Notable Advocates

I find the Alexander Technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you.

– John Cleese, Comedian and actor

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

After having lessons with Alexander, Huxley, the notable philosopher and author, wrote, “The Alexander Technique gives us all things we have been looking for in a system of physical education: relief from strain due to maladjustment, and constant improvement in physical and mental health. We cannot ask for more from any system; nor, if we seriously desire to alter human beings in a desirable direction, can we ask any less.”

Laura Huxley

“The Alexander Technique is not a method of accumulating information nor the art of learning something new. It is, instead, the art of unlearning, which is much more subtle and, sometimes, a more difficult endeavor – unlearning that which is habitual instead of natural – letting go of old patterns and of those repetitious opinions arrived at in times and circumstances totally different from those of the present.”

John Dewey (1859-1952)

Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been very influential to education and social reform. Dewey, along with Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, is recognized as one of the founders of the philosophy of pragmatism and of functional psychology. He was a philosopher of education and one of the founders of The New School. He worked with personally with F.M. Alexander and arranged for studies and research into Alexander’s work.

“It is one thing to teach the need of a return to the individual man as the ultimate agency in whatever mankind and society collectively can accomplish. It is another thing to discover the concrete procedure by which this greatest of all tasks can be executed. And this indispensable thing is exactly what Mr. Alexander has accomplished.”

Nikolaas “Niko” Tinbergen (1907-1988)

A Dutch ethologist and ornithologist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz. Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with a strong relation to certain other disciplines — e.g., neuroanatomy, ecology, evolution. Ethologists are typically interested in a behavioral process rather than in a particular animal group and often study one type of behavior (e.g. aggression) in a number of unrelated animals. The modern discipline of ethology is generally considered to have begun during the 1930s with the work of Tinbergen, Lorenz and von Frisch. In Tinbergen’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he spoke at length about the Alexander Technique and his work with F.M. Download a PDF of the full speech.

“So from personal experience we can already confirm some of the seemingly fantastic claims made by Alexander and his followers, namely that many types of under-performance and even ailments, both mental and physical, can be alleviated, sometimes to a surprising extent, by teaching the body musculature to function differently.”

More about Tinbergen…

Tinbergen is well known for originating the four questions he believed should be asked of any animal behavior, the first of which is:
Causation (Mechanism):
What are the stimuli that elicit the response, and how has it been modified by recent learning? How do behavior and psyche “function” on the molecular, physiological, neuro-ethological, cognitive and social level, and what do the relations between the levels look like?

Excerpt from Nikolaas Tinbergen’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
“So from personal experience we can already confirm some of the seemingly fantastic claims made by Alexander and his followers, namely that many types of under-performance and even ailments, both mental and physical, can be alleviated, sometimes to a surprising extent, by teaching the body musculature to function differently.

One of these new discoveries concerns the key-concept of ‘re-afference’. There are many strong indications that, at various levels of integration, from single muscle units up to complex behaviour, the correct performance of many movements is continuously checked by the brain. It does this by comparing a feedback report, that says ‘orders carried out’, with the feedback expectation for which, with the initiation of each movement, the brain has been alerted. Only when the expected feedback and the actual feedback match does the brain stop sending out commands for corrective action. Already the discoverers of this principle, von Holst and Mittelstaedt, knew that the functioning of this complex mechanism could vary from moment to moment with the internal state of the subject-the ‘target value’ or Sollwert of the expected feedback changes with the motor commands that are given. But Mis-use, with all its psychosomatic or rather: somato-psychic consequences, must therefore be considered a result of modern living conditions – of a culturally determined stress. I might add here that I am not merely thinking of too much sitting, but just as much of the ‘cowed’ posture that one assumes when one feels that one is not quite up to one’s work – when one feels insecure.

Secondly, it need not cause surprise that a mere gentle handling of body muscles can have such profound effects on both body and mind. The more that is being discovered about psychosomatic diseases, and in general about the extremely complex two-way traffic between the brain and the rest of the body, the more obvious it has become that too rigid a distinction between ‘mind’ and ‘body’ is of only limited use to medical science – in fact can be a hindrance to its advance.

A third biologically interesting aspect of the Alexander therapy is that every session clearly demonstrates that the innumerable muscles of the body are continuously operating as an intricately linked web. Whenever a gentle pressure is used to make a slight change in leg posture, the neck muscles react immediately. Conversely, when the therapist helps one to ‘release’ the neck muscles, it is amazing to see quite pronounced movements for instance of the toes, even when one is lying on a couch.”

Sir Charles Sherrington (1857-1952)

An English neurophysiologist, histologist, bacteriologist, and a pathologist, Nobel laureate and president of the Royal Society in the early 1920s. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Edgar Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian in 1932.

“Mr. Alexander has done a service to the subject by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psycho-physical man. To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely, but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment – not the least of the head and neck.”

More about Sherrington…

 

“The Alexander Technique really works.”

Roald Dahl, author
“Mr. Alexander’s method lays hold of the individual as a whole, as a self-vitalizing agent. He reconditions and re-educates the reflex mechanisms and brings their habits into normal relation with the functioning of the organism as a whole. I regard this method as thoroughly scientific and educationally sound.” – Professor George E. Coghill, award-winning anatomist and physiologist

“The Alexander Technique transformed my life. it is the result of an acknowledged genius. I would recommend it to anyone.” – Tony Buzan, author of Use Your Head
The Evolving Brain

“The Alexander Technique helped a long-standing back problem and to get a good night’s sleep after many years of tossing and turning.” – Paul Newman, actor

“Alexander established not only the beginnings of a far reaching science of the apparently involuntary movements we call reflexes, but a technique of correction and self-control which forms a substantial addition to our very slender resources in personal education.” – George Bernard Shaw, playwright

I submit that Alexander demonstrated a principle of supreme importance for a holistic world-view. He made a breakthrough which is nothing less than an evolutionary step forward, when a single human being learned to take constructive, conscious control of the direction of his own use of himself. He discovered man’s supreme inheritance and the universal constant in living. He overcame the reliance on faulty sensory register and taught himself a central general habit of use of his entire body working as an indivisible psycho-physical unity. – Sir George Trevelyan, the “grandfather” of the movement for spiritual regeneration in Britain

Sherrington’s accomplishments can be divided into three main areas: reflex action, decerebrate rigidity (changes that occur when part of the central nervous system is cut), and cortical localization (determining the function of various parts of the brain). Many of Sherrington’s most important findings are summarized in his 1906 text, The Integrative Action of the Nervous System. That text is regarded as perhaps the most important single work establishing the basis of modern neurophysiology.

Sherrington’s study of reflex action made clear that reflexes did not involve merely a few muscles, but that the brain integrated reactions to stimuli. For example, a dog’s reaction to an itch involves 36 muscles performing two functions – scratching and maintaining balance.

Sherrington also made an important distinction among exteroceptive sensory nerves that detect stimuli from outside the body (such as smells, sounds, and light), interoceptive nerves that detect stimuli taken in to the body (foods), and proprioceptive nerves that detect states within the body such as the position of a muscle. The proprioceptive neurons carry out important functions such as maintaining balance and performing coordinated actions such as running. Sherrington was also the first to use the term neuron for the nerve cell and synapse for the junction between nerve cells.

The Israeli Special Forces

Musicians Isaac Stern, Sir Paul McCartney, Sting
Members of the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic Orchestras

Actors James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline, John Cleese, Ben Kingsley, Robin Williams, Patrick Stewart, and Heath Ledger