Who was F.M. Alexander?
Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in 1869, in Australia. He was not such a strong person and suffered from chronic respiratory problems. Alexander had a love of horses which made him an exceptional horseman and he also chose the path of an actor and became a Shakespeare performer. However his success was shadowed soon after due to his respiratory illness when he lost his voice, this was in the days before the use of microphones when voice projection was important in larger theaters. Alexander's physicians found no evidence of organ malfunction and therefore could not prescribe any treatment. Left alone with his problem, he spent many months and years in front of the mirror and by series of realization developed his technique, which proved to be effective in ending his illness.
His theater colleagues noticed the changes, and started seeking him for advice regarding performance techniques, stage fright, gasping for air whilst singing, etc. He became known in Australia as the “breathing man”.
If things are not alright inside, it automatically shows on the outside, and this is true vice versa. If something is not correct with our posture or use of the body, straight away it influences our feeling, even if this becomes a habit and it is accepted as normal at a later stage.
A series of medical professionals tried to convince him to travel to London, and demonstrate his discoveries to medical institutions. He received numerous funds for his work efforts and therefore he decided to move to London to continue his work. He had high hopes that his techniques would one day become part of medical treatments. Even more so after realizing, that the mental and physical units can not be separated, therefore illnesses and disabilities can not be categorized as physical or mental. All training let it be educative or healing, preventative or reconditioning has to be based on the realization that the human body functions as a whole.
Alexander published his first book “Man’s Supreme Inheritance” in 1910. Soon after the publication, a series of famous actors, musicians, writers as well as the general public began queuing at his door for help. Due to the great demand for treatment he opened his practice, which soon became popular. His second book “Conscious Constructive Control of the Individual”was published in 1923. The first 3 year teacher training school was established in 1931 in London, so his work could be passed on by his pupils. Marjorie Barstow, was among the first to receive a diploma followed by Wilfred Barlow, Walter Carrington, Irene Tasker, Patrick Macdonald, Margaret Goldie, Peter Scott, Sir George Trevelyan, Dick and Elizabeth Walker and Erika Whittaker. His third book “The Use of the Self” was published in 1932.
In 1940 Alexander was forced to leave the country after the attack on London during the Second World War. He then relocated to America, where his brother, Albert Redden Alexander was teaching Alexander's technique in Boston. The final touches were concluded in the fourth book “The Universal Constant in Living” published in 1941. He returned to London after the war to rebuild his school and his practice, but these years of the aspersion of the South African government, proved to be gloomy for Alexander when at the same time one of his publications became the interest of the public, and was charged with invalidity. The agitation resulting from the accusations led to a stroke in 1947. Later the charges were dropped, and Alexander's technique was validated in court when many patients whom Alexander had treated offered their testimonies. Alexander eventually made a full recovery and continued teaching and giving private lessons. Alexander remained the loving visitor to equine races, and of course continued the teaching of his technique until his death in 1955, at the age of 86.
After his death, the leadership of his trainings was left to his pupils. Walter Carrington and his wife Dills continued his work in London. To this day the school is known as the Constructive Teaching Center, and this is the center for the international Alexander community of teachers.