Probably the most widely known Western system of movement therapy, the Alexander Technique is a method of bringing the way we move under our conscious direction and avoiding a buildup of muscular tension.
F. Matthias Alexander, who was born in Tasmania in 1869, developed his theories in an effort to save his career when his voice began to be afflicted with such hoarseness that he had to cancel some of his performances as a reciter/actor. Noticing that when he began to recite in public he tended to contract muscles in his head and neck that apparently had little or nothing to do with his voice, he began by experimenting on himself. At first, inhibiting the muscular contractions proved almost impossible to achieve. However after ten years of research, practice, and study he had not only improved his voice, his breath control, his posture, and his acting "presence" but had derived an effective, nonverbal, hands-on technique that has been transforming people ever since.Alexander's clientele rapidly expanded outside the theater to include famous scientists and physicians. In 1937, 19 doctors signed a letter published in the foremost British medical journal, the Lancet, calling on the profession to recognize that it was only possible for medical diagnoses to be complete if they took into account Alexander's idea that the way patients used their bodies affected how well or badly they functioned.Elements of TherapyIdeological Basis Alexander said that if we constantly move in a way that we eventually discover is wrong and harmful, we should not try immediately to take some sort of opposing "corrective" action, and thereby possibly add insult to injury; instead we should find a way to STOP doing it wrongly and harmfully.Methodological Basis Alexander's basic discovery was what he called the "Primary Control Mechanism." When the head, neck, and spine are in a properly balanced relationship, so-called "antigravity reflexes" spring into play. A Tufts University group led by Professor Frank Pierce Jones developed what were then new photographic techniques to confirm the physical basis of Alexander's claim.Method That the technique relies on hands-on guidance is fundamental. Alexander noticed early on in his experiments how difficult it is for us all to break bad postural habits - they are so deeply ingrained that the easiest and most balanced way of, say, standing up, may well actually feel "wrong" when first we are encouraged to do it. In a session that lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, an Alexander teacher uses hands to guide you as you repeat a simple task such as sitting down in a chair and standing up again.