The­re is only one way of say­ing what the work is and what we are doing.

“We are giving natu­re her oppor­tu­ni­ty.

“This is a defi­ni­ti­on allo­wing for chan­ge and growth

F.M. Alex­an­der

Who was F.M. Alexander?

Born in Tas­ma­nia in 1869, Alex­an­der was a per­for­mer of Shake­speare­an reci­ta­ti­ons from an ear­ly age. After being quite suc­cessful with this and wan­ting to make it his pro­fes­si­on, he deve­lo­ped pro­blems with his voice, beco­ming hoar­se to the point of losing his voice com­ple­te­ly. No doc­tor and no heal­ing method had any las­ting suc­cess. Faced with this thre­at to his artis­tic future, he deci­ded to inves­ti­ga­te the mat­ter hims­elf. At the begin­ning of this path the­re was meti­cu­lous and sys­te­ma­tic self-analysis with the help of mir­rors. Through many ite­ra­ti­ons of tri­al and error, he found, among other things, fun­da­men­tal con­nec­tions bet­ween his head-neck rela­ti­onship and over­all body coordination.

Final­ly, he not only freed hims­elf from his health pro­blems, but also deve­lo­ped a “method for holi­stic trai­ning and reo­ri­en­ta­ti­on of move­ment and action pat­terns”*.
F. M. Alex­an­der gave les­sons in Aus­tra­lia, Lon­don and the USA. Famous per­so­na­li­ties such as Bern­hard Shaw, Aldous Hux­ley and John Dew­ey were among his stu­dents.
He wro­te four books, the best known of which, The Use of the Self, descri­bes his method very tho­rough­ly. From about 1930 he taught others to pass on his method as a teacher.

FM Alex­an­der hims­elf used the term “tech­ni­que” late: For him it was most­ly just “the work”

What is the Alexander Technique?

“The­re is no such thing as a right posi­ti­on, but the­re is such a thing as a right direc­tion

F.M. Alex­an­der

What is the Alexander Technique?

Peo­p­le often come to the Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que becau­se they have a pro­blem with their body. For exam­p­le, ten­si­on in the neck, should­ers and back, pain in the kne­es or hips. The elbow or ank­le no lon­ger allow cer­tain move­ments wit­hout pain, or the voice fails and breathing beco­mes dif­fi­cult. You have alre­a­dy tried a lot and not­hing has hel­ped in the long term so far.

To avo­id misun­derstan­dings: The Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que is neither a sport nor a medical-therapeutic treatment.

It’s a tea­ching method that shows you a way, to use your body again in the way, that evo­lu­ti­on has so per­fect­ly shaped it over mil­li­ons of years. Uncon­scious­ly per­for­med move­ments that lead to ten­si­on and pain are gra­du­al­ly repla­ced by con­scious­ly con­trol­led move­ments which are per­for­med with ease. For the Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que, the body is always in moti­on — even when sit­ting, stan­ding and lying down, when sin­ging, spea­king and pre­sen­ting. Mus­cles are moved just by breathing.

In class, you first learn to pau­se and beco­me awa­re of the habi­tu­al, unfa­vorable move­ment pat­terns you have memo­ri­zed; you then even­tual­ly learn how you can per­form them bet­ter or chan­ge them. It is a mat­ter of deci­ding what force is requi­red and what mecha­ni­cal advan­ta­ges our body offers in order to per­form the move­ment with the grea­test pos­si­ble ease and balance.

Alex­an­der hims­elf expe­ri­en­ced and descri­bed how much our own fee­lings can decei­ve us. The fami­li­ar feels right even though it harms to the body and the new feels wrong even though it’s ana­to­mic­al­ly cor­rect. The Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que tea­cher is espe­ci­al­ly important as a refe­rence at the begin­ning. In the les­sons you will learn self-help skills so that you can incre­asing­ly inte­gra­te the Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que into your ever­y­day life.

Habits and change 

Peo­p­le do not deci­de their future, they deci­de their habits and their habits deci­de their future

F.M. Alex­an­der

Habits & change

Some habits make everyday life easier; others are annoying or harmful and lead to tension in the neck and shoulders as well as joint or back pain.

Neck pain from incor­rect sit­ting posture?
Back and joint pain due to unfa­vorable movements
Back ten­si­on in the home office?
Pain from incor­rect use over a long peri­od of time

Humans are crea­tures of habits, and it is very dif­fi­cult for them to chan­ge habits, even if the know­ledge and the firm will exist. Habits lead to auto­ma­tisms, and the­se enable our brain to free up cogni­ti­ve resour­ces that can then be used for other pur­po­ses. In prin­ci­ple, habits can be some­thing very useful. But…

When we sit in front of the PC or surf the Inter­net on our mobi­le pho­nes, when we play an instru­ment or foot­ball, vacu­um clean or cook, we often take an unfa­vorable “pos­tu­re” that is harmful to our mus­cu­los­ke­le­tal sys­tem, we often use the wrong mus­cles and turn more force than neces­sa­ry and are not awa­re of our (move­ment) habits.

Only when phy­si­cal sym­ptoms such as back, hip or knee pain, ten­si­on in the should­ers and neck occur, do we rea­li­ze that some­thing is wrong in our body.

