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The Alexander Technique. Review [English] by Aranka Fortwängler

AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
Article, essay
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Article Text: 

New edition of Shmuel Nelken's book "The Alexander Technique"

This little book has been my constant companion since the late 90s when Shmuel gave it to me. I have always found inspiration and refreshment in it for my own work and understanding of the Alexander Technique. I am all the more joyful now that the out-of-print book is being reissued, and that I can recommend it again - as a super introductory work but also as an enrichment for professionals - to my students and colleagues, and occasionally as a gift to friends!

For me it not only embodies the essence of F.M.'s work (presented in a practical, concise and understandable way), but also brings back vivid memories of the unique way Shmuel knew how to convey Alexander's work: warm-hearted and at the same time completely at peace with himself; sparing with words, but always embedded in a large-scale background; friendly and patient, but also strict and relentless when it came to the clarity of the principles of the technique.

Jörg Aßhoff - to whom we owe the new edition of the book - describes Shmuel and his small masterpiece in the following words:

Shmuel Nelken is one of the key figures who helped to make the Alexander Technique known internationally. In the texts published here he shares with us his thoughts and experiences acquired from decades of working with the Technique. Shmuel Nelken is a wonderful translator and interpreter of F.M. Alexander's philosophy and practice. With great dedication, care, eloquence, and precision he explains and illustrates the basic principles as well as the subtleties of the work. His words do not come across as theoretical or dry; on the contrary, they are lively, immediately plausible, and touchingly human. Reading them naturally leads one to question oneself and one’s attitudes, and helps to realign one’s inner compass towards more openness and natural serenity. We are invited to apply the Alexander Technique creatively – in all of life’s situations.

And here's a quick sample from the beginning of the book:

…. I am an instrument that contains all: my body from head to toe; all my thoughts, sensations, feelings, wishes and desires; my successes and my failures. I am a self-directed instrument, with the ability to develop and to rehabilitate itself. I am also capable of harming myself – self-destruction. Sensitive and delicate with many possibilities – my potential to learn is immense. Hurt and in pain – I can heal myself and be renewed. But first and foremost, I have to learn the “directions for use”. For some reason, I was cast into the world, the instructions forgotten. Without them, I am a traveler without a compass. I lack the necessary direction …

A book you don't want to miss! I wish you much pleasure and many new insights while reading!

Aranka Fortwängler, Alexander Technique Training Freiburg

Shmuel Nelken met F.M. Alexander in 1955 shortly before his death and took a few lessons from him. A year later he began training at the Alexander Foundation under the direction of Patrick Macdonald. In 1960 he began his practice in Jerusalem and in 1974 opened the Jerusalem Training Course for Teachers of the Alexander Technique, which he directed until his death in 2015. He taught all over the world, gave workshops for teachers of the AT and participated in all the AT congresses. In 1996 he was director of the 5th Congress in Jerusalem, together with his wife Ora and Rivka Cohen.

To be ordered from Jörg Aßhoff: via the website: (link is external).

Language: English. 78 pages. Publication: March 2023. Price: 14,50 € + postage (12 € + postage for more than 4 copies)

© Aranka Fortwängler 2023.