F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) was a successful actor who found that he was beginning to lose his voice on stage. Doctors advised him to rest his voice and he found that this helped but that the problem returned again when he began to perform. He then took the unusual step of attempting to discover if hemight be causing his problem by his manner of performing. After a long period of self-observation and experimentation using mirrors he found that his voice problem could be avoided when he succeeded in changing his habitual way of carrying himself so as to prevent unnecessary stress and tension, especially in his head, neck and back. To his surprise he also found that his, previously poor, general health improved dramatically.
At first Alexander thought that his discoveries of harmful habits were peculiar to himself but he found that interference with the primary control, as he called the moment to moment relationship of the head, neck and back, was common to everyone who came to him for lessons. He soon had a thriving voice practice, due to his now impressive voice use and his success in helping people with voice problems. Alexander found that words were not enough to convey the sensory information required so he began to use his hands to guide his pupils, subtly and gently, towards a better working of the primary control.
Doctors began to send their patients to Alexander. He was in great demand from people suffering from a wide range of ailments and became known as ‘the breathing man’ for his success in teaching people how to prevent problems associated with breathing.
Alexander moved to London in 1904 where he maintained a thriving practice for the rest of his life. He established a training school for teachers in 1930 and ran a small school for children until the outbreak of war. He suffered a severe stroke after a fall in 1947 and was not expected to recover but within a year he had returned to teaching, which he continued to do until two weeks before his death at the age of 86.
His work was supported and verified by many doctors, scientists and influential people but unfortunately did not come to receive the recognition it deserves in our educational institutions. However there has been a resurgence in interest in the Alexander Technique in the last 30 years and there are now over 2500 teachers worldwide. Scientific research in the relatively unexplored areas of physiology of balance, poise and consciousness has been found to be consistent with his work. The Technique is taught in all the major performing arts colleges in the United Kingdom, and has also been introduced in a number of elementary and secondary schools.
At last it seems his work is beginning to be recognised for its great success in unlocking our natural poise and potential.
“Stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing takes care of itself”