F.M.ALEXANDER 1869-1956.

Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in Tasmania, Australia in 1869.

As a young man he became interested in acting, specialising in solo performances of poetry and dramatic pieces from Shakespeare; a popular form of theatre at the time in Australia.

His career went well, and his reputation grew until a persistent tendency to hoarseness during performances began to trouble him. This got worse and worse, until he felt afraid to accept important engagements for fear of being unable to complete the performance.

He consulted doctors and voice therapists, and received all kinds of medical treatment, but the problem re-occurred continually, and worsened gradually.

A critical moment came before an important engagement. Anxious about his voice, he consulted his doctor, who advised him to rest his voice for two weeks before the performance. This he did, but it didn't work and his hoarseness re-occurred.

Discouraged, he visited his doctor again, and asked him if he might be doing something wrong in the way he was using his voice, thinking that if he could to find this out he might get somewhere. The doctor agreed, but was unable to tell him in what way. Alexander didn't want to give up his acting career, so he decided to try to find out for himself.

He didn't really know where to start. He began by observing himself while reciting in front of a mirror (later he used several mirrors, so he could see himself from different angles). After some time he was able to observe that, while he was acting, - or simulating acting,- he had a tendency to subtly retract his head with his neck muscles; depress his larynx; and at the same moment to gasp audibly for air. He considered this to be part of a pattern of misusing himself, and to be an important discovery.

After a long period of experimenting, he discovered that if he managed to prevent himself from tensing his neck and retracting his head, then the other tendencies, to both depress on the larynx and gasp for air, diminished.

But while he was partly successful to stop these habits in front of the mirrors, it was much more difficult away from them, when he couldn't see, or clearly sense what he was doing.

However he persisted, and found that he could to some extent inhibit (prevent) his unconscious muscle tensing habits, by repeatedly giving himself mental directives to counteract them. It was difficult because it seemed he was going against his natural and normal self. But he was sure he was on the right track, and results confirmed it. In front of the mirrors he saw it worked. He noticed his voice became freer.

For 10 years he perfected and refined this technique. He found that it was also good for him in other ways; made him feel better, both physically and mentally: his body became straighter, and he was more free in his movements.

His career took off again, and he was again in demand. Actors, impressed by his skills, came to him for advice and lessons.

It was while teaching them, that it became more and more clear to him that the method, or technique, he had worked out had very beneficial effects on his pupils too. Not only on their acting, but also improvements were reported with their back troubles, muscular pains, headaches, problems with nerves, breathing related troubles and problems of balance and coordination etc..

An eminent Australian doctor -Dr Mackenzie - encouraged him to travel to England to develop the technique. This he did in 1904 and during the course of the twentieth century his work became well known. He started a training course for Alexander teachers in the 1930s.

Today there are 17 schools in England, and during the 90s the Alexander Technique was recognised by the British government. Doctors were permitted to recommend and refer patients to an Alexander teacher. The present government (2004) has now made it possible for patients to have free lessons as a part of free Medical care.

Alexander lived till he was 86 and died in 1956

Today the Technique is taught in many countries in the world. It is gradually being recognised and appreciated as an important contribution to our understanding of how to deal with the growing physical problems the modern world has developed.