About Alexander Technique

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a practical method developed by F. M. Alexander (1869-1955) for changing the way we 'use' ourselves in the activities of everyday life, be they in the home, at school, at work, or during sporting activities etc.

Who was F. M. Alexander?

F. M. Alexander (1869 -1955) was an Australian actor who developed the Technique at the end of the nineteenth century. He suffered recurrent bouts of hoarseness which were severe enough to threaten his career. He came to suspect that his problems were the result of something he was doing, and set about a journey of self examination to discover the cause and hopefully cure himself. After several years spent patiently observing and analysing his reactions, he found that the key lay in the relationship between the head, neck and back. Alexander noticed that when he came to speak, he immediately stiffened the neck and pulled back the head. He developed a series of orders to prevent what he termed his pattern of mis-use which not only cured his vocal problem but also helped his general health and well-being. Alexander had originally thought that these problems were particular to himself. However, as he started to look around he began to notice the same patterns in others and was soon teaching others his new method.

Using his own experience, he developed a way of teaching which he called the Alexander Technique. Through gentle manipulation and verbal instruction Alexander helped pupils become more aware of the way that they use themselves and develop greater conscious control of their poise and movement. Apart from teaching individuals Alexander set up a free training course to teach teachers the technique.

How does it work?

It is based on the principle that each of us functions as a whole and  to effect change, one must learn to consciously prevent unwanted, unnecessary and harmful habits (such as unnecessary muscular tension and effort). Because the these things happen repeatedly through our everyday life and hence become unconscious habits, part of the learning process is to become aware of what it is that we are actually doing.

Can it be learnt by anyone?

The technique can be learnt by anyone from 6 years to 106 (+) and can help in as many ways as there are individuals! It does not seek to 'treat' specific ailments but through learning how change habits that do harm, the therapeutic benefits of applying it are considerable.

What can it help?

Many people come to the technique because of physical problems: back, neck or shoulder pain, RSI , stress, vocal or breathing disorders to name but a few, but others learn the technique because of a curiosity about themselves and a desire for personal development. It is taught in music and drama colleges worldwide and is seen as an essential element in a performer's training. Sports people learn it to give them the awareness in the activity they require and pregnant women use it to help them cope with the rapid changes that this time brings.

The effectiveness of the Alexander Technique is well documented and has been the subject of several scientific studies. It is increasingly recommended by doctors and most medical insurance companies will pay for lessons if these are prescribed by a consultant.