Category Archives for "Media"

Feb 08

The Advocate – Jan 20, 2019

By Penny McDonald | 150th Celebration , Media , Uncategorized

​Alexander Technique teachers celebrate the legacy of F.M. Alexander

​One hundred and fifty years after a North-West man with convict heritage was born, the effects of his invention live on all over the world.

The work of Frederick Matthias Alexander, inventor of the Alexander Technique, was celebrated in his home town of Wynyard this weekend.

Alexander Technique teacher Penny McDonald said teachers from all over Australia spent the morning practicing on each other and reflecting on F.M. Alexander’s life.

“It’s lovely being here in Wynyard and seeing what Alexander grew up with. When you go up on Table Cape and look at that view and you go, ‘no wonder he had a sense of expansion in his body.’

​Balance: Alexander Technique teachers Janette Costin, Helen Thomson and Penny McDonald practice the technique on each other. Sunday marked 150 years since the inventor, FM Alexander, was born. Picture: Sarah Lansdown

F.M Alexander was born at Table Cape to John and Betsy Alexander. He stayed there through his teenage years before moving to Melbourne in 1904 and then on to England.

As an actor, he struggled with losing his voice during a time when amplification technology didn’t exist in the theatre. He sought help from many experts before he studied his movements and posture using mirrors. 

Ms McDonald said the key to his success was when he changed his negative thinking.

“You have to go ‘I’m going to invite my head to be in a different relationship with my spine so that everything changes. His body expanded, his breath improved, his voice came back so I think the real essence is that positive thinking, that we need to redefine our activities in the positive and give our body gentle guidance.”

Alexander teacher Janette Costin began learning the method 32 years ago and found it helped her overcome chronic pain in her neck and back.

She said modern technology and habits were narrowing and constricting the body for many people.

“A lot of it comes down to how we respond to all the different stimuli in our life… whether that be a physical or emotional response and that will begin a habit that isn’t particularly useful to us.

“So it really is interrupting our natural coordination and our breathing coordination in particular that then can set up a bit of anxiety in our system and [Alexander Technique] is a really lovely way to settle things into some harmony. It’s wonderful.”

The technique is widely used in the performing arts around the world. In Tasmania, teachers are based in Launceston and Hobart, with the first course to learn how to teach Alexander Technique to begin in Hobart this year. 

The anniversary celebrations continued at Wonders of Wynyard in the afternoon with a talk from historian Dr Ian McFarlane and a display of the Alexander family tree. A cake with an image of the man himself was also shared to celebrate the milestone.

Jan 04

Tassie genius named in top 200 most important Australians

By Karen Nankervis (Admin) | 150th Celebration

150th Birthday anniversary for Tassie genius named in the top 200 most important Australians  

Few Australians could say they have influenced everyone from actors of the ilk of Dame Judi Dench and Hugh Jackman, and Aussie cricket royalty, to world famous musicians and iconic writer Aldous Huxley. One man set to be honoured in January in North West Tasmania did just that in an extraordinary career that saw him chosen in the pantheon of our nation’s greatest individuals.

On January 20 1869, John and Betsy Alexander became the proud parents of their first child, Frederick Matthias Alexander. John was a blacksmith, Betsy the daughter of convicts. His grandparents – all four of them – were also convicts, as were his two great uncles. His birthplace, long gone now, was an early settle homestead on Table Cape in Tasmania. It was an inauspicious start for someone who would develop a pain relief technique used by people from all walks of life, and see them recognised as one of 200 People Who Made Australia Great, in the book of that title published for the Australian Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988.

Move forward 150 years from 1869 and teachers of the Technique from around the world, together with Alexander family members, will gather in Wynyard over the weekend of January 19-20, to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the birth of FM, as he is popularly known.

“To celebrate this milestone birthday near where he was born is a fitting tribute, both to the man and to this beautiful part of Tasmania which had such an impact on his life,” Hobart-based Alexander Technique teacher Penny McDonald said. “His early years there sowed the seed for what would become the Technique now being taught around the world by more than 4000 teachers.”

