A.T. STUDIO | Prvo mjesto Alexander tehnike u Hrvatskoj
A.T. Studio
Tim stručnjaka educiranih u Alexander tehnici s područja

Who was F. M. Alexander?

Frederick Matthias Alexander

Frederik Matthias Alexander (the eldest of eight children) was born on 20 January 1869 in Wynyard on the North-Western coast of Tasmania.

His parents tended a large holding bounded by the ocean and the River Ingliss. Frederick Matthias was born prematurely and was a sickly child who could not attend regular school. He liked spending time in nature, and found the greatest pleasure in observing animals and plants. The village teacher came to teach him at his home every evening.

When he was 16, FM (as he was always known to his friends and students) found a job as an office assistant in a nearby town. After that, and until 1894, he made a living doing similar jobs. 

From his childhood, he developed a great love of the theatre and music, so he started practising acting and playing the violin by himself. Later on, he established his own amateur group, but he also performed alone, doing Shakespeare recitations. Alexander became so successful that he soon decided to turn his hobby into his main vocation.

However, he was concerned because he soon began to suffer from hoarseness while reciting, which was connected with difficulties in breathing. He visited doctor after doctor, but no one could help him.

Before a particularly important performance, he visited a new doctor who advised him to cancel all other engagements for two weeks before the recitation and to completely save his voice. His voice recovered with this treatment and, on the day of the recital, it seemed to be completely normal. However, in the second part of the programme, the old difficulties reappeared, and he could barely complete the performance.

At that particular moment, FM realised, in his own words: “It is obvious that during these 80 minutes on stage, I am doing something wrong that is harmful to my voice.”

It is interesting what Alexander did not do; he did not turn to teachers for additional lessons. Instead, he started to research himself what was causing his difficulties. 

Within a few years, he managed to overcome his problems and, at the same time, discover some general principles of human coordination (see: “Alexander’s Discovery”). He had enormous success as an actor in Australia and Tasmania.

Many other actors and singers started to seek his help to resolve their own vocal problems. In 1895, FM opened his first practice as voice coach in Melbourne. In 1898, he moved to Sydney and worked there with his brother Albert Redden who, in the meantime, became acquainted with his method.

Gradually, an increasing number of physicians learned about his work and started to refer their serious cases to him. His method became so successful that one of the leading physicians in Sydney advised him to go to London and reveal his discovery to the medical world. Alexander listened to this advice and, in 1904, moved to London.

A large part of the medical world welcomed him with great enthusiasm. Renowned London physicians consulted him about their serious cases. Famous artists (actors, singers, musicians and poets), including Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw, were his students.

In 1924, Alexander founded a school in London, led by Irene Tasker (who was also a Montessori trained teacher), Ethel Webb and Margaret Goldie, who worked by his principles.

In 1930, the first teacher-training course in his method started in London.

In 1947, after an accident, Alexander suffered a serious stroke that caused a paralysis of the left side of his body. Thanks to his method, he restored most of his previous movement within a year. His students testified at that time that the movement of his hands additionally improved in the following 7 years.

He died on 10 October 1955.



When Alexander decided to find out himself what was the cause of his vocal problems, he was not burdened by previous medical training.

Standing in front of a mirror, he observed himself while speaking and reciting. When he spoke normally, he could not detect anything unusual, but as soon as he started reciting, he saw that he was automatically pulling his head backwards. At the same time, he felt the familiar pressure in his throat and noticed his breathing changing; after every longer sentence, he would audibly inhale air. (1)

By observing himself for weeks in this way, he concluded that this movement of the head backwards and downwards caused compensatory pressure and the bending of the whole spine, which caused difficulties even in coordinating his feet.

He also noticed that the spine contracted in this way, the back narrowed, and this resulted in tension and disruption to the balance of the entire body.

After a great deal of experimentation, he discovered that he had the best results when he used certain mental instructions and in this manner he could affect his normal coordination so that his spine would not contract, but, he claimed, his back could “extend” and “broaden”.

