Frederick Mathias Alexander (1869–1955), founder of the Alexander Technique, was born in Tasmania, Australia. His story began when, as a promising young actor he ending up losing his voice on stage.
At the time the doctors could find nothing wrong with him, and he was advised to rest and wait for his voice to return. Sure enough, with enough rest Alexander found that his voice returned. Nonetheless, when he took the stage he again lost his voice!
Reasoning that because he only lost his voice when being on stage, that he must be doing something himself to cause his loss of voice, he decided to observe himself in action to try to get to the root of his problem.
Through extensive experimentation and patient self-observation Alexander discovered that when he spoke he would engage in excessive muscular tensions contributing to the eventual loss of his voice. By engaging less in these tensions Alexander was gradually able to prevent his loss of voice, and gained the added benefits of an improvement in his ease of movement, and subsequent improved performance.
Given his personal success with his new found knowledge, Alexander opened a centre in Sydney and began teaching his discoveries to others. He was so successful at helping actors and singers make real, lasting improvements in their coordination and health that his work became popular with people from all walks of life.
In 1904, Alexander was invited to London, England to develop and share his work. Although he made a number of trips to New York and Boston, he made London his home and eventually began training Alexander Technique teachers in 1932. He continued teaching until his death in 1955.
Many celebrities of the day sought out Alexander for private lessons. They included the great English actors Sir Henry Irving, Viola Tree, and Oscar Asche, writers Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw, Lady Clementine Churchill, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, the Viceroy of India, the Earl of Lytton, and the American educator and philosopher John Dewey.
Alexander wrote four books over his lifetime: Man's Supreme Inheritance: Conscious Guidance and Control in Relation to Human Evolution; The Use of the Self: Its Conscious Direction in Relation to Diagnosis Functioning and the Control of Reaction; Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual; and The Universal Constant in Living.
The Alexander Technique Today
Today the Alexander Technique is taught around the world. It's used by professional musicians, actors, dancers, athletes, and many others interested in enhancing their performance. In addition to a competitive edge, many people now learn the Alexander Technique as a way to address chronic pains, and enhance self-management in everyday life. Many students report enhanced physical and mental health, and an increased sense of well-being.
Ongoing support from scientists, educators, Nobel prize winners, artists, and athletes continues to grow understanding and access to the Alexander Technique around the world.