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AT – History

History of the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique was developed in the 1890s by the Australian-born actor and reciter F. Matthias Alexander (1869-1955).

He observed that the loss of his voice during his recitation performances was due to misuse of his muscular mechanisms. He went on to discover how to prevent this misuse, how to allow his muscular system to expand as a whole, not contract or tense, and he observed that not only did he regain his voice, but his health, ease of movement and breathing improved significantly.

He came to London in 1904 where he taught his technique for the remainder of his life. He wrote four books on his method which remain in print today: Man’s Supreme Inheritance (1910), Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923), The Use of the Self (1932), and The Universal Constant in Living (1941). George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, Sir Stafford Cripps, and John Dewey were among his pupils who publicly endorsed his technique.

In 1931 Alexander started a 3-year course, training teachers in his technique, which ensured the Technique’s survival and continual expansion. He also encouraged and oversaw the establishment of a small school where children were taught with attention to the “means-whereby” in contrast to the “end-gaining” mentality which neglects the “how” in every activity.

After Alexander’s death in 1955 some of the teachers he had qualified from his his course started to train teachers, notably Wilfred and Marjory Barlow, Walter and Dilys Carrington, Patrick Macdonald, and Majorie Barstow.

The Alexander Technique is now taught in many parts of world; it is estimated that there are around 4,000 teachers worldwide. It is particularly well-established in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France, USA, Canada, Australia, and Israel. It is part of the curriculum in music conservatories in England (and several drama colleges), and there are several hundred books and journals on the Technique.

Change involves carrying out an activity against the habit of life.

F. M. Alexander