The Alexander Technique (AT) focuses on the unconscious habitual ways in which we function—our patterns of posture, movement, and responses to stressful situations—and teaches us how to have conscious control over these aspects of ourselves. “Learning this technique gives you the tools to use your body, do activities more efficiently and find freedom from pain or discomfort,” she said.

Movement and balance improves, anxiety reduces, and breathing coordination falls into a harmonic rhythm. Another major benefit is having the insight and awareness to respond differently to stimulus from the habitual pattern of use.

AT lessons reduce tension in repetitive and/or strenuous activities, such as bending, lifting or typing, and in skilled activities, including dance, music, acting and sport. “Scientific studies have demonstrated that applying the AT will consistently lead to reduction in chronic pain for people with musculoskeletal pain conditions,” Ms McDonald said.

Many great actors and top musicians have studied the AT, including Sting, Paul McCartney, Mr Jackman, Dame Judi Dench, Paul Newman, Barry Humphries, and Madonna, amongst others. “Australian Test cricket great Greg Chappell has learnt it, Victoria Beckham is a recent student, and the enlightened intellectual Aldous Huxley wrote a book about it,” Ms McDonald said.

The birthday celebrations, supported by the Waratah/Wynyard Council, are a chance for teachers to gather, and work with people in the local community who are curious about the AT. Those interested in the Alexander family history will have an opportunity to see the work done by local historians and researchers on developing the family tree of the Alexanders in Tasmania.

Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (AUSTAT)

Contact for further information and interviews:

150th Coordinator: Penny McDonald – 0428 377 060 – penny@harmonicmotion.com.au

AUSTAT Chair: Jeremy Woolhouse – 0490 126 293 – jeremy@jeremywoolhouse.com.au

Jan 04

FM far ahead of his time

By Karen Nankervis (Admin) | 150th Celebration

150th Birthday for one of Tasmania’s greatest sons who was far ahead of his time

Recognised as one of the top 200 Australians to make Australia great, Frederick Matthias Alexander, founder of the Alexander Technique, will be honoured with a 150th birthday celebration open to the public on the weekend of January 20. Technique teachers from across Australia will gather in North West Tasmania to mark the occasion of FM, as he is popularly known, being born at Table Cape Tasmania in 1869.

Harmonic Motion Teacher Course Head Penny McDonald said the Alexander Technique was now taught by 4000 teachers in 31 countries around the world. Despite the Technique being created in Tasmania, most Tasmanians have not heard of this tool that helps overcome negative habits and patterns in the body that create pain. Only a handful of teachers have taught the Technique in Tasmania which is part of the reason why it is not widely known in its home state.

“It is such a shame that most Tasmanians do not know about this wonderful technique,” Ms McDonald said. “This amazing man developed a self-help method in their backyard that has given actors, musicians, singers and dancers a freedom in their art. For the millions of people around the world who have pain or discomfort, the Alexander Technique has helped them learn their way out of pain.”

The grandson of a convict, FM spent his early years in Wynyard, and many of his extended Alexander family still live in the area. The idyllic countryside undoubtedly influenced FM’s view on life and led him to develop the Technique that has led to so many people enjoying a happier and healthier life.

FM was an actor who was affected by vocal and breathing problems. “Seeking a cure, he watched himself in the mirror, reciting Shakespearean sonnets, and found the answer appeared to lie in his posture,” Ms McDonald said. “He had to re-educate both body and mind, to change his habits and learn new behaviour.”

The Alexander Technique focuses on the unconscious habitual ways in which we function – our patterns of posture, movement, and responses to stressful situations – and teaches us to have conscious control over these aspects of ourselves. “An Alexander lesson gives you the tools to learn how to use your body, do activities more efficiently, and this will lead to freedom from pain or discomfort,” Ms McDonald said.

Lessons in the Alexander Technique result in improved movement, greater balance, reduced anxiety, rhythmic breathing coordination and provides the knowledge to respond differently to stimulus from the habitual pattern of use. Tension is also lessened in repetitive and strenuous activities, such as bending, lifting or typing. Scientific studies have demonstrated that applying the Alexander Technique will consistently lead to a decrease in chronic pain for people with musculoskeletal pain conditions.

