Hands on the back of the chair (HOBC) consists of standing or sitting and with both hands taking hold of the top rail of the back of a chair, frequently involving a ‘pulling’ of the top of the back of the chair.
HOBC is the only procedure Alexander described in detail in his writings. Alexander is quoted for saying HOBC provides all the experience necessary for teaching.
The origin is not known but is said to be Alexander witnessing a physical exercise in Australia. It was first described as a chair exercise in 1910 by Alexander in which the pupil is standing. In CCC in 1923, it is described in great detail in chapter IV, ‘Illustration’.
The 1919 article, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’, by a pupil of Alexander, Robertson, makes a reference to HOBC:
– to grasp a chair without implicating the muscles of the upper arm or shoulder, to manage your legs without using the abdominal muscles or contracting the neck.
The 1947 diary by Eva Webb makes the following reference in a lesson with Irene Stewart:
My hands were planted on a chair back while I was in the ‘monkey’ position, and the lifting process went on.
John Gray’s description would be very close to that of Marjory Barlow’s approach, in his Your Guide to the Alexander Technique.
Walter Carrington discusses the purpose and practice of HOBC in some detail in Explaining the Technique.
Patrick Macdonald describes the directions to be given for HOBC, as an example of giving directions in a certain sequence.
Elisabeth Walker talks about HOBC in 1999 Congress workshop.
Dilys Carrington’s notes for HOBC for her students at the Constructive Teaching Centre is published in An Evolution of the Alexander Technique.
‘The emancipation of the upper limbs: “Hands on the back of a chair” revisited’ by Malcolm Williamson considers the evolution of the arms (with reference to F. Wood Jones’ Arboreal Man, 1926) and its implication for the practice of HOBC.
‘What’s hands on the back of a chair good for?’ by Malcolm Williamson argues that HOBC is ‘a sophisticated and higly effective way to restore whole-body coordination and integrated functioning.’
While HOBC is still taught on some teachers training courses, especially STAT and STAT-affiliated courses, it is rarely used in individual lessons.