The Alexander Technique was developed by F.M. Alexander in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Alexander was born and grew up in Tasmania. As a young man he began to offer amateur recitals and to pursue a career as an actor – but before long he began to have problems with his voice. His wish to resolve this is what motivated him to begin his life-long work – exploring what he soon began to call the ‘Use of the Self’.
He began his journey studying himself in mirrors set up in his digs, and learning the breathing and vocal techniques of contemporary practitioners. He also spent time in New Zealand observing the Maori people’s breathing and movement. Gradually he developed his own ideas, rejecting and augmenting elements of what he had learned – but above all basing his findings on detailed observation of himself.
The Technique that evolved includes ideas that, in hindsight, can clearly be recognised to have aspects resembling Eastern spiritual disciplines. It also incorporates knowledge way ahead of his time, in anticipation of the scientific study of the brain and nervous system – as well as the practical application of anatomical knowledge and the mechanics of movement.
Alexander sometimes called his work Constructive Awareness. He found that there is nothing more useful and practical for our lives than to be able to match our responses well to whatever we are engaged in – with more conscious choice and less habit driven tension. This is relevant to all sorts of aspects of human experience. It applies to simple things, like the way we brush teeth or bang in a nail, and to more complex things like the skill of playing a musical instrument or the way we handle our really difficult challenges.
We can change the dynamic of what we are experiencing indirectly by changing the bit we can really do something about – our own Self.
Our habits of muscle tension and the way we move and think have a lot to do with whether or not we are comfortable, pain-free, and therefore able to be creative and enjoy our lives.
Some examples of what the Technique is useful for are:
- Changing habitual tension
- Matching muscular effort to the task at hand
- Synchronising mind & body during activities
- Becoming more attentive and aware
- Having clarity of concept and natural ease in movement
- Understanding living anatomy & mechanics
It can be useful to all people to improve general coordination & reduce tension – making the Technique well known for musicians, actors, and sportspeople.
It can be particularly effective in improving and managing postural issues, chronic pain, and various challenges, such as pregnancy & childbirth, operations, scoliosis, Parkinson’s, repetitive strain, chronic fatigue and many more.
Furthermore, it can support the recovery from trauma by re-regulating the responses of the nervous system.