LIBRARY - Reference(s)

Body Awareness in Action [Freedom to Change]

The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique
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AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
ISBN 0805206280 / 978-0805206289
Additional notes: 
Second edition 1997 published as Freedom to Change.
Mouritz Bibliography
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This has later editions
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Short Description: 
A classic and comprehensive introductory with added material in the 1997 edition.
Mouritz description: 
F. P. Jones trained with Alexander 1941-44. Drawing on his long association with F. M. and A. R., Jones introduces the Technique by relating Alexander’s story in biographical form. Jones presents the most important results from 25 years of research into the Technique. He describes some of the underlying mechanisms at work in the Technique and describes how the conscious mind activates anti-gravity reflexes. In 'Notes on Teaching' Jones summarizes his teaching experiences and sets out principles for good teaching practice. Throughout the book he emphasizes the importance of an expanded field of attention. First published as Body Awareness in Action by Schocken Books (USA) in 1976, the 1996 edition contains a new foreword by Ted Dimon, 4 colour plates and a new appendix (16 pages) which contains Jones' outline for a fifteenth chapter plus sketches and observations from his notebook.
Publisher Description: 

This is the most comprehensive introduction to the Alexander Technique published to date. Frank P. Jones (1905-1975) trained with F. M. and A.R. Alexander 1941-44 and taught the Technique for over 30 years.

Drawing on his long association with the Alexander brothers, Jones relates the story and development of the Technique.

For twenty-five years Jones conducted original scientific research into the Technique using a variety of methods including multiple-image photography (investigating changes in movement patterns), X-ray photography (examining the head-neck relationship) and electromyograms ( measuring muscles in different head-neck relationships). The most important results are presented and Jones explains some of the underlying mechanisms at work, including how the conscious mind activates anti-gravity reflexes.

"Freedom to Change" is also the most comprehensive biography of Alexander's extraordinary life.

Jones always intended his book to be called"Freedom to Change", but it was originally published after his death as"Body Awareness in Action", in 1976.

This new and reset edition contains Jones' outline for a fifteenth chapter plus sketches and observations from his notebook, published here for the first time. In these"Notes on Teaching" Jones summarizes his teaching experiences and sets out principles for good teaching practice. The three appendices contain introductory talks and papers on the Alexander Technique.


Yet again, we are indebted to Jean Fischer for another excellently published and badly needed book. This new edition is reset and has 45 additional pages of text, including for the first time 4 multi-image coloured plates, the draft for a further 15th chapter and notes from F. P. Jones’ journal (in a new appendix). It has a new foreword by Ted Dimon, President of the Alexander Technique Archives Inc., Massachusetts, in which he states that not only does this book promote and provide an introduction to the Technique, but that it also “elucidates the essential discoveries and insights on which the Alexander Technique is based.”

Frank Pierce Jones was professor of classics at Tufts and Brown Universities and studied the Technique with both F. M. and A. R. Alexander. His research in the Technique was done at the Institute for Psychological Research at Tufts where he also became lecturer in psychology. He lived through three quarters of this century 1905-1975; his untimely death cutting short the possibility of producing more of this both scholarly and scientifically based work, so we must make the most of what he has left us. He gives the fruits of 25 years research, measuring the differences between “habitual” and “teacher-guided” movement patterns, and studies the actual mechanics of the body in achieving awareness. He refers to an expanding field of attention and an ability to make reliable kinaesthetic observations of one’s self in activity. For him the purpose of Alexander lessons is “to sharpen the kinaesthetic sense and to increase self knowledge and self control.” He states, “such a concept of awareness, would, if it were established, force the re-organisation of two fields of psychology – perception, which at present is fractionated, and learning theory, which seems unable to cope with the problem of free-will.”

