History of the Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique | Posted by Dawn Diemer
Aug 02 2014

The Alexander Technique was devised by F. Matthias Alexander (1869-1955). Born in Tasmania, he became a well-known reciter of Shakespearean monologues around the turn of the century. In an attempt to cure his persistent throat problems, which no doctor could find the cause of, he made a number of remarkable discoveries about the human organism and how it functions. He noticed that people’s general ‘use’ of their bodies tends to be unconscious and habitual and that this leads to bad habits in moving and breathing which, when repeated over a long period, are detrimental to the person’s general standard of health and functioning. What he also discovered was that the way we think as well as the way we use our bodies determines how our bodies will function for us.

Alexander realised that many of the problems facing people today, such as arthritis, backache and asthma, lack of energy, bad posture and mental problems can be caused by constant mis-use of our bodies. When this has built up over years, it creates a general low standard of health and functioning of our whole being.

So how does it work?

The Alexander Technique is more than a system of exercises or relaxation techniques. It is a way of developing your awareness and using your intelligence to enable your body to become balanced, strong and flexible. In this way it is both a mental & physical process.

As you become aware of your habits of mis-use and, at the same time, learn a simple method to prevent the repetition of these habits in daily activities, then your general standard of functioning will improve. You will be able to prevent further problems occurring and your body is given the maximum opportunity to restore itself to good health.

The Technique is not a therapy designed to ‘cure’ but a teaching method which offers you a means – by awareness in activity – to raise your general standard of health, body balance and co-ordination and then maintain it for the rest of your life. In this way the Technique is a ‘Way of Being or Living’ not just exercises which are done say once a day.

Benefits of learning the Technique

Before & after having Alexander lessons!

Here are some of the benefits that people report during and after having Alexander lessons:

  • Improved balance & coordination
  • Better posture
  • Boosts confidence
  • Improves breathing & speech
  • Improved vision

It can alleviate problems such as:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches & migraines
  • High blood pressure
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  • General stress including sleeplessness, worrying and lack of confidence
  • Speech difficulties
  • Performance anxiety

Who comes for lessons? Anyone!

Dancers applying the Alexander Technique to their performance

You don’t have to have a problem to benefit from Alexander lessons! Applying the Technique can improve the quality of your performance whatever that may be.

Most music and drama colleges include lessons in the Alexander Technique as part of their curriculum. Because the Alexander Technique improves balance, co-ordination and flexibility; applying it to the things that you enjoy like swimming, dancing, art, sports of all kinds or computers means that you will be more successful in those pursuits. Many famous people use the Technique to improve their performance; John Cleese, Joanna Lumley, Sting, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ruby Wax to name but a few.

About Alexander lessons

You have lessons in the Alexander Technique because you are a pupil of the Alexander Technique rather than a patient. You are actively engaging with your teacher in learning skills and ways of thinking rather than being a passive receiver of a treatment.

The teacher will use gentle hand contact to guide and direct you through simple everyday actions and movements. You do not need to wear special clothing when you come for your lesson but wearing clothes that are easy to move in will help.

There isn’t an age limit to having lessons, you could be 5 years or 85 years old! Children would initially come with an adult.

Lessons are usually taught on a one to one basis. You can benefit from a few lessons but a course of lessons will greatly enhance your application of it to your life. A general guide is 20-30 lessons which will give you a good solid understanding and ability to apply it to your life.

Sometimes the Technique is taught in groups and these are often speciality groups such as musicians or dancers. Some Alexander teachers run introductory group courses but these are only intended as an introduction. They can be a good way to start exploring the ideas of the Alexander Technique but the best way is through individual tuition where your specific needs will be addressed.

Course Structure at Bristol Alexander Technique Training School

Course Structure | Posted by Dawn Diemer
Jul 15 2014
  • 3 years, totalling a minimum of 1600 hours.
  • 3 terms of 10 – 12 weeks, with a one or two week half-term.
  • Monday to Thursday 8.45 am – 1 pm.
  • Term dates are decided in consultation with the Committee and we do our best to fit in with children’s school term dates when relevant.

Curriculum

We encourage an open and enquiring attitude to learning and teaching the Alexander Technique so that graduates have confidence in their ability to continue to learn for themselves, confidence in their ability to teach the Technique to individuals & small groups and be able to give introductory talks and workshops.

Teaching takes place in a mixture of individual sessions, small groups and the whole class. Each trainee has a minimum of three private lessons a term.

On a daily basis over all 3 years:

  • Students work with teachers, each other, and individually to explore their experience and application of the principles of the Alexander Technique and the ways in which they interact with their own environments.
  • Hand Contact Skills. Trainees separate into small groups with a teacher twice a week to accommodate the different stages of acquiring these skills. 2nd and 3rd year trainees work with other trainees and have a one-to-one session each week with a teacher. 3rd year trainees also give supervised lessons to members of the public and students of the Music Department of Bristol University.
  • Teaching Games and Activities. These sessions are about the development of teaching skills that can be incorporated into an Alexander lesson.

