LIBRARY - Reference(s)

Directed Activities

A Diary of Practical Procedures for Students and Teachers of the F. M. Alexander Technique as taught at the Constructive Teaching Centre 1989-1992
Material type: 
AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
268 x 190 mm.
ISBN 0952557452 / 978-0952557456
Mouritz Bibliography
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Short Description: 
A facsimile of the diary of ‘games’ which Grennell kept during his teacher training course.
Mouritz description: 
A directed activity (or ‘game’) is the Technique applied to a simple, usually small, movement which is intended to encourage length and expansion of the whole organism. This is a facsimile of the diary which Grennell kept during his training with the Carringtons. Each page describes one activity with line drawings and hand written text. Among the activities described are Alexander’s procedures as well as activities such as walking, writing, taking a pupil’s head, lifting a chair, going up stairs, taking a pupil’s arm and hand, and freeing the ankles. The foreword describes the means whereby the activities were practised at the Carringtons, but an important question goes unanswered: is it really useful for anyone who has not had that practice?
Publisher Description: 

This is the only book to describe the directed activites (Ògames") carried out at the Carringtons' teachers' training course. It contains more than 200 line-drawings and notes explaining more than 100 activities. The foreword explains the origin and purpose of the directed activities as carried out by the Carringtons.

A directed activity is the Alexander Technique applied to a simple, usually small, movement, which will encourage length and expansion of the whole body. During his training Gerard Grennel kept a diary of the directed activities which Walter and Dilys Carrington taught. These directed activities - also called"games" - have several important purposes for teachers of the Technique. They:

1. practise inhibition and direction in different, but easy to monitor, activities;
2. apply the Technique to activities which are used in teaching;
3. inform you about your own use and functioning;
4. help you develop an attitude of exploration and discovery.

The activities have obvious uses in the teaching of the Technique. Apart from the procedures which Alexander developed (sitting down, standing up,"monkey", whispered ah, coming up on the toes, and hands on the back of the chair), they include walking, lifting an arm, writing, lifting a chair, going up stairs, freeing the ankles, taking a pupil's arm and hand, and taking a pupil's head. They also explore activities such as the use of the eyes in movement, and sending the knees forward and away when sitting.

Grennel's notebook is a succinct record of these procedures as taught between 1989 and 1992, and is of invaluable assistance for any teacher keen on exploration.

Given that prior knowledge of the Technique is required to carry out the directed activities, this book is recommended only for teachers and trainees.

First published 3 May 2002.

Hardback (no jacket), 160 pages, 264 x 182 mm. Printed on 80gsm Antique white wove and bound in Balacron.


