Frederick Matthias Alexander was the founder of the Alexander technique; a technique which examines habitual postural and movement imbalances and asymmetries and teaches one how to move in a more co-ordinated, efficient and pain free way. See our earlier articles for more information.
F.M. was born in Wynyard, Tasmania in 1869 and spent much of his early life in Melbourne. He was a successful Shakespearean actor and orator yet developed vocal difficulties at the height of his career and acute hoarseness would affect him whenever he tried to project his voice. After visits to numerous doctors whom couldn’t help, Alexander set out to figure out what was wrong for himself. He presumed that if his normal speaking voice was unaffected but yet acting and projecting his voice brought about his problems, then it must be something he was doing to himself in reaction to that stimulus that was causing his problems and not a mechanical issue. So many of us with back pain for instance presume that we are just unlucky to have been cursed with a ‘weak core’ or a hard job and it is just something we have to put up with, yet often it is something we are doing to ourselves that is the root cause of our pain or dysfunction.
Through an intense period of self-study using mirrors as a guide, Alexander found that when reacting to the stimulus to speak he was pulling his head back and down, thus depressing his larynx, bringing tension into the rest of his body even down to his toes, with which he noticed he was gripping the floor. Alexander found he had great difficulty in stopping himself from reacting in his habitual way to many other stimuli as well. With patient research and practice, Alexander found that if he inhibited his habitual responses and instead gave himself certain directions which would bring him into better co-ordination and balance, he could gradually begin to respond to stimuli without affecting his use and functioning and so avoid the terrible hoarseness and overall muscular tightening which had previously been his habit.
What do Alexander’s findings mean for you?
Alexander discovered that without changing our overall habits of use, change and relief from symptoms of low back pain, neck and shoulder pain, RSI and limb pain, vocal and breathing complaints is impossible. Thankfully, Alexander’s long period of self-study means that we now know how, with the help of an Alexander technique teacher, we can learn to inhibit those habits and direct ourselves in more appropriate ways to bring about increased balance and co-ordination and live a more easeful and pain-free life. The Alexander technique can be thought of as an education rather than purely a treatment; it puts the ability to change in your hands, so that you have the tools to look after yourself for life. Lessons with Cal in the Alexander technique can be arranged by calling the clinic.