WHO WAS F.M ALEXANDER?
Frederick Mathias Alexander (1869 - 1955) was born in Tasmania, Australia. From an early age he expressed interest in the theatre, especially in the works of Shakespeare. He embarked on a promising career as an actor and reciter. Just when he was achieving some success, he began to experience problems with his voice. He rested and sought medical treatment, but his voice continued to deteriorate.
Unable to find a solution to his problems through conventional medical means, Alexander tried to discover for himself what he was doing while reciting that was causing his hoarseness. He started by observing himself with the aid of mirrors and noticed that when reciting he had a tendency to throw the head back, depress the larynx and to shorten and narrow his stature. Upon closer examination he found these tendencies were also present in ordinary speaking, but to a lesser degree. In the course of his experiments he discovered facts about the way in which man uses himself as a psycho-physical whole. He found that there exists a dynamic relationship between the neck, head, torso and limbs that is responsible for the psycho-physical co-ordination of man. This he called the Primary Control. When this relationship is working well the person is well co-ordinated, but when it is out of balance there is a distinct possibility of dis-ease resulting in back problems, breathing or vocal difficulties, headaches as well as a host of other problems.
Alexander began teaching in Melbourne, Australia in 1894. His first students were people with vocal difficulties, however he soon realized that working with the neck, head and back relationship tended not only to alleviate vocal and respiratory problems but also to dramatically improve the over-all health of his pupils. Physicians began to take an interest in Alexander's discoveries. They encouraged him to continue his work in London, England. As a result he moved there in 1904 and practiced his technique until a few days before his death in 1955.
Some of Alexander's notable pupils were Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw and the American philosopher John Dewey.
For a more detailed account of Alexander's discovery, refer to Chapter 1 in "The Use of the Self" (Gollancz Publishing 1987).