Once or twice weekly over all 3 years:

  • Study of F.M. Alexander’s books and other relevant literature.
  • Anatomy, physiology and body mapping . Lectures, discussion, hands on and written work.
  • Use of the voice: spoken and singing.
  • Movement and teaching games .
  • Discussion groups and talks on Alexander’s Principles, related topics.
  • Communication and presentation skills: These sessions happen at the Training School and at Bristol University.
  • In the 3rd year information is shared and discussed on the teacher pupil relationship and on setting up a teaching practice .

In addition to time at the school, trainees will need to do 4 to 5 hours of home study a week:

  • Reading F.M. Alexander’s books and related texts. Preparing chapters for book sessions.
  • Studying anatomy and physiology, including written work.
  • Preparing presentations
  • Varied Homework, e.g. Definitions of AT Principles, reviewing and comparing books on the AT, completing a 21 day AT diary.
  • Video study

Intake

Our intake is usually in September and sometimes January.

Course Admission

Applicants need to have enthusiasm and interest in learning, together with a good understanding of the Alexander Technique, both in the theoretical ideas and in a practical, living application of the work.

We encourage potential trainees to visit the school at least once – several times if possible – before applying for a place on the course. There is no charge for prospective trainee visits to the school. Visitors are invited to take part in the day’s classes, meet and work with the teachers, and have a private lesson with Caroline outside school time.

As a STAT approved training course all students are requested to become student members of STAT, from the beginning of their training.

BATTSA is on the Register of Education and Training Providers, reference No. 23643.

Career Development Loans have been made available to people undertaking this training course.

Qualifying

Trainees are encouraged to asses their own progress which is also discussed by the teachers at regular meetings. Because BATTSA is a STAT approved training course all trainees in their 6th and 9th terms will be assessed by a STAT – appointed Moderator. The moderator’s role is to make an external assessment of the trainees’ progress and then advise the Head of Training and the trainees.

The decision to qualify trainees is the responsibility of the Head of Training. We take care to stay in touch with each trainee’s progress and to maintain a two way communication. In some cases, a trainee may need more time so that they can be ready and confident to teach. Any trainee not reaching the required standard at the end of three years may continue their studies at the discretion of the Head of Training.

Upon graduation, trainees will receive a certificate from the Training School that is recognized by STAT. Graduates can then apply for their STAT certificate and membership.

Trainees undertake not to give unsupervised lessons in the Alexander Technique until they are qualified.

Money Matters

The School is run as a non profit-making Association, of which all teachers and current trainees are members.

We have a committee of 4 members, which deals with some of the financial decisions and is an advisory communication channel on other aspects of the course. We ask all members to be on the Committee for at least two terms.

The Head of Training has responsibility for teaching staff, curriculum, accepting and qualifying trainees, and overall decision making.

Enrolment Contract & Deposit

All trainees who accept an offer of a place on the course sign a contract and pay a non-returnable enrolment deposit of one term’s fees, within a month of the offer of the place.

A copy of the signed contract and a receipt for the enrolment deposit will confirm a trainees place.

The enrolment deposit will be used towards your final term’s fee.

Fees

Course fees are £1400 per term. Fees are paid on the first day of term.

If any trainee has a period of financial difficulty we are open to being as helpful as possible, for instance paying in installments.

Fees are subject to annual review. As a non-profit association, we run a careful budget and aim to keep the fees as low as reasonably possible.
Total Fees Payable

  • £1400 Enrolment Deposit – last terms’ fee. (The only fees payable for the last term are any increases in the termly fee, over and above the enrolment deposit already paid.)
  • £1400 Per term
  • £156 Student membership of STAT and Moderation visits. In some cases if students have difficulty in paying this amount in full, STAT is open to 3 installments of £52 to be paid at the beginning of each year of training.

Teachers

Caroline Chalk – Head of Training

Trained with Jeanne & Aksel Haahr in Totnes, Devon, qualifying in 1984. She has taught at BATTSA since 2003. As well as teaching at BATTSA she has a private practice working with individuals and groups. Caroline is also a qualified and experienced therapist and trainer and brings relevant skills in communication and personal development to her role as head of training. She has a lifelong passion for horses & riding and is fascinated to explore how the application of The Alexander Technique to our lives can enhance our enjoyment and performance.

Colin Tully


(Qualified A & J Haahr 1983)
Composer and musician
Belinda May – Assistant Director

(Qualified BATTSA 1999)
Teaches anatomy at BATTSA
Lucia Walker – BATTSA’s Moderator

(Qualified D & E Walker 1987)
Jackie Evans

(Qualified BATTSA 2006)
Violinist
Gunda Fielden

(Qualified Danny McGowan A.Z.A.T. 1996)
Theatre background
Visiting Teachers

To complement our core of local teachers we have regular visits from experienced AT teachers from around the world, some skilled not only in the AT but also in specific areas, e.g. swimming; running; group teaching; acting and voice; music etc.