COMPANION

Wall Work

Wall work, or wall procedure, consists of using a wall (or other flat surface) behind you in standing, for observation, support or as a reference point.

F. M. Alexander

It is first described as ‘Door Exercise’ in Alexander’s 1910 pamphlet ‘Supplement to Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems’:

The pupil should stand from 6 to 12 inches from the door in accordance with the requirements of the particular individual. The teacher should then inform him that he wishes his (the pupil’s) hips to move towards the door until the body is supported by the door and the torso extends away from it at an angle of about 25 to 30 degrees. It will be found that most pupils will stiffen the legs in order to put the hips back towards the door. This stiffening is incorrect. The teacher should then explain to the pupil that when he is standing near the door in the upright position previous to the attempt to cause the hips to move back to the door, there is a continuous energy being sent to the different muscles which enables him to stand in that upright position. All that is then necessary is that the pupil shall, as it were, cut off the energy which causes the firm position at the hip joints and other parts, and by ordering or desiring the relaxation of the parts concerned so that the hinge-like movement of the hips takes place, and the teacher with his hands placed upon the pupil causes his (the pupil’s) body to move in the right direction. When the body, in [the] region of the hips, has touched the door and the torso is leaning forward at the angle of about 25 to 30 degrees, the teacher should then ask the pupil to order his neck to relax and his head to move forward, while the teacher causes the torso to move backwards until it is supported by the door. The pupil should then be asked to order the body and neck to relax and the head to move forward and upward, while he (the teacher) causes the body to be correctly supported by the door and brings about the correct and adequate movements of the different muscular mechanisms.[1]

Alexander did not write on wall work again but did teach it until the 1930s. There are no contemporary descriptions by pupils or trainees, and the first description since 1910 is Wilfred Barlow in 1973 (see below).

Purpose

Wall work has been taken up by a number of teachers, and variations of wall work has developed over the years. Some use it as a preliminary for monkey, some for observing misuse, some as a preliminary for walking. In addition some people slide up and down the wall.

Descriptions

  • The most complete description is probably in Seán Carey’s book on Marjory Barlow’s teaching, Think More, Do Less.[2] Marjory Barlow also describes it in Alexander Technique: The Ground Rules.[3]
  • Wilfred Barlow’s The Alexander Principle (1973) describes both using a wall for sliding and flattening the back,[4] for monkey,[5] and for observation.[6]
  • Marie Beuzeville Byles uses the wall for coming on the toes in Stand Straight Without Strain (1978).[7]
  • A detailed description of wall work covering covers observation, sliding up and down, and going up on to the toes is in John Gray’s Your guide to the Alexander Technique.[8]
  • Malcolm Balk in Master the Art of Running uses wall work both for observing how upright the back is in standing and for observing maintaining length while pulling one foot up.[9]
  • Sean Carey in Alexander Technique in Everyday Activity uses wall work work for observation, sliding and walking.[10]
  • There also a description of a workshop on wall work in STATNews.[11]

Criticism

  • Walter Carrington objected to using wall work for sliding or flattening the back in Personally Speaking,[12] and in Explaining the Technique.[13]

Other uses of wall

Some teachers use a ball between the back and the wall, some uses a wall for turning, or for hands on.

References

[1] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), pp. 104-105.
[2] Think More, Do Less by Seán Carey (HITE, 2017), pp. 97-108.
[3] Alexander Technique: The Ground Rules by Marjory Barlow, Seán Carey (HITE, 2011), pp. 127-131.
[4] The Alexander Principle by Wilfred Barlow (Gollancz, 1973), pp. 144-147.
[5] The Alexander Principle by Wilfred Barlow (Gollancz, 1973), pp. 169-170.
[6] The Alexander Principle by Wilfred Barlow (Gollancz, 1973), pp. 180-181, fig. 32b.
[7] Stand Straight Without Strain by Marie Beuzeville Byles (L. N. Fowler, 1978), pp. 34-35.
[8] Your guide to the Alexander Technique by John Gray (Gollancz, 1990), pp. 116-121.
[9] Master the Art of Running by Malcolm Balk, Andrew Shields (Collins & Brown, 2006), pp. 89-90.
[10] Alexander Technique in Everyday Activity by Seán Carey (HITE, 2015), pp. 80-83.
[11] ‘Workshop: The principle of mechanical advantage: Wall work and door work’ by Liz Dodgson in STATNews, May 2008, pp. 17-18.
[12] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington and Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2001), p. 47.
[13] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington and Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 102-103.