Tuesday 19th July 2000
Despite its reputation as a way of dealing with musculo-skeletal problems, the Alexander technique had its origin in Melbourne over 100 years ago, when a talented your actor, F. Matthias Alexander, began to develop voice problems associated with projecting his voice to large audiences.
This work is based on the premise that they way we use ourselves affects the way we function. Change the use and we change the functioning ( in Alexander's case the immediate problem was the functioning of his voice.) Use is a technical term we use in this work to denote an overall pattern of posture and tension and the manner in which we respond to stimuli (in Alexander's case, the stimulus to project his voice.) It refers to neither mind nor body exclusively - an act as simple as moving an arm depends on thought, intention and motivation as well as the physical action of the muscles involved. What we are dealing with in this work is a psycho-physical pattern of movement and reaction. In Alexander’s case, by changing his pattern of use he was not only able to fully rid himself of his voice problem, but also of a number of other ailments which had afflicted him for many years.
I demonstrated the relationship between use & function at the presentation by working with several audience members who were restricted in turning their heads. Giving them gentle guidance with my hands in repositioning their heads and bodies, there was in all cases a clear increase in the range & comfort of movement from one moment to the next. I then worked with other members of the audience in sitting, standing walking and massaging. I then answered questions, a couple of which I reproduce below.
What were you doing with your hands to get the change in movement & posture which we observed?
The feedback we got from those I had worked on was that my touch was very light – more a sense of guidance than manipulation. In working with a person we are always coming back to their overall coordination, rather than attempting to go to a problem area. If we can help a person change their pattern of use, they will be able to take the pressure off the problem area (like Alexander’s voice, a bad back etc. In removing the pressure we set up the environment for healing. In this process our student is an active participant.
What is the training to be an Alexander teacher?
Training of teachers is over 1600 hours over 3 years with a maximum teacher to trainee ratio of 1:5. The focus of this training is on how trainees use themselves, for the quality of their own use is transmitted in the hands. It is therefore very much a process of personal growth & development for the trainees. Many hours of practice at using hands in a very delicate manner constitute an essential part of the training. In Australia all training schools are approved by our professional body the Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (AUSTAT), which is affiliated with other national societies.