What is the Alexander Technique?
We often translate situations of emotional conflict into muscular tension, or an abdominal pain may be caused by something psychological, and in the same way, freeing up a contracted muscle may relieve emotional tension. This is because the body and mind interact as part of the same psychophysical entity.
It is for this reason that the Alexander Technique is often described as a psychophysical re-education oriented toward increased awareness of patterns and habits of physical tension, posture and movement in daily life that gradually lead to a misuse of ourselves and an impact on our functioning.
An Alexander Technique teacher uses contact of the hands to help detect harmful habits in order to create new experiences and possibilities of movement.
The Technique is a way of achieving physical freedom of movement, eliminating pain, preventing injury, improving use of the voice, reducing stress, improving posture and breathing, and above all, creating new, healthy habits to maximize performance of any activity or profession.
Who was F. M. Alexander?
Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in 1869 in Tasmania, Australia. Around 1890, as his career as a successful and popular actor took off in Melbourne, he began
to suffer from loss of his voice during his performances. In vain he sought help from doctors and voice teachers. He finally discovered that the source of his
problem, and therefore the solution, lay in what he was doing to himself with his body and his voice while on stage. Throughout the following years, Alexander systematically observed himself using mirrors while he recited and spoke. He discovered that his suspicion was correct. D
uring that period of his investigations, Alexander discovered that what caused his recurring voice loss was the way he used his own self, and that the habits that he had actually worked on for years were causing the malfunctioning of his vocal and respiratory system. This demonstrated that how we use our selves in any activity has a direct impact on overall functioning and, as a result, on the quality of the result or the behavior.
Alexander was a pioneer in demonstrating this connection between body and mind. He was an inventor in the broadest sense of the word. The Technique was born thanks to his keen and inquisitive mind, his persistence throughout a ten-year process of self-observation and his tireless love for teaching and learning. Around 1904, encouraged by medical and theatrical professionals, Alexander moved to London to spread awareness of his discoveries and his work. His work gradually became known to and endorsed by influential artists, authors, philosophers and doctors such as Charles Sherrington, John Dewey, George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, Nikolaas Tinbergen and Raymond Dart.
F.M. began his first teacher training program in London in 1931, and he continued with the training school and his private practice until his death at the age of 86. Since then, the number of teachers being trained has grown exponentially in England and around the world, contributing to this marvelous Technique that F.M. has left as his legacy. Presently, teacher training schools exist around the world. The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT), based in London, is the association that unites and organizes the teachings of F.M. so that the Technique maintains its same standard of excellence and so that teachers are trained in the same way as Alexander would have done.
Who can benefit from the Alexander Technique?
Pain and Injury
The Alexander Technique helps free you of unneeded tension, in this way alleviating pain caused by muscle contractures and excess effort. It is also a powerful aid in the case of postural pains or other pain caused by habits of muscular use that are not beneficial to the whole body.
Musicians, Singers, Actors, Dancers
In the performing arts, as in any activity in which the primary instrument is your own body, the Alexander Technique allows greater freedom and fluidity of movement. It also teaches us to be conscious of the whole body, and this in-depth observation helps us to develop greater stage presence. Presence is about being present in the here and now.
In the case of musicians, pain in the hands, arms and wrists are common, as are tendonitis, sprains and other problems that interfere in musicians’ activities. The obstacle to musical performance, in most cases, is caused by excess muscular effort and incorrect postural use. The Technique is a marvelous tool for undoing those areas of tension while playing and for increasing awareness of the unnecessary muscular effort being used.
Singers, actors, speakers, commentators and anyone else whose profession depends on the use of the voice develop greater respiratory capacity and coordination, which enable greater freedom in song, speech, public speaking and reciting, without the interferences or blockages typically produced by the abdominal musculature, in the neck and back, or in the jaw.
For actors, the result of using the Technique is improvement in acting activities. For example, the use of the voice is benefited greatly by more fluid breathing and a more appropriate muscular coordination. Additionally, physical demands on the actor’s body due to taking on the character can be seen with the spotlight of awareness of muscles and a more appropriate use for performance on the stage.
Dancers also benefit from practicing the Alexander Technique by an ability to use the body efficiently and fluidly. Dancers eliminate habits related to “doing” that are particular to dance and that are often translated into tension, muscle tears and more.
The Alexander Technique is part of core curriculum at the major art conservatories and universities around the world, including Julliard School in New York, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and the Royal Academy of Music, London.
Performance is improved by channeling movement and muscular use productively. Athletes are able to prevent injuries and recover from injuries that occur more quickly.
The Alexander Technique is a powerful tool that teaches us to improve our use of our own selves, to optimize muscular use without utilizing unnecessary energy or tension. Whatever our activities are, we will benefit from re-educating the patterns of use that interfere in our daily performance of our activities in some way. Sitting, standing, walking, using the computer, drawing, swimming, driving a car, etc. In all these activities we have the option of re-educating harmful habits and discovering new possibilities of moving freely without tension or stress.
Born in Argentina, I am a singer and vocal educator. My musical studies began at a young age with piano and singing, and I continued my artistic and musical training in prestigious institutions in Argentina. Since 2002 I have called Mexico home, and here I have fused my musical career with teaching. Since 2004 I have been a member of the teaching staff at Artistas/Maestros del Instituto Mexicano del Arte al Servicio de la Educación, which partners with Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education in New York.
Since 1996 I have been singing professionally in musical comedies, vocal groups and as a soloist in Argentina and Mexico. I recorded my first solo album in 2010 in Mexico City.
I did my Alexander Technique teacher training at Escuela de Técnica Alexander de Buenos Aires (ETABA), and am certified by The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) based in the UK. I have been an active member of STAT since 2011.