Foreword by Jean M. O. Fischer

Hands on the back of a chair (standing)
Cortical opposition
Monkey, and hands on the teaching table
Kneeling (pre"crawling")
Rocking (pre"crawling")
Arms (hands) out to the side
Arms (hands) out to the front
Arms, thinking of the backs of the hands
Hands above your hfead
Walking backwards
Walking forward
Moving limbs together (arm/leg)
Shoulders back and down
Hands on the back of a chair (seated)
Whispered ah
Spirals (front)
Spirals (back)
Spirals (front of legs)
Spirals (back of legs)
Sitting (from standing)
Standing up (from sitting)
Standing close to a wall - for confidence in bringing your weight over your hells
Rocking on your sitting bones
Chair height (pre-writing)
Writing position, and use of right hand
Touching the ground with one knee at a time
The head acting as a balancer and walking backwards
Hands on the pupil's head
Taking the pupil's head
Book height
Taking the pupil's leg out to the side
Lifting the pupil's leg
Lifting a weight (telephone books)
Shoulder work
Hands on the back of a chair
Knees forward and away
Using the whispered ah to move
Standing up, and knees forwards and away
Shoulders back and down
Moving the arms in a circle
Directing heels away from sitting bones
Releasing your back
Using your back
Lifting a chair
Stepping up (stairs etc.)
Using the whispered ah to move backwards
Bending one knee after the other, and lifting a foot off the ground
Using the eyes to turn your head (and body)
Sitting and standing (hands on our hips)
Hands behind your back
Lifting a chair, and lifting a leg
Shoulder work, and book height
Sticking your tongue out, and shispered ah
Hands (arms) above your head
Whispered ah (with our weight on your hands)
Monkey, and whispered ah
Hands on the back of a chair
Hands on the pupil's shoulders
Lifting (without tightening your biceps)
Carrying a weight (or a tray), and walking
Crawling, and whispered ah
Walking up stairs
Taking a pupil's arm and hand
Hands on the back of a chair
Arms and hands above your head
Whispered ah (your back close to a wall)
Going up stairs
Moving your eyes (but not your head)
Freeing the ankles
Going downstairs
Arms (pre-writing)
Whispered ah
Knees forward and away
Desk work
Eyes, and turning
Marking time
Back support ("cigar box"), and whispered ah
The atlanto-occipital joint
Widening, and"pulling to the elbows"
Hands on the back of a chair
Shoulders (widening)
Hands on the teaching table
Shoulders and arms
Hands on the pupil's shoulders
Monkey, and chair work (with the pupil)
Body twisting (head stationary)
Turning (twisting) the hips
Hips and shoulders (into walking)
Up on to your toes
Up on to your toes in monkey

Diagram showing the spirals front and back


This book consists of a series of line drawings, each accompanied by some hand-written text written entirely in capitals. Many of the drawings are simple sketches showing an outline of a person performing an action. Some show parts of the body in action while others show bones and/or muscles. Many of the drawings have arrows showing the direction in which release should take place.

Here, for instance, is an example of the text:

"Monkey – with hands on the teaching table. Standing with a good supporting distance between your two feet – lengthening and widening – go into monkey .. . And now that you have moved – check your directions again, because it is likely that you have tightened in some way."

The accompanying drawings show a person standing by the table in monkey position, an arrow parallel with the back points up and down, one below the posterior points downwards, an arrow curves around the head pointing forwards and an arrow points directly upwards from the head.

Jean Fischer explains in his foreword that Gerard Grennell made these "notes of directed activities" during his training under Walter and Dilys Carrmigton between 1989 and 1992. The activities in question are both what are now known as, Alexander’s procedures and the, many variations, innovations and fragments that were developed and are used by Mr and Mrs Carrington.

The book is written like a series of aides-mémoire, a sort of diary setting out each activity as it was explored in class. Drawings illustrate the activities, text describes each activity and the way to carry it out. The book is set out in years (lst, 2nd and 3rd) and terms and, although it may have been revised and orgahised, it looks and reads like a compilation made day by day and week by week.

This chronological approach does not represent the course that the reader should take but the course that Mr Grennell took. This is the clue to understanding the book. Since I don't think Mr Grennell was writing with an audience in mind, we do not have to treat the book as an essay about activities or a manual of how to do them. Mr Fischer, in his foreword says: "Grennell’s text and drawings provide an excellent primer, and much of the material here is an ideal springboardfor further exploration and discovery". But a primer is, an elementary introduction to a subject and I don't think that is right either. If you treat this volume instead as a student’s notes, perhaps found in the attic or at the bottom of a drawer, you will get the best out of it. You' won't try to read through the book or follow it in order. You won't try to follow the text step by step ("So – while seated – send your bottom back and down, and your head forward and up . . . Then – with your hands resting palms up on your legs, come slightly forward on to your hands. . . Observe any unnecessary activity in the legs etc..."). You will dip in and out, enjoying a drawing here and an anatomical ilIustration there. You might enjoy the drawings of spirals; you might or might not enjoy the attempts to convey directions as arrows. You will get some good ideas about variations on the theme of activities with which to practise inhibition and direction: "What is practised is not the mere physical performance of a movement (achieving a particular goal or end), but the inhibition of performing a movement in a habitual manner while maintaining the directions for the new use" (to quote that foreword again).

