Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was a Shakespearean actor living in Australia during the late 1800s and who suffered from persistent vocal problems early in his career. When neither rest nor medical advice from doctors offered any lasting relief, he began to study his own performance behaviours using mirrors. He quickly realized that all of his movements seemed to have a negative impact on the relationship between his head, neck, and back. What he thought he was doing properly — how he used his entire body — was actually getting in the way of his ability to perform.
Over the years that followed, Alexander experimented with ways to re-educate his body and to “wear the head properly”. Not only did this work eliminate his voice problems, it also resulted in a marked improvement in his health as well.
A Universal Technique
Alexander soon realized that the physical re-education he had undergone had value beyond his own personal needs. Accordingly, he set out to develop his work into a program that he could teach to others. This program is now known as the Alexander Technique.
Over the remainder of his lifetime, Alexander taught his technique to friends and colleagues as well as a growing list of students that included Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, and American philosopher John Dewey. Today, thanks to his efforts, teachers of the Alexander Technique are active all over the world, each committed to continuing Alexander’s legacy of self-examination based on constructive thinking.