COMPANION

Learning and Teaching

F. M. Alexander The direction ‘head forward and up’ is part of a series of directions constituting new means-whereby. F. M. Alexander wrote about the development of his technique in UoS that he discovered that in order to prevent his head being pulled back and down, he needed his head to go forward and up.[1] In CCC Alexander writes about the phrasing ‘head forward and up’ as follows: 4. Head Forward and Up This is one of the most inadequate and often confusing phrases used as a means of conveying our ideas in words, and it is a dangerous instruction to...
This procedure consists of the teacher bending the pupil forwards and/or backwards at the hip joints while sitting. The forward flexing may also be used for getting from sitting to standing. This entry only considers bending forwards and/or backwards while continuing sitting with or without back support. This procedure has no official or established name. It was used by F. M. Alexander in his teaching, but few descriptions of it exist. Inclining forwards and backwards from the hip joints when coming from sitting to standing and back to sitting is described by Alexander. For example, in...
The issue of whether group classes, as opposed to individual lessons, is a better or an equally valid way of teaching the Alexander Technique, has been discussed since the 1970s. This entry only considers the debate on the pros and cons of teaching the Technique in groups. For teaching in groups in general, see Group teaching. The term ‘group class’ is not properly defined in any of the literature, either 1) in terms of number 2) or in terms of the difference between teaching a whole group and giving a lecture/demonstration to a group or 3) teaching an individual in front of a...
The direction ‘knees forward and away’ do not occur in F. M. Alexander’s writings, but he used the directions in his teaching according to both Marjory Barlow and Walter Carrington, and used it in two of his lectures. In his Child Study Society lecture (1925) he talked of the pupil to ‘allow his knees to go forward’.[1] In his Bedford lecture (1934) he talked of ‘allow your knees to go forward’[2] (several times) and ‘the knees forward and the hips back’.[3] Margaret Goldie, writing a piece for the children’s magazine of the...
Lunge is a position of mechanical advantage, and can be seen as a variation on monkey. Whereas monkey frequently consists of the feet being placed fairly symmetrically, in the lunge one foot is in front of the other, and sometimes turned more out. It is often performed for the purpose of moving forwards and backwards, hence one leg may be bent and the other straight. According to Marjory Barlow the name ‘lunge’ was given by Patrick Macdonald as Alexander did not name it.[1] F. M. Alexander did not write on the lunge, but he did use it in his teaching. Descriptions The...
Lying-down work is also called ‘semi-supine’, ‘table work’, ‘active rest’ or ‘constructive rest’; an earlier name, ‘inhibition work’, is rarely used today. It consists of a lying down and working on yourself, or having a teacher working with you while lying down. It is used by many teachers and frequently featured in books and articles as a practice people can carry out themselves without a teacher. The most frequent position is lying on the back, with the head supported by enough books to avoid it from being pulled backwards, the...
Marketing (within the Alexander Technique) practice includes planning, designing, advertising, publicity, PR, promotions, negotiating. Most teachers run their Alexander Technique practice as a self-employed person. There are two aspects to this, one, the business side in terms of finance (making a living from teaching the Technique), and two, advertising and marketing. The latter is more frequently discussed. History F. M. Alexander assidiously advertised himself and the Technique through a variety of flyers and booklets in his early teaching career. Later his books and articles and...
This entry covers memories of and reflections on Alexander Technique teacher training. Memories and reflections In her F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work Lulie Westfeldt reports, among other things, her teacher training with Alexander.[1] ‘Alexander teacher training course notes 1955–59’ by Kirk Rengstorff covers mainly teaching observations of his training with Walter Carrington.[2] ‘London trip journals’ by George I. Lister et al. contains the experiences of eight teachers and students from the Northern California Center for the Alexander...
‘Monkey’ is a position of mechanical advantage. It is normally described as a bending position, where the knees are forward and (often but not always) the torso is bending forward from the hips. A monkey can be everything in between standing and squatting. Alexander called this a position of mechanical advantage, but the students on the first training course nicknamed it ‘monkey’ and this is now the universally adopted term. One early example of Alexander using a bending of the hips is found in his 1910 pamphlet ‘Supplement to Re-Education of the Kinæ...
‘Neck to be free’ is a frequent expression for the purpose of reducing excessive muscular tension around the head–neck–back area as a preliminary for the head going forward and up. Several other expressions exist in the literature. This entry considers all such expressions regarding the neck. F. M. Alexander Before Alexander formulated any orders or directions for the neck to relax or be free, he made references to the excessive muscular tension around the neck area. In 1903 Alexander makes the first reference to the neck when he talks about ‘a strong...
