Alexander-Technique  -  AT studio | F.M. Alexander | The Development of the Technique







"The 'magic', if you want to call it magic, is your constructive thinking."

Marjorie Barstow

The development of the technique

Since Alexander lost his voice mostly on stage, he came to the conclusion that it was due to some kind of action taken on by himself. After deciding to find the problem himself, he shopped for a mirror, and watching himself he started to practice his lines. He was surprised to see that what he actually saw was the complete opposite of what he imagined himself saying and doing. While he was making an effort to control his voice, he twisted his body, flexed his head backwards and was indirectly controlling his breathing. He purchased two more mirrors, so he could observe himself from different angles, and continued the practice. He discovered, that to reach some goals he would apply a series of different movement gauges, which became an automatic habit. Alexander knew that in order to regain his voice he would need to lose all these bad habits which alienated him from the right state of feeling.

It is not surprising, that Alexander became confused after trying to change something that after so many years had become unambiguous, without thought routine, which he felt was normal. He discovered that the success of his actions was based on sensation, and was shocked to learn, that his own sensory system was unreliable. Alexander started to understand, that due to this unreliability, his functions were defective. This posed as a challenge, to develop a type of reliable observation of the body, and this was the eminent consciousness.

Alexander discovered, that there is a connection between thought, sense and action, an action’s thought generates independent muscle reaction, which is ingrained with repetition. This theory proved to be correct, he had noticed that by leaning his head backward, his larynx tightened, therefore leaving him to gasp for air whenever he had to recite. Experimenting, he came to understand, that by eliminating the pressure that leads to the head leaning backward, he could also interfere with the two other problems as well.

The connection between head-neck-torso is called the primary control. This primary control, influences all other function coordination. With the study of his own movement, Alexander soon came to understand, that the improper function of these primary controls lead to tension in the neck, and the loss of his voice. Learning to control the urge of influencing the primary controls, he eventually regained his voice, and general good health.

He realized, that in order to repair the use of his functions, he would have to find a way to stop all habits that interfere with the connections of the primary controls. The key to finding this method, lay not in the immediate control of certain parts of the body, but in the possibilities of practice. Practice of the conscious mind was the only way to break the cycle of conscious thought and habit.

Whilst Alexander experimented on how to inhibit unnecessary muscular labor, he discovered the second most important fundamental of proper usage. He identified , that a movement, just like a story, has a beginning, middle and an ending. By instinct, he would use up most of the energy for the beginning of the movement. When he ordered inhibition to the initial reactions, and pushed the appointed, wanted outcome, he could consciously command his energy by keeping in mind the movement in whole. This is how he became to understand, that he has to concentrate on the outcome, not the process.

He realized, if he controlled his movement, it stopped him from changing its very purpose. For example, by standing up from a chair from sitting position, if he concentrated on his balance and let his mind lead his actions, then he could stand up with minimal muscle input. This led to lightness and unmitigated happiness, compared to previous tension and hardship. It took some time, before he could learn to properly apply his findings. He regained his voice, and his respiratory problems eventually ceased. He began to enjoy his strength for life, and radiated self confidence.