F.M. Alexander was born in Tasmania in 1869. He was an actor who recited Shakespeare and unfortunately lost his voice. He went to the doctor and was told to go on vocal rest until his voice came back and then he could perform again. This began a vicious cycle for Alexander of performing, losing his voice, vocal rest, regaining his voice, performing, losing his voice, vocal rest, regaining his voice, etc... until one night, at a big performance, he got so hoarse mid-performance he could barely speak. Alexander returned to his doctor and said: "Is it not fair, then, to conclude that it was something I was doing that evening in using my voice that was the cause of the trouble?" The doctor agreed, but could not say what it was or how to change it, so Alexander decided to find out for himself.
He set about on a long series of experiments and discovered that there were things he was doing that were damaging his voice and yet they seemed quite impossible to change, no matter how hard he tried, how much effort he invested. This is how he discovered the concept of "use," a key pillar of the Alexander Technique. He realized that his use of himself had affected his structure and functioning. Further, he realized that his kinesthetic sense of himself was inaccurate, making it very difficult for him to bring about the changes he needed to correct his use and stop hurting his voice. So he decided to create a whole new system of re-education:
"Discouraged as I was, however, I refused to believe that the problem was hopeless. I began to see that my findings up until now implied the possibility of the opening up of an entirely new field of inquiry, and I was obsessed with the desire to explore it. 'Surely,' I argued, 'if it is possible for feeling to become untrustworthy as a means of direction, it should also be possible to make it trustworthy again.'"
- F.M. Alexander, The Use of the Self p. 24-36, Orion Books, 1932.
The process of re-establishing a trustworthy kinesthetic sense of self that allows you to have conscious choice in how you use your whole self in various activities is the heart of the Alexander Technique.
Image: F.M. Alexander and a dog put hands-on (paws-on) each other.