Observation here refers to visually observing one’s own use or other people’s use, for the purpose of learning and teaching. ‘Observation work’ is the training towards developing observation skill. Observation work can be used for at least two purposes. 1. Learning about oneself; watching other people’s use can provide clues to general habits of use, which may be applicable to oneself. 2. Learning about an individual pupil’s use and function in order to adapt the teaching for that pupil. F. M. Alexander Alexander was a keen observer of people...
Play or a playful attitude is used in the Alexander Technique by some teachers. However, there are scant records; only a few teachers have described this approach in writing. F. M. Alexander preferred an easy atmosphere while teaching on his training course. Erika Whittaker reports: ‘It was all great fun and was never allowed to be serious in the studious sense, F. M. saw to that. If we were looking solemn in class F. M. sent us out for a walk, “come back when you are smiling again!”[1] Marjory Barlow, inspired by Alexander, said that ‘This work is meant to be...
There is no single position of mechanical advantage or a single definition. (A ‘monkey’ is an example of a position of mechanical advantage, see Monkey.) Generally, it can be described as a position of balance, which will aid lengthening and widening and the giving of directions. Origin The term originates from technology where the mechanical advantage is the advantage gained by the use of a tool or similar in transmitting force; e.g. the use of lever. The first appearance of the term ‘mechanical advantage’ (though not prefixed by ‘position of’)...
Saddle work refers to working with a pupil who is sitting on a wooden horse and saddle. It was developed shortly after Alexander’s death in 1955 by teachers at Ashley Place. It developed as a teaching-aid for a little girl of four-and-a-half with spina bifida, first using a toy donkey. Walter Carrington relates . . . one day someone suggested that it might be a good idea to use a toy donkey: the little girl would find it fun to sit on and it would be easier for us to work on her. We went out and got a toy donkey and it worked out very well, because we could get her sitting on her...
The description of a double-spiral arrangement of voluntary muscles in Raymond Dart’s 1950 paper,[1] have led a number of teachers of the Alexander Technique to investigate the spiralic arrangements of musculature and its implication for movement. Such muscle arrangements are frequently referred to as ‘spirals’. Spiralic movements are obvious in such activities such as walking (cross-pattern) or throwing a ball, but books on anatomy and kinesiology rarely mention how the line of force of various muscles together produce rotatory movement. Gracovetsky argues in The Spinal...
Standing is one of the most fundamental human activities, and one of the most basic activities the Alexander Technique is applied to. Alexander addressed the issue of standing principally in pre-1910 articles and in MSI, often criticizing the ‘stand-at-attention’ position adopted. The application of the Technique to standing is first mentioned in a 1908 flyer, where Alexander says that a pupil cannot assume himself a certain standing position due to his defective perceptions and sensations. He emphasises that a standing position is not the same for each individual: It is...
Students at F. Matthias Alexander Teachers’ Training Course This listing is based on a type written document in the Walter Carrington archive collection. It covers the years Alexander ran his course, 1931–1955. The dates specify when the students commenced their training. Most teachers qualified after three years. However, the first intake (of 1931) did an extra year of training (except Marjorie Barstow who went to assist A. R. Alexander in Boston.) Parenthesis indicates the married name where known. An asterisk (*) indicates that the student did not finish their training. A...
This entry covers support and supervision for Alexander Technique teachers, i.e. after graduation. Some teacher training courses have a kind of informal support by allowing and encouraging qualified teachers to visit regularly. Some courses offer (or offered) a paid post-graduate teaching term for newly qualified teachers as a way of supporting them into their new teaching practice. There are no writings on such arrangements. Many teachers obtain support by some form of continued professional development: having lessons, by exchanging work with other teachers, by reading on the...
This entry covers a formal or structured Alexander Technique teacher training, typically taking place in a class and taking 2–4 years to complete. (For individual, personal training, see Apprenticeship training. For details of individual training course see Institutions > Teacher training courses.) The entry does not contain societies’ internal debate on teacher training policies. Three year teacher training Alexander started his first three-year training course in 1931 and, apart from the interruption by World War II, it continued until his death in 1955. The three-year...
This entry covers methods which involve some kind of equipment and other aids used in teaching and learning the Technique. This entry excludes table and chair which are listed under Classical procedures. The use of a wall, a staircase, books and other readily available aids are not included. Anatomical aids See The use of anatomy and physiology. Balance board, wobble board Some training courses and teachers are using balance boards, but there are no written descriptions. Gym ball See Exercise ball. Juggling balls See Juggling. Mirrors See Use of mirrors....

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