Christopher (‘Chris’) Stevens (1943-2003), British teacher of the Alexander Technique.
Chris Stevens was a yoga teacher, and was the British Wheel of Yoga’s first National Organiser in October 1971. He was instrumental in introducing other yoga teachers – such as Ken Thompson and Ray Evans – to the Alexander Technique.
Stevens and his then wife, Trish Hemingway, trained at the Constructive Teaching Centre 1976–79. He became Assistant Director to Karen Wentworth’s teachers training course in Aalborg, Denmark, 1984–87, and took over the training course in 1987 after Karen Wentworth had graduated the first 12 teachers. Its name was The international school for F. M. Alexander Technique. The course moved to Hamburg in 1991, and later to Cologne where it closed in 1999.
He gave the F. M. Alexander Annual Memorial Lecture in 1988.
The article, ‘Experimental studies of the F. M. Alexander Technique’, contains a summary of his research into the sit-to-stand movement, measuring trajectories, pressure on a force platform, and sway behaviour. He also reported on measurements of height and shoulder width and blood pressure before and after lessons.
Most of his research into the Technique was summarised in his book Towards a Physiology of the F. M. Alexander Technique.
He completed his doctoral degree on the effects of functional electrical stimulation on the gait of children with cerebral palsy in 2003 at the University of Surrey.
Chris Stevens published a short, snappy introductory book, Alexander Technique, in 1987. He was editor of a booklet, ‘Medical and Physiological Aspects of the Alexander Technique’. His F.M. Alexander Annual Memorial Lecture in 1988 provides a brief summary of scientific research relevant to the Alexander Technique. The article ‘A choice of enquiries’ relates briefly to Benjamin Libet’s work and Rudolf Magnus’s work. The article ‘Magnus, Coghill and scientific support for the Alexander Technique’ co-authored with Ariane Hesse discusses Rudolf Magnus and George E. Coghill’s discoveries and their relevance for the Alexander Technique.
Over the years Chris Stevens became interested in the role of the body’s support mechanism for the Alexander Technique. The article ‘The primary control: A new look at Alexander’s discovery’ focuses on the supporting reflexes, and how the support mechanism often causes ‘a spontaneous freeing the neck and the head going forward and up as a consquence. The same theme is detected in an extract from a transcript of a conversation between Walter Carrington and Chris Stevens in February 1997, published posthumously in 2006. His last article in 2003 also pursues this line of inquiry.
A summary of Chris Stevens’ view of the importance of the ‘anti-gravity mechanism’ for the Alexander Technique is given in ‘Chris Stevens and his work in Germany’ by Nadia Kevan.
Chris was convinced that the use of the legs and feet influenced the head-neck-torso relationship so fundamentally that it was here where we had to begin in order to maintain a free neck during activity. He called this the ‘down to up’ effect. From this time on he always worked with the feet and the legs first.
Other writings include:
‘The developments of the Alexander Technique and evidence of its effects’ in British Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation.
‘A new approach to analyzing cervical spinal motion’ by E. Schopphoff and Chris Stevens.
‘The influence of initial posture on the sit-to-stand movement’ by C. Stevens, F. Bojsen-Møller, R. W. Soames.
‘The science report: Errors don’t stop when the paper is finished’ by Chris Stevens in Direction vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 5-6.
‘The science report: New thinking on inhibition and primary control’ by Chris Stevens in Direction vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 5-8.
In addition he wrote a number of letters and book reviews.
Chris Stevens’ approach influenced a number of Alexander Technique teachers, see for example the chapter ‘The psycho-physical support system’ in Ron Murdoch’s Born to Sing.
Christopher Hubert Howard Stevens *14 August 1943 – †12 December 2003.