Victoria Cresswell MSTAT
Alexander Technique, Movement & Dance
Art of Movement
Experience it for Yourself
The Alexander Technique was ‘discovered’ over 100 years ago by Frederick Matthias Alexander, usually known simply as F M. Since then, his Technique has been taught extensively in the UK and around the world. His thoughts ideas and work are continually being re-
Alexander himself developed his Technique by learning the skilful use of himself. The process is well described in his four books and all teachers are trained in a similar way, intensively over a period of 3 years. In many ways the Technique addresses the tendency of ‘trying too hard’; or the use of excessive and misplaced effort which places body, mind and emotions under unnecessary stress. FM Alexander’s own story is illustrative and enlightening of these issues that affect us all.
Born in 1869 in Tasmania, Alexander was a quick minded child with a passion for the theatre, which he made his career, particularly recitation and soliloquy.
Our voice is an extraordinary aspect of being human and is both robust and fragile. Working well, the voice has stamina and agility. Unfortunately this was not the case for Alexander. His profession as an actor and orator placed a great demand on his voice, which began to give under the strain. He just kept losing his voice.
…There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction…
F M Alexander
Alexander would rest his voice as advised and afterwards there would be a momentary improvement before it deteriorated once again. Often we too have ailments that seem to improve after rest, only to return once more. Alexander concluded that it was something he was doing while speaking that resulted in his voice loss. He decided to find out what it was himself by keen and patient self observation. If you’ve ever tried this you will know that it can be quite challenging. Where do you start? Is what we think or feel an accurate reflection of what’s really happening? If we imagine the issue of voice loss it is understandable to first look at what is happening around the neck. Alexander saw that he was pulling the weight of his head back and downwards on his neck. He saw that he was not only tightening and shortening his neck but that, as part of the spine, it created a shortening and narrowing of his back.
The net effect was an upsetting of the natural balance and co-
Alexander first tried to remedy his situation by correcting his position. How often do we try and do this, pulling the shoulders back, trying to sit up straight but somehow the body can’t sustain it? Alexander realised this too, he saw that the pattern affected the whole of his body, not just his neck, and it was impossible to correct an isolated area while the rest of his body was still affected. He tried giving himself specific instructions for his neck, head, back and legs and while he looked more upright, his voice did not improve. He realised the problem lay in how he was thinking about his activity and the instructions he was giving his body, in this case when speaking.
With the impulse to speak, lots of other unnecessary things were happening in his body. To give himself the possibility of ‘doing’ less and creating conditions for healthy co-
The development of a healthier dynamic between mind and body meant less stress on his body and drag on his voice. He could now speak without losing his voice and, not only that, but the quality of his voice and his breathing improved.
…You come to learn to inhibit and direct your activity…
This was soon noticed by those around him and he was not only asked to help others in his profession, but also people with all sorts of varied conditions. Doctors began referring their patients to him, and in 1904 he left for London carrying letters of recommendation from Doctors who had observed the value of his Technique.
On arriving in England he became very popular with the ‘thinkers’ of the time and inspired Philosophers and Anthropologists with the depth of his insight. He was sought out by those needing to improve the use of their body for their profession or interests, such as acting, singing, playing an instrument, horse riding and other sports. He helped people regain their sense of joy and poise in movement, teaching children and adults to understand how their thinking affected their body, educating children and adults in their manner of use and carriage of their body, and thus improving health and functioning. Consequently the Alexander Technique is taught in most Music and Drama colleges and academies, as well as in sports such as swimming, running and horse riding; and in various business organisations around the world.
Alexander’s work from then until now has been acclaimed by people of all professions. As methods of research have become more sophisticated, the intelligence of his principles are being more widely credited through out the medical and scientific community.
…You can’t do something you don’t know if you keep doing what you do know…