The Alexander Technique is also taught in most performing arts institutions around the world to give students a self-help method of relaxation and body awareness. This allows them to use their bodies more efficiently, and therefore create better art. “You can expect improved performance in skilled activities like dance, music, acting and sport,” Ms McDonald said.

“Many famous celebrities including scientists, medical people, politicians and sportspeople over the last 120 years have studied this method for improving ease of movement and performance,” Ms McDonald said. “It is extraordinary to think at that time in history this man from such a humble part of Tasmania developed a technique that places such a strong emphasis on the power of our positive thinking.”

 

A public demonstration and birthday afternoon tea will be held at the Wonders of Wynyard at 3pm on 20 January 2019.

 

AUSTAT Contact for further information and interviews:

150th Coordinator: Penny McDonald – 0428 377 060 – penny@harmonicmotion.com.au

AUSTAT Chair: Jeremy Woolhouse – 0490 126 293 – jeremy@jeremywoolhouse.com.au

 

Jan 04

Wynyard’s Greatest Son

By Karen Nankervis (Admin) | 150th Celebration

150th Birthday for a Wynyard legend who was far ahead of his time

Recognised as one of the top 200 Australians to make Australia great Frederick Matthias Alexander, founder of the Alexander Technique, will be honoured with a 150th birthday celebration on the weekend of January 20. Technique teachers from across Australia will gather in North West Tasmania to mark the occasion of Mr Alexander’s birth at Table Cape Tasmania in 1869.

Harmonic Motion Teacher Course Head Penny McDonald said the Alexander Technique was now taught by 4000 teachers in 31 countries around the world. Despite the Technique being created in Tasmania, most Tasmanians have not heard of this tool that helps overcome negative habits and patterns in the body that create pain.

“We’re sending out an open invitation to locals anyone across Tasmania to join us in celebrating the remarkable feats of one of FM, as he is popularly known around the world,” Ms Mc Donald said. “We encourage anyone with a love of Tasmanian and Australian history to join us on Sunday 20 January.”

“It is such a shame that most Tasmanians do not know about this wonderful technique,” she said. “This amazing man developed a self-help method in their backyard that has given actors, musicians, singers and dancers a freedom in their art. For the millions of people around the world who have pain or discomfort, the Alexander Technique has helped them learn their way out of pain. But only a handful of teachers have taught the Technique in Tasmania which is part of the reason why it is not widely known in its home state.”

The grandson of a convict, FM spent his early years in Wynyard, and many of his extended Alexander family still live in the area. The idyllic countryside undoubtedly influenced FM’s view on life and led him to develop the Technique that has led to so many people enjoying a happier and healthier life.

FM was an actor who was affected by vocal and breathing problems. “Seeking a cure, he watched himself in the mirror, reciting Shakespearean sonnets, and found the answer appeared to lie in his posture. He had to re-educate both body and mind, to change his habits and learn new behaviour.”

“It is extraordinary to think at that time in history this man from such a humble part of Tasmania developed a technique that places such a strong emphasis on the power of positive thinking,” Ms McDonald said.

The Alexander Technique focuses on the unconscious habitual ways in which we function – our patterns of posture, movement, and responses to stressful situations – and teaches us to have conscious control over these aspects of ourselves. “An Alexander lesson gives you the tools to learn how to use your body, do activities more efficiently, and this will lead to freedom from pain or discomfort,” Ms McDonald said.

“Many famous celebrities including scientists, medical people, politicians and sportspeople over the last 120 years have studied this method for improving ease of movement and performance,” Ms McDonald said.

A public demonstration and birthday afternoon tea will be held at the Wonders of Wynyard at 3pm on 20 January 2019.

 

AUSTAT Contact for further information and interviews:

150th Coordinator: Penny McDonald – 0428 377 060 – penny@harmonicmotion.com.au

AUSTAT Chair: Jeremy Woolhouse – 0490 126 293 – jeremy@jeremywoolhouse.com.au