Following the news that Victoria Beckham has turned to the Alexander Technique to help her poor posture after years of wearing five inch heels, SNJ editor Sue Smith went along to chat to qualified practitioner Rachel Stevens who holds classes at her home in Whitminster to show people how they can improve their posture and health using this method, first developed in the 1890s, which is quickly becoming a favourite with celebrities.

FORMER Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham has apparently been horrified to see pictures of herself in newspapers recently looking stooped with rounded shoulders.

Her love of excessively high heels has been blamed for encouraging bad habits in the way she stands and walks and according to Alexander Technique teacher Rachel Stevens the singer could also be find herself suffering chronic back problems unless she starts to pay attention to her posture.

"It is possible to reverse all those bad habits," said Rachel. "Good, natural poise is innate in all of us until we are about four or five years old.

"Then what happens is we go to school and start slumping over the desk and before we know it we are putting enormous pressure on our spine by the way we sit or stand or walk.

"But by following the Alexander Technique it is possible to very quickly reconnect with ourselves and to learn to listen to our bodies.

"We can learn to lengthen our spine and in just 20 minutes we can restore the discs in our spine to their optimum size."

Rachel started in the business 23 years ago after visiting an Alexander Technique practitioner herself .

"I was in a very stressful job at the time and was suffering from asthma and very bad posture.

" I loved the effect it had on me, it cleared up my asthma which turned out to be stress related and I was hooked. It made complete sense to me and I decided I wanted to learn how to do it."

The Alexander Technique is a performance enhancing technique. It is not necessary to be suffering from an ailment to benefit from it.

"It can be used to promote general well-being and awareness of body and mind in everyday life," said Rachel.

The British rowing team used the technique while performing in the Olympics and it is very often on the curriculum in drama schools. Singers find it particularly helpful.

The Duchess of York, actor John Cleese and the late Paul Newman have all followed the technique as well as actress Juliet Stevenson and Lenny Henry.

Anthea Turner used it to improve her horse riding and novelist Aldous Huxley credited the Alexander Technique for curing his neurotic tendencies.

"My dream is to see it more widely available on the NHS and to be included on the curriculum in primary schools," said Rachel.

"The technique works very well alongside other treatments, it is very gentle and can often complement work being done by osteopaths or chiropractioners.

"The average head weighs around 14Ib and that puts a lot of strain on the spine, it makes sense to support it properly."

After a short demonstration in which Rachel assessed and guided me through some sitting and standing exercises I could feel myself growing taller.

My arms lengthened, I was breathing more evenly and have been making a conscious effort to sit straight, even when driving my car.

As a long-term sufferer of back problems I am only too aware of how debilitating it can be.

"I don’t call what I do treatments,," said Rachel. "It is more a re-education of the body and the mind.

"At first it requires people to think about how they are standing or sitting but after a while it becomes a natural way of moving which carries through your life."

Rachel offers sessions using the Alexander Technique on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Whitminster and on Thursdays at the Natural Health Clinic, Nailsworth. Contact her on 01452 740245 Free introductory session Rachel is offering Stroud News & Journal readers a free 1/2 hour introductory session throughout February. Contact her on the number above and bring along the coupon printed on page four of the SNJ of February 3.

Fact file: The first major scientific trial of the Alexander Technique published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 clearly shows that 24 one-to-one lessons using this method led to important improvements in function, quality of life and reduction of pain.

After 24 lessons the average number of activities limited by back pain had fallen by 42 per cent and the number of days in pain per month was reduced to three rather than 21.

Non-specific back pain accounts for up to five million lost working days per year and the overall cost to the NHS, business and the economy is £5 billion