Anyone can do what I did, IF they will do what I did:
F. Matthias Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique
By the end of his life, in 1955, Alexander had come to the conclusion that attempts to put his teaching into practice without the help of a teacher were often not successful. Yet, he did go as far as he possibly could in providing written guidance, in his books as well as in personal correspondence, to those who were really serious about learning his Technique on their own.
And he was always hopeful that his Technique would be improved upon as time went on.* He hoped that some day, highly-trained Alexander teachers would not be necessary. Near the beginning of his first book, Man’s Supreme Inheritance, which was written in the early 1900s, Alexander wrote:
I wish to do away with such teachers as I am myself. My place in the present economy is due to a misunderstanding of the causes of our present physical disability, and when this disability is finally eliminated the specialized practitioner will have no place, no uses. This may be a dream of the future, but in its beginnings it is now capable of realization.
In a chapter entitled “Evolution of a Technique” in his third book, The Use of the Self (originally published in 1931), Alexander described in precise detail the process he went through to solve his voice problem**. This chapter and his 1945 “Preface to New Edition” of that book, in which he addressed the many problems encountered by earlier readers in attempting to teach themselves, contain useful information for anyone who wants to try going it alone.
In addition to Use of the Self, there are three much newer books which can greatly assist in learning the Technique – with or without a teacher: How you Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery by Missy Vineyard (click here to read a review of this book), How to Learn the Alexander Technique – A Manual for Students by Barbara and William Conable, and Mind and Muscle – An Owner’s Manual by Elizabeth Langford.
Additional self-study resources can be found in Chapter 4 of Thorsons Principles of the Alexander Technique by Jeremy Chance (also available on an audio cassette tape); The Alexander Technique: First Lesson and The Alexander Technique: Solutions for Back Troubles (available in VHS and DVD format), and Not to ‘Do’ by Fiona Robb. (Most of these books and videos are available at the Alexander Technique Bookstore)
A number of Alexander Technique teachers now include Zoom or Skype sessions as part of their practice, and these may be well worth considering if you’re planning on learning the Technique primarily on your own and there is no teacher nearby. You can find a list of these teachers here.
Here are helpful – and free – online resources:
- Alexander Technique “lying down”, sometimes called “constructive rest” or “active rest” is a powerful self-help process anyone can do at home. Click here for a variety of videos, audio resources, articles and blogs related to constructive rest
- Up With GravitySM is a simple and effective process, inspired by the Alexander Technique, for learning to harness the power of gravity to release tension from your body.
- Lessons in Self Direction – Using the Principles of the Alexander Technique – Learn about Alexander Directions, and how to take advantage of their power.
- Body Learning, the Alexander Technique Podcast has several interviews about new developments in Alexander Technique directing that can be very useful to students working on their own.
- Body Learning Blog has several blogs that contain self-study suggestions.
- Alexander Technique Blogs, a collection of the best Alexander Technique teacher and student blogs, is another useful resource. Some of the blogs listed on this site include practical information for students working on their own.
- Alexander Talk contains several MP3 conversations that contain suggestions about Alexander self-study.
- Constructive Control, is a short video clip featuring master teacher Marjorie Barstow in which she exsplains this important Alexander Technique concept, and shows how to use it. Links to other clips of Marjorie Barstow’s teaching – also helpful for Alexander Technique self study – can be found at her homepage.
- San Diego teacher Eileen Troberman has created some very useful short video clips which can be helpful for self-study
- Wilmington, Delaware teacher Imogen Ragone has created a helpful page: Twelve Lessons in Computer Poise
- I’ve Had my First Alexander Technique Lesson – What do I do Now?
- Alexander Self Study Made Even Easier – Tips for a student of the Alexander Technique
Additional On-line material useful for working on your own:
- The Performance School Online’s Learning Lab
- Self-Help Alexander
- Alexander Technique Self Discovery
- Before and After – Uncovering the Obvious
- Some Hints on Working with the F.M. Alexander Technique
- Dealing with Pervasive Habits
- The Alexander Technique: Thinking, Seeing, Knowing
- Alexander Technique Self Study Made Even Easier
If you have had some experience with learning the Alexander Technique on your own, and would like to share it with others, send it to this Email Contact and it will be posted on this page.
* For example: “After working for a lifetime in this new field I am conscious that the knowledge gained is but a beginning…my experience may one day be recognized as a signpost directing the explorer to a country hitherto ‘undiscovered,’ and one which offers unlimited opportunity for fruitful research to the patient and observant pioneer.” – F. Matthias Alexander
**There is some controversy about the exact details of Alexander’s journey towards self-discovery. Certainly the length of time the process took is much shorter than the 9 or 10 years one typically heard years ago. Today’s consensus is about 3 years, and maybe shorter than that. It also seems likely that Alexander was using ideas he had learned from the work of Francois Delsarte. There is also a good deal of controversy about the accuracy of the discovery sequence he describes in Use of the Self. A guest of the Alexander Technique Podcast has put forth a fascinating theory about Alexander’s account: Evolution of a Technique: FM’s three-act Play