There are many fascinating insights into his view of the Technique, which can be found in the new inclusion of his ‘drafts and notes’. He maintains that “postural change is an ‘accident’, not a property” of the Alexander Technique. He lists eleven properties and seven accidents, and further points out that it is a ‘means whereby’ technique, while all others are ‘end-gaining’. It has three characteristics not found elsewhere: kinaesthetic perception, primary control and inhibition. His observation on change is that “refusal to accept change is paradoxical because you are changing anyway – it is not a question of ‘change vs. no change’ but of changing for the better instead of for the worse. On self responsibility he advises, “Be your own expert; no one else can really give you expert advice about yourself... This, however, demands self study and responsibility.” On relaxation he maintains, “There is nothing wrong with either exercise or relaxation – the question is, is it mindless or intelligent?”

I could go on with more, but I would urge you to get this new edition (even if you already have the first), and digest it at your leisure.

© Jean Clark. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
This is a remarkable book by a remarkable man. Jones met Alexander in mid-life when Alexander was in his seventies. The book was written when Jones had reached the same age, after 35 years of change. When the two men met, the Alexander Technique and its principal proponents, FM and AR, had been continuously evolving over nearly fifty years. John Dewey commented that the most convincing evidence for the efficacy of the Technique was the change in the Alexander brothers since he first met them – not in their teaching, but in themselves.

Their teaching too, had changed, in what way we may never really know. But clues to the development have been provided by Jones who was in a unique position to chronicle them. He and his family lived under the same roof as the Alexanders for a period of 15 months, beginning in 1940. He was the only student in a training course until joined by his wife and, later, four other students.

The contents of the book are admirably summarized by Jones’ distinguished friend and colleague, J. McVicker Hunt in a generous introduction. The history of the book since its initial appearance in 1976, and the fate of the Jones experimental data, is covered in a new Foreword by Ted Dimon. Jones’ modest autobiographical material has been fascinatingly fleshed out in a fine biographical essay by Missy Vineyard introducing a volume of his collected papers Mind and Motion: A Scientific Study of the Alexander Technique, edited by Missy and due to appear shortly. This has been too long delayed and I for one eagerly await its appearance.

This edition (the 3rd) of what was formerly (inappropriately) called Body Awareness in Action, is enhanced by the inclusion of an edited version of Notes and Drafts. These have been circulating in typescript since Jones death in 1975. His intention was to write an additional concluding chapter but sadly he did not live to complete it. Regrettably, Jean Fischer has omitted an extremely pertinent sentence which should close the paragraph, “On Suggestion,” p. 201 (Jones’ chosen heading was “Suggestion Counterindicated”). The paragraph begins:

“The use of suggestion in teaching the Alexander Technique illustrates the adage ‘Nothing fails like success’. It is possible and really very easy to suggest a sensory experience and have a pupil or even an observer report that he experiences it, but once a person has convinced himself he has had a sensory experience, whatever this experience is, he will keep on having it whether it is appropriate or not – after this it may become almost impossible to give him an authentic experience. “

There was an additional sentence written by Jones that completed the above paragraph. It was edited out by Jean Fischer. This sentence reads:

“Marjorie Barstow’s group demonstrations provide striking examples of this.” 1)

I have been familiar with Jones work since the early 60s and with his book since his first drafts. I regret he did not live long enough to welcome this 3rd edition which I am sure would have given him much pleasure. If you are familiar with previous editions, it is worth purchasing for the additional material alone (including 4 color-coded illustrations). If you are unfamiliar with the book and are a serious student of the Alexander Technique, buy it, study it and digest it. It is the most comprehensive account of the Alexander Technique yet available.

1) NASTAT editor’s note: I have confirmed with Jean Fisher that the above sentence was part of Jones’ notes. This sentence was never published in Jones’ lifetime and no one knows whether he would have chosen to publish it today or whether he would even still hold that viewpoint.

© Alex Murray. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.

Just before his death in 1975, Jones completed this book. Both book and author were dedicated to maintaining the sputtering flame of interest in a technique invented and advocated by a charismatic, self-taught, psychosomatic therapist, F. Matthias Alexander.

