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The Alexander Technique is named after its founder, F. Matthias Alexander, who developed the method in the 1890s. Alexander was a Shakespearean actor who suffered from chronic hoarseness that hampered his career. Doctors could not find a physical cause, so he began to study the problem by observing himself in a mirror as he recited. Alexander saw that he was severely tensing muscles in his neck and back and breathing poorly. Later he noticed that many people unconsciously tense their muscles and distort their posture just as he did, not only while speaking, but in all their movements.
Alexander developed a method to reduce the overall tension in the head, neck and back areas of his body. He regained his voice. His breathing improved. He found himself moving with greater balance, ease and poise. Alexander began teaching his approach to students in Australia, but in 1904 relocated to London to develop his new profession.
The Alexander Technique is an educational method, not a form of treatment or therapy. Although Alexander sought to restore his voice, the system he developed is much wider in scope. Students learn how to become consciously aware of unnecessary and harmful muscle tension that has become an automatic part of their day-to-day lives. They learn how to think more effectively, acquiring skills that enable them to reduce this unconscious, harmful physical tension and to change other behaviors that underlie a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms. Over time, students become gradually able to use what they learn independently of the teacher.
Students of the Alexander Technique learn how to restore their psycho-physical balance and coordination. Their breathing improves. They are less tense. They are more skilled in the way that they move. As a result of this more skillful use of the self, day-by-day, students experience improvement in a wide range of problems and symptoms. They report recovery from chronic pain and musculo-skeletal injury, better sleep, less stress and improved posture. By learning to restore optimal psycho-physical coordination, students improve their level of functioning in everything they do—from sitting comfortably at a desk for long periods to performing everyday tasks more effectively, overcoming performance anxiety, and enhancing athletic or artistic technique.
Studying the Technique
Most students receive twenty to thirty weekly, private lessons. Others study the Technique in small group classes. Some students continue studying for years, as they find that the skills they gain and the improvement in functioning they experience continue to deepen.
Since Alexander began training teachers of his method in the 1930s, the international standard for training teachers of the Alexander Technique has been 1600 hours of course work completed over at least three years, in classes that maintain a 5:1 student/teacher ratio.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
The American Society of the Alexander Technique (AmSAT) is a self-regulating, professional organization that confers AmSAT-certification (M.AmSAT) to teachers who have met these standards. AmSAT also approves teacher-training courses in the U.S. that meet additional requirements for faculty and course structure; it also upholds standards for members’ professional conduct.
AmSAT is affiliated with other national societies worldwide that maintain similar high standards.
The main professional associations for the Alexander Technique are the UK Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) and AmSAT.
Individual sessions, called lessons in Alexander Technique, are usually 45 minutes long and average $70 to $100 per hour. Lessons are often sold in packages.
To learn more about AmSAT and the Alexander Technique, visit www.alexandertechnique.com.