COMPANION

Learning and Teaching

F. M. Alexander discouraged stereotyped, imitative approaches to the teaching of the Technique. It is generally realised that teachers can only teach from their own experience and so any teaching is highly influenced by the individual’s understanding and experiences. Having said that, there are still some approaches to the teaching of the Technique which are distinguishable from each other. Here only styles of teaching successive to F. M. Alexander are discussed. For descriptions of Alexander’s teaching see Descriptions of F. M. Alexander. Various classification criteria...
This entry deals with Alexander Technique terminology (‘jargon’) in general. For the use of words to communicate the Technique, see Communication – Words. F. M. Alexander on the use of words Alexander’s terminology changed over the years as he developed his practice and theory.[1] 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 the words ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ here and throughout my argument...
On people’s vision and concerns regarding the future of the Alexander Technique. F. M. Alexander Alexander mentions in several places, especially in MSI, his vision for the future, generally the development of conscious guidance and control for everybody. For example: Looking to the future and to the development and elaboration of this method, I foresee that a race which has been educated on the lines of what I have called ‘conscious guidance and control’ will be eminently well fitted to meet any circumstance which the civilizations of the future may impose. The...
Alexander started his first three-year training course in 1931 and, apart from the interruption by World War II, it continued until his death in 1955. The three-year model has been adopted by many Alexander Teachers’ societies. History The first teacher training course started in 1931 at 16, Ashley Place, and continued until 1940 when Alexander went to the US. Here he started a small training course which was continued by A. R. Alexander when F. M. returned to London in 1944. Upon his return to London he restarted the training course and it continued until his death in 1955....
When A. R. Alexander left the US in 1945 one of his trainees, Dolly Dailey, took over the training course and ran it until 1949. (It is not clear whether this course was condoned by A. R. Alexander.)[1] Lulie Westfeldt trained some teachers in the late 1940s (from which Judith Leibowitz qualified in 1949).[2] [3] (Alma Frank writes in a letter in 1947: ‘Evidently Lulie is training teachers already.’[4]) After Alexander’s death in 1955 his training course was continued by Margaret Goldie, Walter Carrington, Irene Stewart and John Skinner, first at Ashley Place and from...
This entry covers the use of anatomy and physiology both for understanding the workings of the Alexander Technique and for the purpose of teaching the Technique. History – F. M. Alexander F. M. Alexander did not refer to anatomy in his writings, except for two very simplified explanations (on how ‘the thoracic and abdominal cavities as one fairly stiff oblong rubber bag’ in MSI,[1] and using a piece of paper to illustrate the spine shortening and lengthening in CCC.[2]). He did not regard anatomy and physiology relevant for teaching the Alexander Technique. He famously...
The use of mirrors as a teaching aid or for self-study; it is sometimes referred to as ‘mirror work’. History F. M. Alexander reported how he used a mirror – and later mirrors[1] – to study the cause of his vocal trouble and for the development of the solution. The use of mirrors was crucial to his self-observation and hence to the development of the Technique. . . . I had derived invaluable help from the use of a mirror. Despite this past experience and the knowledge that I had gained from it, I now set out on an experiment which brought into play a new use...
Visualisation here refers to generating mental images that simulate or re-create sensory perception without any immediate input of the senses. Imagery refers to using visually descriptive or figurative language, for the purpose of changing people’s ideas, beliefs and perceptions about themselves. As there is considerable overlap between the two terms (and they are frequently used interchangeably) they are here treated together. Imagery means to use figurative language to represent objects, actions, and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses. Usually it is thought...
Alexander provides a description of some of the factors involved in walking in MSI: The whole physiology of walking is, indeed, perfectly simple when once these fundamental principles are understood. It is really resolved into the primary movements of allowing the body to incline forward from the ankle on which the weight is supported and then preventing oneself from falling by allowing the weight to be taken in turn by the foot which has been advanced. This method, simple as it may appear, is not, however, the one usually adopted. The mechanical disadvantage displayed in what is known...
Wall work, or wall procedure, consists of using a wall (or other flat surface) behind you in standing, for observation, support or as a reference point. F. M. Alexander It is first described as ‘Door Exercise’ in Alexander’s 1910 pamphlet ‘Supplement to Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems’: The pupil should stand from 6 to 12 inches from the door in accordance with the requirements of the particular individual. The teacher should then inform him that he wishes his (the pupil’s) hips to move towards the door until the body is supported...
The whispered ‘ah’ in the Alexander Technique is producing the sound of an ‘ah’ in a whisper while thinking of something that may produce a smile. History The ‘a’, ‘ah’, has probably a long history in singing, in bel canto in particular. For example, Domenico Crivelli’s L’arte del canto (1841), English edition 1859: To avoid these defects [guttural or nasal singing], the Student ought to practise the Solfeggios with the vowel A, shaping the mouth as if smiling . . .[1] and The Italian A, (pronounced as a in...
Writing as part of learning the Alexander Technique F. M. Alexander Irene Tasker in her notebooks report that Alexander initially (March 1931) asked the first training course students to write on their experiences of putting the Technique into practice: F.M.A. suggested students should write a paper discussing the relative shortness of time required for dealing with, say, stiffening of fingers at piano, by means of exercises as against working to the means-whereby principle in doing everything.[1] A few days later Irene Tasker reports on Alexander’s response to having...

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