A change of technique

The Alexander method was the answer to one man's job search. By Kim Thomas
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The Independent Online
In 1983, Julian Fuller was at a crossroads in his life. Two years earlier, he had taken a sabbatical from the printing business he'd successfully built up in Australia, and, while he was away, his business had run into problems. Up to that point, Mr Fuller hadn't had a strong sense of vocation. His first plan, when he left school, was to become a metallurgist, but he soon lost interest. He took on a variety of temporary jobs while spending each summer travelling, and in 1973, his travels took him to Australia, where he decided to stay. In 1977 he started his own printing business on "virtually no capital" and built it up from scratch. Within four years it had an annual turnover of A$450,000.

But after a series of crises, including having to sell what remained of his business, and illness, Mr Fuller started to become interested in the Alexander Technique. He'd heard about it on a radio programme by one of the authorities on the technique, Wilfred Barlow, and it had struck a chord.

Back in Britain, Mr Fuller started taking Alexander classes intensively. It was already having a profound effect on his life. "It was for me the most powerful and obvious way of finding health and well-being. I found myself becoming stronger physically and clearer in my mind." The idea of teaching the technique began to take hold. "Anybody who could have these marvellous effects on me had something that I really wanted to have myself." In 1985 he returned to Australia and enrolled on a training course.

The training was lengthy: 1600 hours over three years. People tend to assume that it's simply a way of improving posture, says Mr Fuller. In fact, it's a way of adjusting the way you use your body in daily life so that you improve your physical and mental well-being. Mr Fuller says it is "a way of learning to go about your daily activities without causing yourself the tensions and stresses that modern life tends to bring about."

Alexander teachers work with students on a one-to-one basis, helping them to get rid of ingrained bad habits, and training them to sit, stand and walk all over again, and it's popular among actors and singers.

Mr Fuller now teaches at London's Bloomsbury Alexander Centre, where he has found an increasing demand for his skills, particularly among stressed office workers. "People feel a lot better in themselves after starting the technique. They feel healthier, stronger, less likely to get tense and irritable."

Mr Fuller has no regrets about his decision, though he warns that "Alexander teachers will only ever make a living." But there are plenty of other rewards. "There are Alexander teachers in their eighties and nineties who have tremendous enthusiasm because they're still discovering new things," he says. "You're talking about the use of yourself - it's not something that you ever want to stop investigating."

If you are interested in learning how to become an Alexander teacher, the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique will be able to provide you with a list of courses.