An examination by physician friends  showed that the medically established causes of his difficulties (irritation of the pharyngeal mucus, inflammation of the vocal chords) had significantly decreased.
At that moment, Alexander was convinced that:
 a) he knew what he was doing wrong when reciting;
 b) he understood how to correct this mistake and thus establish better control over his body.

Consequently, he continued analysing his recitation, this time away from the mirror. He was astonished to discover that he could not keep his voice in a good condition while reciting, and that his earlier difficulties reappeared.

He suspected that he might not be doing what he believed and felt he was doing. Again, by observing himself, this time using three mirrors, he saw that he could maintain the new, consciously developed coordination in the preparatory stage of recitation, but as soon as he started reciting, his neck muscles would stiffen, his head would be pulled backwards, and his back would contract and narrow.

He understood that he could not rely on his sensory perception because, at the critical moment, the transition from the preparatory stage to the very act of recitation deceived him, and sent incorrect information which resulted in his old, harmful coordination.

In the months that followed, he discovered through experimentation that any stimulus to perform an activity (whether it was walking, sitting, writing, playing an instrument, thinking about something, etc.) activated the same overall incorrect coordination which he detected during recitation, and which Alexander called “the wrong use of oneself”.
He observed that the strength of this reaction was directly linked to the strength of the wish to achieve a specific goal, and this is why during normal speech the problems were not as strong as when he was reciting. The wish to recite well was inextricably linked to the wrong coordination of his body, and this wrong coordination was “felt” as the only correct manner to fulfil this wish.
Any action which has become usual will eventually be accepted by our perception as “correct”, regardless of its real effect on our body.

The sequence of reactions became clear to him.

The thought of reciting (stimulus) activated the wish to perform this activity “correctly”. (Very few people consciously want to do something “incorrectly”.)

However, since everything we do is based on our sensory perception, Alexander’s wish to recite correctly inevitably led to the habitual wrong coordination of his body, which he felt was “correct”, but which was, in fact, his habitual wrong coordination.

This made him understand that, if he ever wished to succeed, he had to fully nip this incorrect reaction in the bud, in other words, to stop reacting through the long-lasting use of well-embedded “neural pathways” leading from the brain to the performing organs.
And this bud was stimulated, either for external or internal reasons, by the thought or wish (stimulus) to do something specific.

This meant that he had to refuse, or not react to, a specific stimulus, for instance, standing up, playing a particular piece on an instrument, etc.

Alexander worked in particular with this conscious non-performance of a habitual reaction in relation to his desire to recite (in his terminology this process is called “inhibition”).

Following a long phase of experimentation, he developed the following plan:
 1. After taking the decision to recite a particular sentence (or section), he prevented the execution of this thought by consciously negating (inhibiting) it.
 2. Instead of directly executing his decision to recite, he gave himself auxiliary mental impulses which had earlier enabled him to improve his general condition.
 3. He continued with stage 1 and 2 until he felt that he could maintain the new coordination, even when reciting.
 4. At this key moment, when transitioning from inaction to action, he reviewed his original decision and asked himself the following question: “Do I follow my plan and recite (a) or do I do something completely different, such as raising my hand or taking a few steps (b), or do I continue with 1 and 2, and do nothing specific (c)?
 5. By newly reviewing his situation, he could significantly lessen the original stimulus (the wish to recite). This enabled him to replace an unconscious emotionally charged reaction with a conscious decision which was no longer linked to the old manner of reciting.
The goal to recite something was no longer at the forefront, but, instead, it was the means by which the goal (whatever that goal was) was achieved.

This method brought Alexander the desired success.

 1) Later on, he noticed that the same reactions that appeared while reciting also appeared in his normal speech, albeit in a weaker form.
 2) Alexander and his associates discovered that over 90% of all people (in our Western culture) suffer from such deceptions through their sensory organs. 



+385 (0)91 518 02 04