Richard Bach

In 1892 FM Alexander, a reciter of Shakespeare and humorous tales, kept losing his voice. Doctors could not help, but eventually he figured out what he was doing to cause his problem. He also figured a way out of his dilemma, and eventually how to teach this way out to others.

As human beings we are a complex combination of reflexes and habits that allow us to function with very little conscious thought. As children, in general, we move freely and with grace. When we grow older we learn to sit in hard chairs, in straight lines, for hours on end and many other unnatural, difficult acts. These acts become habitual and although most of us survive childhood without too much trouble, for many of us, as we grow older, these adjustments start to catch up to us. As we sit at the computer for endless hours, or practice the flute, dance, or run a jackhammer these unnatural habits start to cause discomfort. Low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States — only headache is more common. Repetitive Strain Injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome are another result of poor use of our bodies, and are extremely common.

Alexander’s observations about habit and reflexes work as well with back pain and Repetitive Strain Injuries as they did with his hoarseness. In a series of lessons, generally individual lessons, but sometimes in groups, students of the Alexander Technique learn to observe and change harmful habits without adopting new bad habits. “Sit up straight, you’ll feel better” never worked because we kept trying to replace one unnatural position with another. With the Alexander Technique we learn ways of sitting, standing and walking that are not harmful, and we learn observation skills that allow us to cut off new problems before they occur.

Lessons are typically 45 min long, and in this time we work on simple repetitive tasks, mainly getting in and out of a chair, and walking. Then some time is spent lying on the table with books under our head where we get some idea of the different possibilities of body movement and structure that are available to us. Later on we sometimes work with specific tasks a person is having trouble with, but typically this would be after the student has a firm grounding in the technique. 

Further Resources

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Body Learning by Michael Gelb