Discovery
The Alexander Technique was discovered and developed by Frederick Matthias (F.M.) Alexander. He founded the technique in the 1890’s and taught it until his death in 1955. Originally an Australian actor with a passion for Shakespeare, he discovered the technique after looking for a solution to chronic voice and respiratory troubles that were preventing him from continuing his acting career. The principles he discovered and the process that he used to cure himself became known as the Alexander Technique.

First Alexander Technique Training Course
In February, 1931, the first teacher training course for the Alexander Technique was established in London. The teachers were F.M. Alexander and his brother Albert Redden (A.R.) Alexander.

F.M. Alexander (far left) and A.R. Alexander (center) with students from the first training course.

F.M. Alexander (far left) and A.R. Alexander (center) with students from the first training course.

Establishment of professional Alexander Technique organizations
As the number of training courses grew throughout the world, many teachers saw a need to establish a governing body that would set training standards and codes of professional conduct, as well as to encourage research and to promote and educate the public about the Alexander Technique. In 1958, the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT – http://www.stat.org.uk/) was established in the United Kingdom. Today there are many professional Alexander Technique societies throughout the world. In the United States, the largest professional organization is The American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT – www.amsatonline.org), which was founded in 1987.

Endorsements from Eminent Scientists and Intellectuals

George E. Coghill – famous anatomist. F.M. Alexander spent a weekend with Coghill at his home in Gainesville, Florida, during which he worked on Coghill the entire time. So impressed was Coghill, that he wrote an appreciation of the Alexander Technique to be published in F.M.’s latest book, The Universal Constant in Living:

“The practice of Mr. F. Matthias Alexander in treating the human body is founded, as I understand it, on three well-established biological principles: 1). that of the integration of the whole organism in the performance of particular functions; 2). that of proprioceptive sensitivity as a factor in determining posture; 3). that of the primary importance of posture in determining muscular action…. Mr. Alexander’s method lays hold of the individual as a whole, as a self-vitalizing agent. He re-conditions and re-educates the reflex mechanisms, and brings their habits into normal relation with the functions of organisms as a whole. I regard his methods as thoroughly scientific and educationally sound.”

Raymond Dart – famous anatomist and anthropologist.

Raymond Dart

Raymond Dart

He is best known for his involvement in the discovery of the fossil Australopithecus, an extinct hominid that is closely related to humans. He was a student of the Alexander Technique, taking lessons from an Alexander Technique Teacher in South Africa named Irene Tasker. He also once had a lesson with F.M. Alexander. The Alexander Technique inspired Dart to develop the Dart Procedures in order to help his son who had a brain injury. The Dart Procedures are a series of movements that explore the sequence of human development from infant to adult. Dart was a huge supporter of the Alexander Technique, and in March 1970 he delivered the F. M. Alexander Memorial lecture titled “An Anatomist’s Tribute to F. Matthias Alexander” to the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique in London. A book was published that contains all of Dart’s articles that relate to the Alexander Technique, the title is Skill and Poise.

John Dewey – famous philosopher and education reformer, who wrote the introduction to three of Alexander’s four books (Man’s Supreme Inheritance, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, and The Universal Constant in Living).

John Dewey (left) with F.M. Alexander (right).

John Dewey (left) with F.M. Alexander (right).

He also referenced Alexander in his books: Human Nature and Conduct, and Experience and Nature. In a book called Freedom to Change, by Frank Pierce Jones, Dewey talked about when he first took Alexander Technique lessons. He experienced an improvement in his vision and breathing, as well as in the elasticity of his ribs. He also commented that intellectually he found it much easier to hold a philosophical position calmly or to change his position if new evidence came up that warranted a change. He contrasted that with the rigidity of other academics who adopt a position early in their career and then use their intellect to defend it indefinitely.

“It (The Alexander Technique) bears the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other human activities.”

Aldous Huxley – famous writer and intellectual.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley

He took lessons with F.M. Alexander in 1935, and changed so dramatically that he became an advocate for the technique. F.M. helped him overcome his stooped posture, as well as vision problems, digestive issues, insomnia and depression. Huxley was fascinated intellectually by the Alexander Technique, and created a character similar to F.M. Alexander in his novel Eyeless in Gaza. He also wrote a book called Ends and Means, in which he recommended the Alexander Technique.

“(The Alexander Technique) is valuable, among other reasons, as a means for increasing conscious control of the body, and, in this way, raising a human being from a condition of physical unawareness to a state of physical self-consciousness and self-control. Such physical self-awareness and self-control leads to, and to some extent is actually a form of, mental and moral self-awareness and self-control.”

Rudolph Magnus – famous physiologist and pharmacologist. Although he never commented on the Alexander Technique directly, Magnus was a protégé of Sir Charles Sherrington. He put out a book on the physiology of posture, called Körperstellung. The important conclusions in his book corroborated with F.M.’s findings, mainly that there is a postural mechanism and that it’s efficient functioning is dependent on the correct alignment of the head, neck and upper back, as well as on accurate interpretation of sensory impressions.

Sir Charles Sherrington – famous neurophysiologist and Nobel Laureate.

Sir Charles Sherrington

Sir Charles Sherrington

He wrote the following in his book, The Endeavour of Jean Fernel:
“Mr. Alexander has done a service to the study of man by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psychophysical man. To take a step is an affair, not of this limb or that limb solely, but of the total neuromuscular activity of the movement – not least of the head and neck.”

 

Many famous actors, musicians, athletes, and intellectuals have been students of the Alexander Technique, including:

  • Victoria Beckham (singer and model)
  • Annette Bening (actor)
  • Josh Brolin (actor)
  • John Cleese (comedian)
  • Professor John Dewey (philosopher and educator)
  • William Hurt (actor)
  • Aldous Huxley (writer)
  • Hugh Jackman (actor)
  • James Earl Jones (actor)
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (First Lady of the United States)
  • Kevin Kline (actor)
  • Madonna (musician)
  • Paul McCartney (singer)
  • John McEnroe (tennis player)
  • Paul Newman (actor)
  • George Bernard Shaw (playwright)
  • Hilary Swank (actor)
  • Quentin Tarantino (film director, screenwriter, and actor)
  • Nikolaas Tinbergen (Nobel Prize for Medicine)
  • Robin Williams (actor)