Some people move with grace
and ease and seem to have good posture, freedom of movement and
general well-being. Some of us, on the other hand, use ourselves
very badly - collapsing, tensing, distorting ourselves in almost
every moment of our lives.
We could call this ‘poor use’. Such
poor use is a cause of much of our physical and mental unease.
The Alexander Technique helps us to understand and change such
bad habits and restore our natural good use.
The Alexander Technique improves the way we use
ourselves in everyday activity. Unconsciously acquired habits in
movements such as standing, walking or sitting distort the body
and interfere with its natural functioning. We respond to stimuli
by overtensing and/or collapsing - literally winding ourselves
up (or down!). This 'mis-use' results in aches, pains, tension,
fatigue or simply in feeling ill-at-ease in one's body. The Technique
helps us to prevent these unnecessary reaction/habit patterns and
to restore our natural 'good use' of ourselves.
The Alexander Technique is not a quick fix. It is a way of learning,
and a way of changing, and these things take time and application.
F.M.Alexander was an aspiring actor who began
to have problems with his voice. He found that when he was performing
he became hoarse and eventually lost his voice. He was unable to
get any satisfactory help either from the medical profession or
from voice teachers. Eventually it occurred to him that there was
nothing wrong with his voice but with the way that he was using
Alexander provides a fascinating account of his
search for the answer in his book, "The Use of the Self".
Briefly summarised, what he has to say is this:
His researches took him a long time. At first
he could see nothing wrong. But then he began to notice that, when
he went to speak, he stiffened his neck and pulled his head back.
This tightened his larynx and caused him to become hoarse. If he
could prevent the pulling back of his head then the hoarseness
did not come about. At first he thought he was home and dry, but
then he began to realise (by observation in an arrangement of mirrors)
that he was not able to be sure about whether he was pulling his
head back or not. In fact, often when he felt that he was not pulling
his head back, observation proved that in fact he was! He began
to understand that what we feel is often inaccurate. He decided
that he could only be sure that he had not gone wrong if, when
he decided to speak, he said to himself, "no, I'll have nothing
to do with it", and thus succeeded in doing nothing. Even
this turned out to be elusive, but this is meant to be a SHORT
summary, so follow me on! He practised doing nothing when he thought
of speaking and then, before proceeding to speak, he gave himself
new instructions in line with his ideas about how he wanted to
perform the act of speaking. This is the essence of the Alexander
Technique: learn to stop rather than react when you think of doing
something, then, before you proceed, give yourself a series of
instructions or "directions" as to how you wish the act
to be carried out.
FM Alexander was born in 1869 at Table Cape,
Tasmania, the son of a farmer and horse-farrier. After some success
in commerce, he embarked on a career as an actor and reciter in
Melbourne. Unfortunately, within a few years he developed voice
problems leading to hoarseness and occasionally to complete loss
of voice. Finding doctors unable to help, Alexander reasoned that
his mis-use of himself while speaking was the cause of the problem,
and set about finding a solution. After years of acute observation
and patient experimentation, he discovered principles of movement
that, in application, removed his voice problem and greatly improved
his health. Alexander's friends and associates noted the remarkable
change in him, and asked if he would be willing to teach them what
he had learned. Thus began a career which was to take him to England,
where he eventually settled, and also the USA. He spent the rest
of his life teaching, training others to teach and writing about
the Technique. He wrote four books, called "Man's Supreme
Inheritance", "Constructive Conscious Control of the
Individual", "The Use of the Self" and "The
Universal Constant in Living". Today there are Alexander teachers
in practice throughout the world.