What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Technique is a mind-body re-education, a process that focuses on increasing awareness of the way we use ourselves so that we can do what ever we do, better. As our awareness increases, so does our conscious control. As our ability to consciously control our Self increases, so does the need for thinking, inhibiting, and directing. All of these tools are vital to a process of re-education, a process of gradual and increased awareness, which allows our whole Self to function more naturally and efficiently.
It's learning the language of our Self, then being able to use that knowledge to alter the way we communicate with the world.
The Alexander Technique is a process of gradual and increased awareness; re-education and a path to better body use. Developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander in the late 1800’s, many today have found the Technique to be an invaluable tool for better living. It's a means to the rediscovery and use of your Self, to achieve your best and most optimal functioning.
Who was Alexander?
Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was born in Tasmania but spent most of his life in England. Having a strong passion for reciting, he had hopes of becoming a Shakespearean actor. Plagued with reoccurring voice loss, he sought the advice of many doctors, none of whom could correctly diagnose the problem or prevent it from happening. Convinced that it must be something he himself was doing to cause the problem, he launched a long and tedious process of self-discovery that eventually led him to develop the Alexander Technique. His realizations included the fact that he knew nothing about the way his body actually functioned and further, that he was not at all in control of what he did, as his habitual patterns of movement and body use had completely taken over. He discovered that the only way to change these patterns was by thinking, directing, and inhibiting his old patterns of movement, and only then could he truly make any lasting change occur. Originally developed as a method for “respiratory re-education,” Alexander’s original aim of solving the voice issues he was constantly plagued with revolutionized the world. He was sought out by many and hailed as “The Breathing Man,” and has had a great influence on many.
F.M. Alexander wrote four books on his Technique: Man’s Supreme Inheritance, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, The Use of the Self, and The Universal Constant in Living. In his time, Alexander was extremely well known in both England and the United States, and taught vitally until his death in 1955. In 1931 he finally started a training course, where he began to train future teachers of his Technique.
A Tradition Continues On
Many influential thinkers have come to the Technique, and left their lasting impressions on F.M. Alexander’s work. Here are a few:
- John Dewey, educational philosopher, who believed that the technique had far reaching implications mentally, physically, and morally. Dewey and Alexander maintained a 36-year friendship which greatly influenced both men.
- Frank Pierce Jones, originally a Classics professor at Brown University, studied with both F.M. Alexander and his brother, A.R. Alexander. After becoming a teacher of the Technique, devoted his studies to proving the scientific validity of Alexander’s work.
- Walter Carrington, a leading figure in the teaching, preservation, and development of the technique in Britain. After Alexander’s death, he helped to carry on Alexander’s work by continuing the Teacher Training Course.
- Dr. Raymond Dart, anatomist and anthropologist, best known for his 1924 discovery of the first fossil, Australopithecus africanus in South Africa. Worked extensively with the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP), working with brain injured children. His collaboration with Alexander and Joan Murray revolutionized their work with the Alexander Technique, observing the evolutionary perspective of children and their natural movements.
- Joan and Alexander Murray, teachers of the Alexander Technique and life-long devotees to its work. Took lessons from many early teachers of the Technique and trained in London with Walter Carrington. They run a training course as directors of the Alexander Technique Center Urbana, and are most well known for their collaborative work with Dr. Raymond Dart, which revolutionized their outlook and sets apart their work with the Alexander Technique, including the development of the Dart Procedures.