Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was born in Tasmania and performed Shakespeare recitations. During performances, he began to lose his voice. Doctors suggested he rest his voice and despite his efforts, when he returned to performing and recitation he continued to lose his voice which threatened to end his career as an actor. Doctors were unable to determine the cause of his malady so he set out to “figure out” what he was “doing” that had such an effect on his voice. Alexander spent years observing his habits and ultimately found that that his own bad habits were interfering with his ability to speak while performing. Over time, 7 or more years, he observed his habits, as an actor would, using mirrors and a chair as a prop. His keen ability to observe and notice the smallest details allowed him to discover habitual patterns that occurred each time he spoke or even thought of speaking. The habitual patterns he found were throwing his head back and down, compressing the larynx, tensing the neck muscles, sucking in air through the nostrils, sticking his chest out and gripping the floor with his feet. These habitual patterns of misuse caused the loss of his voice during performances. Through a series of trial and error he discovered a dynamic relationship of the head, neck and torso when maintained, allowed him to speak and perform without losing his voice. Alexander called the newly discovered dynamic relationship of the head, neck and torso the “Primary Control”.
Alexander began to work with others teaching the Alexander Technique, new method of psychophysical re-education. He found by examining the interrelationship of thought, habit and movement a person could learn to change their habitual use patterns that were maladaptive. The Technique shows us that each person has the capacity to learn to change these habits leading to better psychophysical use.
Today the Technique is studied by a variety of people: actors, singers, musicians, dancers, athletes, those seeking self-understanding and knowledge to prevent musculo-skeletal injury and enhance enjoyment and ease in their movements and activities. Centers for training teachers of the Alexander Technique now operate throughout the world.
(Taken from AmSAT copyrighted material)