Dif­fe­rent regi­ons in the brain are respon­si­ble for habits (evo­lu­tio­na­ri­ly older basal gan­glia) and actions that a per­son deli­bera­te­ly thinks about (pre­fron­tal cor­tex). When we repea­ted­ly per­form actions, the acti­vi­ty shifts accor­din­gly in the brain. The good news is: The so-called neu­ro­pla­s­ti­ci­ty of the brain makes it pos­si­ble to lea­ve ing­rai­ned thought pat­terns and learn new things well into old age. Habits are stub­born, but chan­ge is pos­si­ble. Our brain is pre­pared for it.

At the time of Alex­an­der, modern neu­ro­sci­ence had not yet been inven­ted, but in the cour­se of his stu­dies he came to the important rea­liza­ti­on that the­re is a key to chan­ging habits. This lies in rai­sing awa­re­ness of what you are doing (ana­ly­sis) and the decis­i­on to stop what you are used to, to take back con­trol of your own actions and to use the right means.

AT and science today

AT and science today

As F.M. Alex­an­der began to find solu­ti­ons to his own pro­blem, he could only rely on his obser­va­tions. Again and again, he deri­ved know­ledge only through self-experiments and self-observation. Later he obser­ved and ana­ly­zed the beha­vi­or, atti­tu­des, and move­ments of his num­e­rous stu­dents very pre­cis­e­ly, he gathe­red ide­as from various sci­en­ti­fic fields such as evo­lu­tio­na­ry bio­lo­gy, psy­cho­lo­gy, and neu­ro­sci­ence, drew con­clu­si­ons from them and deri­ved recom­men­da­ti­ons for his stu­dents.
In the end, he sum­ma­ri­zed all his obser­va­tions and expe­ri­en­ces into a phi­lo­so­phy of life, so to say. This phi­lo­so­phy is based on prin­ci­ples. Accor­ding to Alex­an­der the body forms a psycho-physical unit. Humans have the abili­ty to impul­se con­trol, and they are capa­ble of deve­lo­p­ment and adapt­a­ti­on and can gain con­scious con­trol over their actions and thoughts. With that mind, human beings can unfold their potential.

The­re is one pri­ma­ry con­trol that is essen­ti­al to the pro­per use of the body. The men­tal ins­truc­tions are as fol­lows: the neck (neck mus­cles) is rela­xed, the head goes for­ward and up, the spi­ne leng­thens, and the back widens. If this pri­ma­ry con­trol is not working pro­per­ly, many mal­func­tions / per­ma­nent dama­ges to the body can result.

An important fin­ding for Alex­an­der was that thin­king in rela­ti­on to move­ment and of moti­on has a decisi­ve influence on the way move­ments are car­ri­ed out. At the time, he went so far as to cla­im that chan­ging the way you think can even have a posi­ti­ve impact on the over­all health of his stu­dents. He was stron­gly cri­ti­cis­ed for it.

At the time of Alex­an­der the­re were no ima­ging tech­ni­ques, no CT and no MRI. Today, neu­ro­sci­en­tists and psy­cho­lo­gists can use cli­ni­cal tests, exami­na­ti­ons, and stu­dies to demons­tra­te the con­nec­tion bet­ween thin­king and the body and, con­ver­se­ly, the effect of pos­tu­re on thinking.

Today, this con­nec­tion is often refer­red to as embo­di­ment. Alex­an­der cal­led it the psycho-physical unit. Alex­an­der was firm­ly con­vin­ced that the civi­li­zed human being did not ful­ly exploit his poten­ti­al becau­se, despi­te civi­liza­ti­on and tech­ni­cal pro­gress, he con­tin­ued to act uncon­scious­ly and instinc­tively. Only by making the tran­si­ti­on to con­scious gui­dance and con­trol can we adapt to the con­di­ti­ons of the pre­sent. In Chap­ter 1, “man’s supre­me inhe­ri­tance” he wri­tes: “The phy­si­cal, men­tal, and spi­ri­tu­al poten­tia­li­ties of the human being are grea­ter than we have ever rea­li­zed, grea­ter than the human mind in its pre­sent evo­lu­tio­na­ry stage is capa­ble of rea­li­zing. And the pre­sent world cri­sis sure­ly fur­nis­hes us with suf­fi­ci­ent evi­dence that the fami­li­ar pro­ces­ses we call civi­liza­ti­on and edu­ca­ti­on are not, alo­ne, such as will enable us to come into that supre­me inhe­ri­tance which is the com­ple­te con­trol of our own potentialities.”

If you are inte­res­ted in deeper insights into the cur­rent sta­te of sci­ence on the topics of thin­king, body awa­re­ness and the Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que in sci­ence, you can read the fol­lo­wing books, texts, and articles.

Further Reading

  • Embo­di­ment – die Wech­sel­wir­kung von Kör­per und Psy­che ver­ste­hen und nut­zen (Autoren: Maja Storch/Benita Cantieni/Gerald Hüther/Wolfgang Tscha­cher; 3 Aufl. 2017)
  • Der Geist im Kör­per: Das Ich und sein Raum  (Autoren: San­dra Blakes­lee, Matthew Blakes­lee; 2009)
  • Evol­ve your Brain (Autor: Joe Dis­pen­za, 2007)
  • Alex­an­der Tech­nik – Ein Weg zum bes­se­ren Umgang mit sich selbst (Chris Ste­vens, 1989)
  • Towards a Phy­sio­lo­gy of the F.M. Alex­an­der Tech­ni­que: a record of work in pro­gress, STAT Books, Lon­don 1990, 1995 (Schrift von Chris Stevens)
  • Coll­ec­ted wri­tin­gs on the Alex­an­der tech­ni­que (Prof. Frank Pier­ce Jones; 1998)