FM Alexander

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”
F. Matthias Alexander (1869 – 1955)

FMA workingThe Alexander Technique is based on the discoveries of Frederick Matthias Alexander. Born in Tasmania, Australia in 1869, Alexander was a successful actor and Shakespeare orator whose career was affected by his breathing and voice problems. Unable to get help from the medical profession and coming from a determined outback mentality, Alexander undertook intensive observations of himself over many months convinced that the cause of his voice difficulties lay in the way he thought about and used his body.

Alexander’s explorations of his strongly established habits allowed him to understand how hidden tensions and unnecessary tightenings in his body – particularly in the way he stiffened his neck, pulling his head back on top of his spine and compressing his back – were interfering in a natural and easy coordination of himself.

Understanding that habitual responses in his body and mind were connected in a way he had not appreciated, Alexander learned to pause momentarily before speaking in order to address hidden tensions – resolving not only his voice and breath control problems but improving the overall functioning of the whole body. He began to successfully share his technique with actors and medics becoming known initially as ‘the breathing man’.

Realising that his insights were applicable to all activities and aspects of living – not just voice and breathing – teaching became the main focus of Alexander’s life.

Arriving in London in 1904 he built up a successful practice with many influential supporters from the Arts, Medical and Scientific worlds including Sir Charles Sherrington, considered the father of modern neurology. Alexander drew pupils to his work from many walks of life. He was also supported by a number of notable doctors and those within the medical establishment.

In 1931 FM Alexander began his first training course in London to teach his work and he continued both his private practice and the training school until he died in 1955 at the age of 86. Over his lifetime he continued to refine his work and wrote four books outlining his understanding and insights. His discoveries became the basis of what we now call the Alexander Technique – a unique practical insight into our reactions and responses within everyday living and our general coordination.

Until the end of his life Alexander continued to develop his practical teaching approach, guiding people towards new experiences of balance and poise within a more conscious awareness of how they used themselves. In the years before he died he handed over the training course to Walter Carrington who had trained and worked with him since the 1930s. Walter, with his wife Dilys and other teachers, continued to train Alexander Technique teachers at The Constructive Teaching Centre in London until 2005. There are now training courses to teach Alexander Technique not only in the UK but around the world.

My training

I was privileged to train with Carolyn Nicholls at the highly regarded Brighton Alexander Technique College. Carolyn has herself been teaching for 30 years, having trained with Walter and Dilys Carrington. She has made a study of the specialised use of the teacher’s hands in Alexander Technique informed by extensive work with Dilys Carrington.