MAXINE GORDON puts her mind into her movement with a lesson in the Alexander Technique in York.

I HAVE just learned how to sit down. Yes, you've read that correctly. It sounds so simple doesn't it: sitting down - and standing up - are things we do countless times each day without really thinking about them.

However, I have a tendency to "flop" into my chair or sofa, and "tip" myself out, with the use of my hands to raise to a standing position.

It's just how it is: I've done this for years. It's a habit formed out of necessity. I have short ligaments in my calves, making it difficult to squat.

For that is what we do when we sit down: we perform a squat by bending our knees and pushing our bum backwards to lower ourselves into the seat.

Mary Greene has taught the Alexander Technique for ten years and is having a go at showing me how to sit properly.

She begins by getting me to stand straight, with a chair behind me. She urges me to pivot from the hips, softening my knees, to release any tightness in my legs. Then she tells me to slowly, lower my rear to the stool.

Hurrah! I do it. There's no ungainly floppiness or sudden, jerky movements. My mind is engaged in every aspect of the move, thinking about how my joints are bending and how my body is manipulating into what I want it to do.

I'm a quick learner because using the body optimally is what the Alexander Technique is all about. The discipline is named after Frederick Matthias Alexander, who developed the principles in the late 19th century. He had a passion for Shakespearean acting and used the methods to tackle his own problems of breathlessness and hoarseness during public speaking. He developed a theory that people used unnecessary amounts of muscular and mental tension in their daily activities and sought to rebalance this by correcting bad habits and returning the body to a state of rest, poise and alignment.

You can see how it remains an appealing method today, with so many of us developing pains and strains through poor posture from working at computers and sitting in cars for long commutes. AT is also popular with performers and athletes, seeking to reach their full potential.

The first school dedicated to the Alexander Technique was opened in New York City in the 1960s. There are several the world over, including here in York.

The York Alexander Technique School in South Bank is run by Lena Schibel Mason and is where I have come for my session with Mary. Pupils attend the school for lessons in the technique, but it is also a training centre for prospective teachers.

After my session, Mary switches her attention to these would-be tutors. We gather in one of the upstairs treatment rooms, which is furnished with AT paraphernalia. There is a raised bed, a gymnastic horse with saddle, mirrors on the wall and a full sized skeleton.

Mary works on posture with Rosie Knighton, a young mum and music teacher, who is also training in the Alexander Technique. Rosie sits astride the saddle, focussing on keeping her balance without straining any part of her body. She says AT is a brilliant tool for performers. "When I am singing, I can build up lots of tension and I use the Alexander Technique to try to stop it."

Rachel Kato is another trainee. She picks up some bright-coloured scarves and begins to throw them in the air, juggling the chiffon squares from hand to hand. Again, it's part of the training, the idea being that they need to be aware of Alexander Technique in their everyday actions and movements, not just when they are in the classroom.

It's a lesson for all of us.

Learn more

The York school is holding an introductory course in Alexander Technique for people working in the fields of health, education, music, sport and the expressive arts. It will run over four months (three weekends and one intensive weekend) from January 24.

Find out more at a taster session on January 10 from 10am-1pm, cost £25. For further information, contact Lena Schibel Mason on 01904 651367, or