Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was a professional recitor. A severe loss of his voice, diagnosed as “irritation of the mucous membranes of the throat”, threatened his career. Receiving little help from the treatment he was offered at the time, it occurred to him to ask the question “what might I be doing which I should not do, in using my voice?”. This led to years of self-study and observation, which he described later in one of his three books “The Use of the Self”. Eventual recovery enabled a return to the stage, but his fellow actors wanted to know how he had come to command such good use of his breath and vocal powers, so his teaching career began. Medical men soon noticed his work and at first he became known as the “breathing man”. Amongst others, he assisted in helping people who had developed tuberculosis, very common at that time. But it soon became clear, as result of his understanding of the need for the proper use of the postural mechanisms in the act of breathing, that he had discovered a method of re-educating kinaesthesia the ability to sense how much or how little effort to make in activity, as well as other important fundamental practical discoveries about human functioning. A group of Doctors suggested that he travel to London to continue his work, and he went there with their letters of recommendation, in 1904. He stayed there, apart from working for the war years in the United States, until his death in 1955.
The Alexander Technique has been recognized and endorsed by Sir Charles Sherrington (so-called “father” of the science of neuro-physiology), Professor John Dewey- American Educationalist and Philosopher, Professor Raymond Dart- Professor of Anatomy and discoverer of Australopithecus africanus (the so-called “missing link”), Professor Niklaas Tinbergen, Ethologist, who devoted much of a speech of acceptance of the Nobel prize (1973) to talking about his experience of Alexander lessons. Professor T.D.M Roberts, expert in human balance. New research in neurology continues to confirm Alexanders discoveries.
Teaching the Alexander Technique is a relatively new profession. Despite the fact that Alexander himself started teaching as long ago as 1895, he did not train other teachers until the 1930’s. In the early 1970’s there were only about 60 teachers in the world, now there are several hundred.
The Technique has been taught in Sweden since 1978. In 2000 the first Swedish training school for teachers was opened in Stockholm. Until now 13 teachers have been trained out of the 20 teachers who work in different parts of Sweden.
John Dewey and F.M. Alexander
B.H.S. INSTRUCTORS CONVENTION 1984
Alexander Technique Education Inc. (external link, opens in a new window)
Alexander in the workplace