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Alexander Technique exercises for a healthy voice over career

May 17, 2024
alexander technique exercises

Every actor has their personal quirks when it comes to vocal health, but a few methods have found a place in almost every artist’s repertoire. One of those is the Alexander Technique, developed by Australian actor Frederick Matthias Alexander in the early 1900s as a means to reduce harmful tension in the voice. 

Since actors everywhere have been using exercises from Alexander’s technique for over 100 years, it’s worth exploring the ways it can benefit your vocal health too!


vocal exercises alexander 1


A Method Based on Personal Experience

As a young actor, Alexander began to suffer from intense vocal discomfort that became so bad he could hardly speak. Distraught but determined, he embarked on years of self-study– observing both his thought processes and physical movements– to determine the root of the problem. Little by little, Alexander came to the conclusion that poor posture and flawed movement patterns were causing unnecessary tension, which resulted in chronic vocal problems. 

With a hypothetical root cause identified, he began creating exercises to identify and unlearn these bad habits. The result? A method of therapy that helped free him of vocal problems. It didn’t happen overnight, however. Starting around 1890, it took more than 15 years to develop a full methodology. 

Alexander began teaching his methods to students via voice lessons, and it wasn’t long before they caught the eye of the world’s foremost intellectuals. In the preface to Alexander’s third book Use of the Self,  prominent American philosopher John Dewey wrote, “If there can be developed a technique which will enable individuals really to secure the right use of themselves, then the factor upon which depends the final use of all other forms of energy will be brought under control. Mr. Alexander has evolved this technique.” 

With one of the 20th century’s leading educators advocating for Alexander’s methods of releasing vocal tension, it should be no surprise that actors would give it a try since unwanted tension is a death knell for actors performing on a daily basis.

Now, the Alexander Technique is widely taught at the world’s top acting schools. From Julliard and Carnegie Mellon to UCLA and Guildhall, young actors and actresses all receive foundational training that incorporates the exercises and philosophy of the Alexander Technique. 

How Alexander Technique Can Benefit Your Craft

Since voice actors use their voices on a daily basis, sometimes for many hours at a time, it’s important to develop good habits, posture, and a holistic understanding of our body’s movements. In doing so, voice-over artists can mitigate the inevitable stress that comes from vocal activity and express themselves authentically and with purpose. 

We say “mitigate” stress, because there’s no way to avoid all stress completely, but you can reduce it enough to prevent unhealthy strain. To do so, the Alexander Technique embraces the individuality of how we experience our bodies, encouraging each artist to explore their personal sensations and process them through the technique’s methods. It’s a practice that is both physical and psychological, requiring artists to actively listen to their bodies and explore their limitations. 

One of the peculiarities of vocal work is that while there is very little variation between each human body, each individual experiences their own body differently: two actors can visualize what’s happening to their bodies differently, despite performing the same exercise. But while each artist’s internal imagery may differ greatly, by practicing the exercises, you can reach the same overall result — mastery of many methods to vocalize freely and efficiently. 

What the Alexander Technique does so well is help actors become conscious of our own bodies, so that individual difficulties can be identified and overcome. As a result, you’ll already have a good idea of what your voice's capabilities are when you reach the studio, which can increase the diversity of instruments in your toolbox. Practically, that means a more diverse bag of tricks for improvising and producing outstanding voice overs.

On a deeper level, developing awareness skills and overall comfort with our individual instruments allows us to be vulnerable and live each scene in the moment. The situational awareness required for true vulnerability and spontaneity can, at first, feel like it slows an actor down. With time and practice, ‌though, awareness becomes second nature and enhances an actor’s ability to follow their intuition. 

Brief Overview of Fundamental Exercises

1. Constructive Rest (or Semi-Supine)

The Constructive Rest exercise is one of the first exercises in the Alexander Technique for reducing tension and aligning the spine. Lie on a flat surface, knees bent, feet planted hip-width apart, and a small book under your head to support your neck. Place your hands on your abdomen or beside you. This position encourages deep, natural breathing and allows your back to release and widen into the floor. Spend several minutes daily in this pose to help release back tension, realign the spine, and cultivate a relaxed state of body awareness, making it a foundational practice for overall tension reduction.

2. Monkey

The Monkey Position focuses on maintaining flexibility in the hips and lower back. Stand with your feet apart, bend your knees slightly, and hinge forward from your hips, keeping your spine straight and letting your arms dangle. This squat-like position helps prevent spinal compression common in daily activities like bending and lifting. Practicing the Monkey is crucial for anyone involved in physical activities that strain the back and for teaching efficient movement patterns that protect the spine.

3. Hands on the Back of the Chair

This exercise improves posture and upper body tension. Stand and place your hands on the back of a chair, keeping your arms straight. Lean forward from your hips, letting the chair support your weight while you stretch your back. Keep your knees slightly bent, neck relaxed, and shoulders broad. Regular practice enhances respiratory function and reduces tension in the shoulders and upper back, which can be especially beneficial for desk workers and those who carry stress in the upper body.

4. Up and Out 

This is an excellent way to lessen tension in the neck and shoulders while also improving spinal posture. Start by standing in a neutral stance with feet roughly hip-width or shoulder-width apart while relaxing the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Now, think about standing taller by expanding “up and out,” as if a string is pulling your head toward the ceiling. Slowly raise your arms, keeping your shoulders relaxed. This can also be done from a seated position.

