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 Philospher’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.
Walter Carrington is discussing the purpose of HOBC in Explaining the Technique.
Patrick Macdonald describes the directions to be given for HOBC, as an example of giving directions in a certain sequence.
Dilys Carrington’s notes for HOBC for her students at the Constructive Teaching Centre is published in An Evolution of the Alexander Technique.
While HOBC is still taught on some teachers training courses, it is not generally used in individual lessons.