Origins of the Alexander Technique

F. M. Alexnader

Frederick Matthias Alexander, Developer of the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is named after the man who discovered it, Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869 – 1955). Mr. Alexander was a popular stage actor in Australia who developed a problem with his voice. Toward the end of his performances, he was dismayed to hear his voice becoming raspy and hoarse. The problem worsened until he was afraid he would not be able to complete a performance without losing his voice entirely. The doctors he consulted were unable to help him, but he did not want to give up his beloved career.

Being a very resourceful person, he decided to study himself and his own voice to see if he could determine what he was doing on stage that was causing the problem. With the use of three full-size mirrors, patience and persistence, Alexander made discoveries about how his whole body was designed to function most naturally, and how he was interfering with that natural design. When he applied those discoveries to himself, he regained control over his voice and returned to the stage with confidence. But he also noticed his whole body functioned more efficiently, and he had let go of a lot of excess tension he had been imposing upon himself. His colleagues noticed the changes, and asked him to share what he had discovered. In time, they convinced him the discoveries were so important, he should move to London to share them with a larger population.

With a few letters of introduction, Alexander traveled to London and began to teach his technique there. He was able to help actors and musicians become better performers, but he also became popular with people who were seeking relief from back pain, knee issues, nervous conditions and all manner of problems with how to manage their bodies. The technique was always the same, but Alexander was pleased to notice it could help with a myriad of issues. He eventually drew the attention of Aldous Huxley, John Dewy and George Bernard Shaw who became enthusiastic students. In a Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Nickolaas Tinbergen praised Alexander for applying a rigorous scientific method to the study of the self.

In 1931, Alexander started a training course in London to show others how to teach the technique. There are now over a thousand Alexander Technique teachers throughout the world, showing their students how best to operate the delicate organism that is their own human body.