Can You Teach Yourself Alexander Technique?

In Australia in 1891, the actor F.M. Alexander developed such severe voice trouble that his career was threatened.

According to the Alexander myth, F.M. could find no help so he eventually sat himself down in a room filled with mirrors and examined his habits when he tried to project his voice.

F.M. saw that the more he tried to project his voice, the more his head tipped back and his neck tightened and compressed and breathing became difficult. So he evolved a method whereby he could inhibit his neuromuscular impulses that hurt him and directed himself in a way that allowed for optimal performance.

Other people heard about his success and he began to teach them his methods. After F.M.’s death, these methods became known as the Alexander Technique.

When I first heard about the Technique in 2008, I checked out some books and videos from the library and tried to teach myself Alexander Technique. Within a few weeks, I realized I needed a teacher.

Some hardy souls can teach themselves Alexander Technique but most people will find it easier and quicker to find themselves a good teacher.

Robert Rickover writes:

By the end of his life, Alexander had come to the conclusion that attempts to put his teaching into practice without the help of a teacher were often not successful. Yet, he did go as far as he possibly could in providingwritten guidance, in his books as well as in personal correspondence, to those who were really serious about learning his Technique on their own. In a chapter entitled “Evolution of a Technique” in his third book, The Use of the Self (originally published in 1931), Alexander described in precise detail the process he went through to solve his voice problem. This chapter and his 1945 “Preface to New Edition” of that book, in which he addressed the many problems encountered by earlier readers in attempting to teach themselves, contain useful information for anyone who wants to try going it alone.
In addition to Use of the Self, there are three much newer books which can greatly assist in learning the Technique – with or without a teacher: How you Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery by Missy Vineyard (click here to read a review of this book),How to Learn the Alexander Technique – A Manual for Students by Barbara and William Conable, andMind and Muscle – An Owner’s Manual by Elizabeth Langford.

Additional self-study resources can be found in Chapter 4 of Thorsons Principles of the Alexander Techniqueby Jeremy Chance (also available on an audio cassette tape); The Alexander Technique: First Lesson and The Alexander Technique: Solutions for Back Troubles (available in VHS and DVD format), Moving to Learn – A Classroom Guide to Understanding and Using Good Body Mechanics by Michele Aresenault (click here to order Moving to Learn) and Not to ‘Do’ by Fiona Robb. Roy Palmer has written a number of eBooks and booksbased on the Alexander Technique that can be used for self-study. The Secret to Using Your Body – A Manual for learning the Alexander Technique is an eBook by Leland Vall is designed for those without access to a teacher, or as a supplement to lessons.

Additionally, there are a number of helpful, and free, online resources:

  • Alexander Talk contains several MP3 conversations that contain suggestions about Alexander self-study.
  • Constructive Control, is a short video clip featuring master teacher Marjorie Barstow in which she expains this important Alexander Technique concept, and shows how to use it. Links to other clips of Marjorie Barstow’s teaching – also helpful for Alexander Technique self study – can be found at herhomepage.
  • Using the Arms With Ease and EffectivenessSitting Comfortably ErectEffortless Deep Breathing andHead Neck Back Pattern, demonstrated by San Diego teacher Eileen Troberman are very useful for self-study.
  • I’ve Had my First Alexander Technique Lesson – What do I do Now?
  • Alexander Technique “lying down”, sometimes called “constructive rest” or “active rest” is a powerful self-help process anyone can do at home. Click here for a variety of videos, audio resources, articles and blogs related to constructive rest
  • John Appleton is an Alexander Technique teacher and the developer of Posture Release Imagery. He puts forward some fascinating new self-help ideas based on imagery, which is sometimes a taboo subject in the Alexander Technique teaching world. They require some patience to understand at first, but many have found his ideas to be very helpful. Click here to read or download Posture Release Imagery resources.
  • The Alexander Technique Email discussion group can be a very useful resource – whether you are studying the Alexander Technique on your own, or with a teacher. The group is open to all, and you can get advice and help from teahers around the world! Go to Alexander Technique Online to join the group. (As with other similar groups, there are a few participants intent on engaging in debate about obscure aspects of the Technique. These can easily be ignored. The group functions at its best in response to questions from students of the Technique.)
  • Alexander Technique Blogs, a collection of the best Alexander Technique teacher and student blogs, is another useful resource. Some of the blogs listed on this site include nclude practical information for students working on their own.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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