Given F. M. Alexander’s background as a reciter and actor, it is understandable why he would emphasize the art involved in teaching his technique. ‘Art’ is here used to mean a conscious and individual approach, and the opposite of a mechanistic, impersonal, and stereotyped approach.
In his first article, in 1894, Alexander wrote he did not want to be referred to as an ‘elocutionist’ but, inspired by C. T. Hartley’s book, Natural Elocution, would rather be called a ‘natural elocutionist,’ and prefers his teaching of elocution to be referred to...
The ‘application approach’ is a way of teaching the Alexander Technique by applying the Technique to an everyday activity, or an activity which is relevant to or common for the pupil. It is frequently used in group teaching. It was predominantly developed by Irene Tasker as an adjunct to private lessons, but only became firmly established as a teaching method with Marjorie Barstow, at which point it eschewed any traditional chair and table work.
F. M. Alexander
For Alexander his technique was intended to be employed all the time, as a ‘universal’, consistently...
Apprenticeship training here refers to individual, personal training which may involve assisting in teaching. For teacher training in classes see Teacher Training.
Before the first teacher training course Alexander trained a number of people in his technique (year indicates first known year of assisting Alexander):
A. R. Alexander (1898?), Lilian Twycross (1897 or 1898), Amy Alexander (1902 or 1903), Ethel Webb (1912?), Irene Tasker (1917).
(Miss Lilian Twycross advertised herself in 1904 as being ‘a certified pupil of Mr F. M. Alexander...
F. M. Alexander
There was a period in Alexander’s early years of teaching where his method focused on breathing. Between 1903 and 1909 he wrote short pieces such as ‘A Respiratory Method’ (1905), ‘The Theory and Practice of a New Method of Respiratory Re-Education’ (1907), ‘The Dangers of Deep Breathing’ (1908).
In ‘A Respiratory Method’ (1905) he lists the benefits of his method:
The employment of Mr Alexander’s method, under medical super-vision, has shown that it restores the control over the true thoracic mechanism;...
Case histories here refers to reports on or by teachers or pupils of the Alexander Technique on the effects of the Technique.
F. M. Alexander
F. M. Alexander relates his own story of the loss of voice while reciting and how the discovery of what is now known as the Alexander Technique benefited him in his book, The Use of the Self (1932), in the chapter ‘Evolution of a Technique’.
Pupils of F. M. Alexander
David Gibbens lists 54 case histories referred to by F. M. Alexander in his writings. Most of these are only mentioned for the purpose of making a particular...
Chair work was Alexander’s favourite device for teaching his technique, and is used by many teachers of the Alexander Technique.
It allows the teacher, in a confined space, to put hands on a pupil and monitor the pupil during an activity. It traditionally includes the pupil sitting down and standing up, bending forwards and backwards from the hips while sitting, and leaning backwards onto a support such as the back of the chair (sometimes using book for the shoulders), all under the guidance of a teacher.
It is not known when Alexander started using the chair as a...
Classical Procedures are the activities used by F. M. Alexander to teach his technique. Generally accepted as classical procedures are:
Going up on toes
Hands on the back of the chair
Inclining forwards and backwards while sitting
‘Monkey’ (a position of mechanical advantage)
The term classical procedures is used to distinguish what Alexander is known to have used in his teaching from later developments. A number of other procedures developed after Alexander...
The issue of communication here is chiefly divided into 1. the use of words, 2. the use of hands (see Hands-on work), 3. the use of observation, i.e. demonstration, illustrations, or video (see Observation work). This entry deals with the use of words in general.
F. M. Alexander on the use of words
Alexander’s terminology changed over the years as he developed his practice and theory. There are several instances of Alexander alerting the reader to the inadequacy of words, for example, when using the words ‘physical’ and ‘mental’:
I am forced to use...
Walter Carrington (1915-2005) founded the Constructive Teaching Centre (CTC) in 1960, and the school continued as part of the Walter Carrington Educational Trust in 2010.
After F. M. Alexander’s death in 1955, Walter Carrington continued Alexander’s training course at various locations with a group of teachers that included Margaret Goldie, Peggy Williams and Irene Stewart. In 1960, Walter and Dilys Carrington moved into No. 18 Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, London, and the school was renamed the Constructive Teaching Centre. (The change in the name was due in part to...
This covers criticisms of Alexander Technique teaching in general.
Criticism of Alexander’s teaching
Lulie Westfeld criticised Alexander’s teacher training course for not taking questions seriously:
Questions were not only not answered but were looked on as symptoms of bad use, and one was ‘reassured’ by being told that as one’s use grew better one would stop asking those things.