First a patient in the 1930s and then a disciple of Alexander, Jones gradually abandoned his vocation as Professor of Classics at Tufts and Brown Universities and ended his years performing experiments at the Institute for Psychological Research of Tufts where he also became lecturer in psychology. His studies of the Alexander technique were reported in the 1960s in respected journals and constituted a modest but acceptable body of work.

In this small book, the scientific aspects of Jones's study can flesh out only one full chapter of 32 pages late in the book. The bulk of the volume is devoted to an interesting, sometimes fascinating, account of Alexander and his many brilliant friends. These included Sherrington, Dewey, Aldous Huxley, Rayond Dart, Bernard Shaw, and Sir Stafford Cripps. His list of enemies was much longer and equally impressive. These enemies became most vocal at a notorious trial in Johannesburg where they appeared for the defense in a suit for defamation (slander) which Alexander brought against Ernst Jokl who attacked Alexander and his associates in an official journal of the South African government. Jokl, now an American citizen, was a recent immigrant from Germany to South Africa, at that time and was thoroughly scandalized by Alexander's teachings which had been introduced into South African schools by educators. In a scathing editorial, "Quackery vs. Physical Education," he compared Alexander unfavorably to Mary Baker Eddy and African witch doctors. He also accused Alexander of claiming cures for serious diseases. Alexander won the case after a trial that became a cause célebre internationally and is still considered important in South African legal circles.

What was all the fuss about? Alexander had developed a technique of conscious control of specific body muscle groups and posture, especially of the neck region, which led people with psychosomatic ailments to an improved sense of well-being and even "curesÓ. He had discovered his technique while a Shakespearean actor and elocutionist in his native Australia before the turn of the century through his intensive efforts to shake off severe hoarseness and loss of voice which defied cure by conventional medicine. By introspection and self-experimentation, he found that he could consciously inhibit stressful patterns in his neck which resulted in marked improvement of his vocal problems, Soon he was the darling of fashionable circles in England and America and had established a school in the 1930s for training teachers of his technique. Jones became a convert and teacher when Alexander was quite elderly.

Was there good science in his teaching? In his day, important scientists were heavily opposed to the jargon phrases invented by Alexander to account for his results. Not understanding what he was saying and extremely skeptical of this self-taught healer, they rejected his views. Not so Nikolaas Timbergen who shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1973. In his lecture of acceptance of the Prize, Tinbergen devoted half his lecture to an account of the Alexander Technique; referring to it as an example of "the usefulness of an ethological, approach to medicine." He and his family had experienced amazing improvements in their health following training by students of Alexander in recent years.

Surprisingly, the community of psychophysiologists and neurophysiologists did not immediately seize upon this extraordinary testimonial in 1973, and it is safe to say that almost no psychosomatic specialist under the age of 45 knows much more than the name "Alexander Technique." Today it seems like a relic of the depression years. The stridency of antagonism obviously has been muted by the massive forward roll of psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy in the past three decades. With the wide acceptance of electromyographic biofeedback and other related techniques, both with electronic instruments and without, Alexander has become little more than a historical footnote. His major influence seems to have been an almost flirtatious recruitment of famous non-scientists to support his views. Alas for him, scientists considered him an entrepreneur and quack.

Today we must temper our judgment. Theatrical and financially successful he no doubt was but his conception of muscular relaxation and appropriate postures for trained motor behaviors holds a grain of truth from which he developed his elaborate techniques. This book, perhaps the swansong of the Alexander era, is a fascinating account, but adds little substance to the therapeutic claims. Absorbed today in the general mainstream of psychosomatic medicine, the Alexander Technique is only relevant to its small band of advocates. Jones performed a valuable service to psychology, and his widow and the publisher deserve praise for ibringing us this fascinating book.

1977 © John V. Basmajian. It has not been possible to trace the copyright holder of this review.