FM Alexander’s discovery


Frederick Matthias Alexander was a young Shakespearean reciter who began to experience recurrent loss of voice on stage. He decided to consult the medical profession and followed their advice, yet came to appreciate that this advice did not help to overcome this problem. He eventually decided to take matters into his own hands and started observing himself in mirrors (today we are fortunate to have trained teachers). He noticed that the way in which he was using his head, neck and back was affecting his voice and much else besides. He went on to develop a way in which he was able to bring his cognitive ability to bear, observing what he was doing with his body, learning how to prevent these unnecessary habits and bring about change within himself, all brought about by observation and thinking. Simply put, he was not doing what he was convinced he was doing with his own body, the faulty sensory appreciation which is a complete blindspot.

Alexander Technique teaches us to first stop and observe our entire ourselves, activity referring to anything from breathing, standing and sitting, sitting at a computer, speaking, singing, walking, down to our smallest dexterous everyday movements which we hardly ever usually notice, such as  whether we are frowning as opposed to reminding ourselves to smile a bit more, whether our eyes are glazing over, observing where our tongue  happens to be in our mouth and whether our jaw is clenched or free. Inhibition is about preventing the unnecessary reaction in ourselves and direction is about thinking about how we wish ourselves to be.

The way in which we use our postural mechanism affects the way we function, so developing an increased self-awareness is key. Sadly it is often the case that our postural habits let us down, causing us pain and discomfort, lack of confidence and even self-doubt, however we should bear in mind that these are all unconscious learned behaviours from a very early age indeed and are something we repeat without even realising we are. The good news is that our Use and functioning can be restored to much like it was when we were young children by learning to use ourselves as we are designed to with effortless ease. This has everything to do with bringing our attention to our our head, neck and back relationship, which actually determines the overall co-ordination and balance of our entire mechanism, something which FM Alexander termed "the primary control". This is what we spend much of our time considering, because if we are not at our full height, we are shortening, and if we are not stopping to think first we are at the mercy of unhelpful and harmful reaction.