claim to have discovered any new method of breathing, but to understand the only true one- Nature’s”
F. M. Alexander

In the U.S. 23 million people including 7 million children have asthma.

Asthma gives a feeling that you cannot inhale air. In reality, the sufferer cannot exhale. But it does not feel that way (unreliable kinesthesia).

For asthmatics, the ease of air in and air out which is normal for all creatures is totally disrupted. It is a horrible condition and can cause death. It feels as if you will suffocate as the airways in the lungs spasm preventing you from breathing and causing a panic and then more spasm and more fear.

At the onset of an attack, the startle pattern (fear reflexes) in the neck and head kicks in and violently contracts the spine and breathing mechanism making the attack worse. The medicines only stop the spasm, but do not affect a cure and so as the child becomes adult the root cause of this condition becomes embedded into his overall manner of use and breathing patterns. The adult can change this with Alexander Technique lessons but it will take much longer than if he started taking lessons as a child because the breathing habits are engrained over years.

There are many reasons why a person can develop this condition in adulthood. We can be born with it too, but in all cases it will deplete us terribly and in children prevent them from normal activities and sports. Here is a link to read more about the Alexander Technique and asthma.

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