Alexander Technique Lessons, Classes and Courses in Oxford & Headington
Stephen Cooper MSTAT
TEACHER OF THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE -
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F M Alexander and the Origins of the Technique
Frederick Matthias Alexander (known as F M) was born in 1869 at Table Cape, Tasmania,
the son of a farmer and horse-
Alexander's friends and associates noted the remarkable change in him, and asked if he would be willing to teach them what he had learned. Thus began a career which was to take him to England, where he eventually settled, and also the USA. He spent the rest of his life teaching, training others to teach and writing about the Technique. He wrote four books, called "Man's Supreme Inheritance", "Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual", "The Use of the Self" and "The Universal Constant in Living". Today there are Alexander teachers in practice throughout the world.
F M Alexander was an aspiring actor who began to have problems with his voice. He
found that when he was performing he became hoarse and eventually lost his voice.
He was unable to get any satisfactory help for this either from the medical profession
or from voice teachers. Eventually it occurred to him that there was nothing wrong
with his voice -
Alexander provides a fascinating account of his search for the answer in his book, "The Use of the Self". Briefly summarised, what he has to say is this:
His researches took him a long time. At first he could see nothing wrong. But then he began to notice that, when he went to speak, he stiffened his neck and pulled his head back. This tightened his larynx and caused him to become hoarse. If he could prevent the pulling back of his head then the hoarseness did not come about.
At first he thought he was home and dry, but then he began to realise (by observation in an arrangement of mirrors) that he was not able to be sure about whether he was pulling his head back or not. In fact, often when he felt that he was not pulling his head back, observation proved that in fact he was! He began to understand that what we feel is often inaccurate. He decided that he could only be sure that he had not gone wrong if, when he decided to speak, he said to himself, "no, I'll have nothing to do with it", and thus succeeded in doing nothing. Even this turned out to be elusive, but this is meant to be a SHORT summary, so follow me on!
Alexander practised doing nothing when he thought of speaking and then, before proceeding to speak, he gave himself new instructions in line with his ideas about how he wanted to perform the act of speaking. This is the essence of the Alexander Technique: learn to stop rather than react when you think of doing something, then, before you proceed, give yourself a series of instructions or "directions" as to how you wish the act to be carried out.
This is what a teacher of the Technique will seek to teach you from the very start of lessons. If you have followed me thus far, you will see that at this point your best course of action would be to have some lessons!
As Alexander developed the Technique and as he wrote about it, it was inevitable that certain words and phrases would come to have a special meaning with relation to the work. Being familiar with these terms makes Alexander's books a lot easier to understand. It also aids the process of leaning the Technique.
Here are the main terms, or KEY CONCEPTS that Alexander used.
- Primary control
- Position of mechanical advantage
- Faulty sensory perception
You will find a good source of books and further resources on the Alexander Technique at Alexander Books>>.
F M Alexander