The Alexander Technique takes its name from an Australian, Frederick Matthias Alexander, who lived 1869-1955. The majority of his adult years were spent in London, where he taught his method of self-study for health and wellbeing. In his own words, Alexander said “I prefer to call the psychophysical organism simply the self, and to write of it as something in use, which functions and which reacts.”
Many years before arriving at this statement, Alexander found himself with the limitation of voice loss during performances as an elocutionist. He preferred reciting poems and Shakespeare, creating programs with talented singers and pianists, enjoying success throughout Australia and New Zealand. After following the recommendations of doctors, the voice loss would return. Being a practical person, Alexander set to work studying himself in a mirror while he recited. He wanted to determine what he could do to prevent his voice loss. What he found surprised him in that it wasn’t what he could do, but what he needed to stop doing. When he was able to stop stiffening his neck which pulled his head back, when he could stop over-lifting his chest and hollowing his back which shortened his spine, and when he could stop gripping the floor with his feet, the pressure on his larynx ceased, his voice remained strong and the voice loss disappeared.
In time, Alexander found that he wasn’t alone with these types of misuse problems. Fellow performers, family and friends, along with the referral of respiratory patients from local doctors began Alexander on the road to helping others. Like himself, Alexander found that the beliefs, ideas and feelings held by his students played a role in affecting how they used themselves. The culprit was not just the body, but rather each individual as a whole unique human with values, attitudes and experiences, traumas, falls and injuries of their own. All aspects came together to form the responses and patterns, which interfered with each person’s health and wellbeing.
Alexander’s study and success within his homeland encouraged him to travel to England and expand what he referred to as The Work and which today we call the Alexander Technique. Today, this skill is taught worldwide as a credible educative method for correcting a variety of conditions. As Alexander offered, the work makes for an improved sensory appreciation, an organized use of the self, and a functioning conscious control within activity.
function with ease