This encourages a neutral spine and helps decompress the vertebrae. Daily practice can help correct slouching while simultaneously releasing tension around the voice so that you can vocalize freely.


man doing a yoga pose


5. Whispered “Ah”

The Whispered “Ah” focuses on free breathing and vocal ease. Inhale gently and whisper "ah" during a slow exhale, keeping the vocalization smooth and steady. This exercise helps manage breath control and supports vocal health by minimizing unnecessary tension in the voice production process. It’s particularly effective for speakers, singers, and actors who need to maintain vocal clarity and strength.

6. Silent Giggling

Silent Giggling involves mimicking the action of giggling without sound, activating the diaphragm, and relaxing the vocal cords. Start with a gentle smile, then engage your upper body as if laughing silently. This helps release tension across the shoulders and chest and improves vocal relaxation. Practicing Silent Giggling can benefit vocal professionals by keeping the voice box relaxed and ready for performance.

7. Sitting down

When was the last time you actively thought about standing up? In the Alexander Technique, you practice the act of sitting down with awareness and control. 

Start by standing in front of a chair with your feet hip-width or shoulder-width apart. Take a moment to think about your body. Are your knees locked? If so, let them bend just slightly without squatting. Are your feet flat on the ground? Can you feel both the balls of your feet and your heels in contact with the ground? 

Slowly lower yourself and remain aware of your torso, hips, and limbs. You’ll notice how your back, leg muscles, and neck become involved as you lower down into the chair. Did you plop down the first time? As you practice sitting down with intention and awareness, you’ll cease flopping carelessly into the chair. 

This awareness can be used to alter how you sit, depending on your character’s personality, mood, and intent. It also improves functional movements and promotes healthy joints.

8. Standing up 

For standing up, take a moment to become aware of your body’s location. Where are your arms? Where are your legs? Feel where your feet plant into the ground before standing. Did you instinctually move your feet closer to the chair? 

Now, slowly begin to stand. How does your torso shift to maintain balance as you rise from the chair? Where are your feet? Are your knees past your toes? This is completely normal. At what point is your weight sufficiently over your center of gravity to push the world away and rise to your full height? 

Repeat as necessary until you have become aware of the nuances of how you stand. Be mindful not to be excessively tense in your back and neck muscles, but remember that this is just an exercise: there’s no need to think about sitting and standing in your regular daily life.

9. Wall Slide

The Wall Slide helps improve posture and body alignment. Stand with your back against a wall with your feet slightly in front of it, about shoulder-width apart. Slide down into a squat while keeping your back in contact with the wall. This movement strengthens the leg muscles and encourages a neutral spine, beneficial for enhancing posture and reducing lower back strain. Regular practice can help those with poor posture habits and provide foundational strength for better overall body alignment.

10. Rolling to Standing

Rolling to Stand involves transitioning from lying to standing smoothly and mindfully. Start by lying on your back, then roll to one side, using your arms to push yourself up into a sitting position, and gradually up to standing. This exercise emphasizes fluid motion, teaches transitional movement control, and enhances body coordination and strength, particularly in the core and legs.

11. Fingertips

How much tension do you hold in your arms? Developing awareness of your fingertips can help reduce unnecessary tension and reduce injury. 

This exercise can be done standing or sitting with your arms at your sides. Think about where your arms are. Visualize your shoulders, elbows, wrists, the palms of your hands, and your fingers. Now try moving your fingers without moving your hands. 

Pay attention to your forearm muscles and your elbow/biceps. Where do you feel your arms move? Focus on trying to move your fingers alone, with minimal involvement from the rest of your arm. It’s impossible to do without your forearms, because the muscles which control your hands extend into your arms, but try. Can you disengage your brachialis muscles (the ones that cross your elbow, connecting your biceps and forearms)? 

You’d be surprised how much tension you can hold in your arms. 

12. Resetting the Breath

Sometimes habits can creep into our breathing, and this exercise is useful for releasing tension and resetting the breath by releasing the diaphragm and freeing up the rib cage to move naturally. 

Start by breathing out as much air as you can. Don’t rush! Take your time with a long exhalation until you can’t breathe out anymore. Now, hold the exhaled position for a few seconds. Really try to hold the air out. You’ll find it takes quite a bit of effort to prevent yourself from breathing in! 

After a few seconds, stop trying to breathe out and simply “let go.” You’ll notice that your lungs naturally expand and fill with air! The trick now is to just let it happen. Don’t interfere with the inhalation. Just let it happen. At some point, you’ll naturally exhale. Let it happen.

When you begin to breathe out, observe how it feels. When your body starts to stop exhaling, rejoin the process and actively breathe out until you can’t exhale any more air. Repeat as many times as necessary to really get a feel for the exercise. 

This requires no preparation, but you may find it useful to place your hands on your ribcage to feel it expand and contract with each breath. It can also be combined with the “whispered ah”.

Resetting your breath is an excellent exercise for learning how to breathe without thinking, and it can also be used to calm the nervous system.  Breathe through your nose at first, and then try breathing through your mouth. You may find that breathing through your mouth is more calming and helps relax the mouth and throat more.

Healthy Habits for Golden Voices


Golden microphone


Something special happens when voice actors release tension: it unlocks their true vocal timbre, revealing colors and textures of the voice that cannot be duplicated by AI. With AI, cloned voices are confined to a limited color palette dictated by the voice samples provided. In contrast, the Alexander Technique expands on each voice actor’s options, giving human voice actors a lasting edge over computer-generated voice overs. 

With passion, tenacity, and drive, your voice-acting career could be right around the corner, and we have all the knowledge and resources to get you started. Ready to make your voice acting dream come true? Contact A VO’s Journey Elite Academy today, and let us show you how to start and grow your voice-over business.