Frederick Matthias Alexander was born in Tasmania in 1869. While still a young actor he developed voice problems. His doctors were only able to suggest resting his voice, so F. M. (as he was known) realised he would have to discover the answer to his problem himself.
Using mirrors, F.M. began to observe what happened while he was speaking in his usual way. He gradually noticed that each time he was about to speak, he pulled his head back and down. This movement put pressure on his vocal cords, and it also continued to compress his spine and whole body. He came to understand that there seemed to be a relationship of the neck and head to the back which allowed the body to function in a healthy and coordinated way, and that the way the body was used seemed to affect the way it functioned.
Over time he realised that this whole body response was a habit which seemed to be present at the start of everything he did – and that this response seemed common to us all, in everything we do!
The simple technique F.M. developed meant learning to stop responding in the old habitual way and choosing instead a response that allowed the body to work in harmony with itself. F.M. then saw that this could be applied in the whole of life.
F.M. recognised a person is a whole, and cannot be divided into mental, physical or emotional parts; whatever happens in one area (mental, physical or emotional) affects the whole person. He recognised also that our habits are unconscious and automatic; becoming aware of what we think about what we do can lead to the choice and freedom available to the human being – what he called “Man’s Supreme Inheritance”.