The Birth of the Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique was born in the 1890s, thanks to the pioneering work of Frederick Matthias Alexander. Born in Tasmania in 1869, Alexander initially pursued a promising career as a young actor. However, his path was marred by recurring vocal problems that threatened to derail his success.


Frustrated by his vocal issues and finding no relief from conventional medical treatments, Alexander embarked on a journey of self-discovery by observing himself in front of multiple mirrors. He wondered if he might be unknowingly contributing to his vocal strain through incorrect habits or "misuse" of his vocal organs. His keen observations led him to a critical realization: he stiffened his neck, pulled his head back and down, and depressed his larynx when reciting. These patterns of tension extended throughout his entire body. In time he realised they weren't unique to reciting, these patterns of reaction happened in many activities. Furthermore, they weren't unique to himself, he came to understand this was a universal pattern of behaviour when trying too hard in any endeavour, or when good coordination had been lost.


Alexander's quest to change these harmful habits and improve his overall health became the foundation of what we now know as the Alexander Technique. He gradually refined his approach, initially focusing on vocal use and breathing. As he transformed his own well-being, others began seeking his guidance, and for a while he was known as the Breathing Man. As he continued to explore human behaviour his work extended more and more into functional movement as a whole.


Initially his teaching was through verbal instruction, but over time he came to recognise the limitations of words and how they become filtered within the mind of the student. Seeking to refine his work he started to guide his students manually through movement, an exploration that took years to perfect. Eventually he learned how to directly prevent unhelpful patterns of behaviour in his pupils.

Recognition and Influence

Alexander's reputation grew rapidly, especially after he brought his Technique to London in 1904. Eminent figures from various fields became his students:


  1. George Bernard Shaw: The renowned playwright and critic embraced the Alexander Technique, recognizing its potential for enhancing performance and well-being, giving him a second lease of life in his later years.
  2. Aldous Huxley: The influential writer and philosopher also studied under Alexander, appreciating the profound impact it had on his life. He based the doctor in his book Eyeless in Gaza on Alexander.
  3. Lillie Langtry: The celebrated actress found solace in Alexander's teachings.


But it wasn't just artists who recognized the value of the Technique. Scientists, too, endorsed Alexander's practical observations. Sir Charles Sherrington, considered the father of modern neurology, acknowledged the consistency between Alexander's work and scientific discoveries in neurology and physiology. Even Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Nobel Laureate, dedicated part of his Nobel acceptance lecture to Alexander's contributions.


Medical professionals, including Peter MacDonald, chairman of the BMA, advocated for integrating Alexander's principles into medical training. The Technique transcended boundaries, attracting people from politics, religion, education, and business. 

Legacy and Continuing Impact

Alexander never returned to his native Tasmania. Instead, he continued teaching in London until his passing in 1955. His legacy lives on through the teachers he trained and the countless lives transformed by the Alexander Technique.


Frederick Matthias Alexander's journey from vocal struggles to a groundbreaking method illustrates the power of self-awareness, observation, and conscious change. The Alexander Technique remains a beacon of holistic well-being, inviting you to explore your habits, release unnecessary tension, and discover your true potential.


For further reading, explore Alexander's four books. His legacy endures, reminding us that sometimes the most profound discoveries arise from our own introspection and determination.

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