Lulie Westfeld reported on why some old pupils of Alexander did not go back to him for lessons during his USA sojourn 1940–43:
A number of them said that it...
The Dart Procedures refer to a series of movements which parallel the evolution of human infant movement and, to a lesser extent, the evolution of vertebrate movement. (This section also contains material on developmental movement patterns not attributed to Raymond Dart.)
The initial series of movements rose out of experiments by Raymond Dart after a series of lessons in the Technique with Irene Tasker in 1943. Alex Murray, upon reading Dart’s papers in 1967, met Dart and formalised what is now known as the Dart Procedures. The procedures are not widespread in the...
Diagnosis in Alexander’s writings refers both to medical diagnosis, and to people’s own diagnosis of their own problems. Alexander also uses it to refer to the assessment of a person’s use and functioning.
F. M. Alexander on diagnosis
In UoS, in the chapter ‘Diagnosis and medical training’, Alexander argues that no diagnosis can be complete without considering the influence of use upon functioning, and that since medical training does not include such considerations, a medical diagnosis alone is incomplete.
He is further of the opinion that there is a...
A directed activity is the application of the Technique to a simple, everyday movement, frequently broken down into a progressive series. It may include the classical procedures.
Directed activities were developed by Walter Carrington after Alexander’s death as a teacher training course aid. He called them ‘games’, a name since used on some teachers training courses. They are also used by some teachers in their private teaching.
In this Companion the difference between classical procedure, directed activity, and application approach are defined as:
Distance learning includes correspondence courses and online (internet) teaching.
In recent years people have offered lessons or courses via the internet, also called ‘distance learning’.
There was a correspondence course available in the late 1990s, but details are not available.
On-demand video introductory courses,  and written material with assignments are available (e.g. The Alexander Technique Diploma Course.)
Online video teaching
Some teachers are offering...
F. M. Alexander trained at least three teachers through apprenticeship before starting the three-year structure for a training course in 1931. The three-year model has been adopted by many Alexander Teachers’ societies.
A. R. Alexander, Ethel Webb, Irene Tasker were all trained by F. M. Alexander on the apprenticeship model. (In Melbourne, around 1904, Miss Lilian Twycross advertised herself as being ‘a certified pupil of Mr F. M. Alexander’ and may therefore also have taught his technique.) There are no known descriptions of how this training was...
The first teachers training course was started end of Feburary 1931 by F. M. Alexander at 16, Ashley Place. It was interrupted in 1940 by World War Two, and restarted in 1945. After Alexander’s death in 1955 it was continued by Margaret Goldie, Walter Carrington, Irene Stewart and John Skinner, first at Ashley Place and from April 1956 at Bainbridge Street in London.
The official name ‘The Training Course for Teachers of the F. Matthias Alexander Technique’ was used in a flyer in 1946, but it is also referred to as ‘F. Matthias Alexander Training Course’ in...
A procedure used by Alexander in his teaching, consisting of going from standing up to the toes. Its purpose is to generate more extensor muscle activity of the back musculature.
It is not described in Alexander’s writings, but he demonstrated it in the Bedford Physical Training College lecture in 1934. The write up (probably from stenographic notes) reports Alexander working on a member from the audience:
[To the student:] Now you are going up on your toes. Let that head just go up and up with my hand, and rise on your toes. [Alexander guides the student up on...
This entry only covers teaching the Alexander Technique in groups. On the pros and cons of group teaching, F. M. Alexander teaching in groups, and a discussion, see Individual vs. group classes.
The Alexander Technique in Conversation by John Nicholls and Seán Carey contains a section on how John Nicholls see the role of group work, distinguishing between different types of group work.
Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training edited by Barbara Conable contains descriptions of Barstow’s group teaching.
Four Days in Bristol by Don Weed contains edited...
Hands on the back of the chair (HOBC) consists of standing or sitting and with both hands taking hold of the top rail of the back of a chair, frequently involving a ‘pulling’ of the top of the back of the chair.
HOBC is the only procedure Alexander described in detail in his writings. Alexander is quoted for saying HOBC provides all the experience necessary for teaching.
The origin is not known but is said to be Alexander witnessing a physical exercise in Australia. It was first described as a chair exercise in 1910 by Alexander in which the pupil is...
‘Hands-on work’ here refers to that part of teaching the Alexander Technique which involves the teacher using hands touching the pupil for the purpose of feedback and guidance.
F. M. Alexander made several references to the use of hands by the teacher in his writings. The first reference appears in 1908:
I append a simple example of what is meant by mechanical advantage. Let the pupil sit as far back in a chair as possible. The teacher, having decided upon the orders necessary for securing the elongation of the spine, the freedom of the neck (i.e. requisite...