2003 © Stephen Cooper (AlexanderTechniqueOxford.html). Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
Most new books on the Alexander Technique are met with a wide variety of reactions by teachers of the Technique. This may be attributed to differences in training, in amount of time and experience in the work, and/or in the main field(s) of interest of the reader. Gerard Grennell’s Directed Activities, published in May 2002 by Mouritz Press and available from AmSAT Books, may be subject to a wider variety of responses than most. I say this with some degree of confidence because I have done a quick survey of teachers of my acquaintance who have seen the book. This small sampling of 10-12 teachers ranged broadly, from strongly positive to decidedly negative, on nearly every aspect of the book i.e. text, drawings, organization, commentary, etc.

One part of the book which received nearly universal acclaim was the Foreword by Jean Fischer. Mr. Fischer presents a lucid discussion of the potential purposes, pitfalls, and provisions to be kept in mind when utilizing such a book. The lengthy subtitle gives a clear indication of the contents; A Diary Of Practical Procedures For Students And Teachers Of The F.M. Alexander Technique As Taught At the Constructive Teaching Centre (1989-1992). The directed activities (on each page of the diary, a simple activity, e.g. lifting an arm, is described with drawings and a brief text) are those used in the half hour each day on the Carringtons' course called "games". Fischer emphasizes what no book can provide: the absolute need for an individualistic approach in putting the Technique into practice; viz., 1) attention to improving the organization of the primary control in preparation for and in carrying out any activity, 2) the wisdom of breaking down each activity into smaller steps to be built up into a whole over time, 3) the necessity of clear and helpful monitoring and feedback (supplied in the Carringtons' "games" by the skilled hands and commentary of trained teachers.)

It is Fischer’s fourth point that I would like to highlight and comment on.
4) " The fact that there cannot be a uniform set of instructions for everybody means that the whole undertaking is a matter of experimentation". A collection of activities such as this diary, whether we respond positively or negatively to its particulars, can serve to remind us that it is the day-to-day manner of our choice and application of activities (procedures) in studying and teaching the Technique that determines the quality of our practice. (It is "where the rubber meets the road".) Fischer quotes several times from the Introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in his detailed discussion of what an experimental approach and attitude entail. Each one of us, utilizing our own abilities and resources, would do well to strive to emulate Alexander as Dewey describes him here, "he has noted the actual changes brought about in individuals in response to the means which he has employed, noting the reactions due to the calling into play of established bad habits, with even greater care than the more obvious beneficial consequences obtained" (italics mine, KJA) 1. If we are truly interested in observing all that actually goes on in our experiments, might we be much less worried about being right or wrong, and much more likely to learn?

1 " I read at regular intervals Dewey’s Introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual to remind me of the high standard he has set down for all teachers of the technique." Irene Tasker

© Kevin Ahern. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
Inhibition und Ausrichtung sind ja nicht Ziele an sich, sondern Mittel, die es gilt, in Verbindung mit Handlungsabsichten anzuwenden. Zu diesem Zweck entwickelte schon Alexander im Laufe seines Unterrichtens ein paar einfache Bewegungsabläufe, um dem Schüler, unter seiner Führung, eine Möglichkeit zu geben, Inhibition und Ausrichtung einzuüben. Zu diesen "Übungen" gehören Hinsetzen und Aufstehen, "Monkey", das "geflüsterte Ah", auf Zehenspitzen stehen und Hände auf der Stuhllehne.

Walter und Dilys Carrington haben an ihrer Schule diese Vorgehensweise fortgesetzt. Ausgehend von Alexanders Repertoire haben sie im Laufe der Jahre eine grosse Anzahl von Bewegungssequenzen entwickelt, die dem Schüler eine Möglichkeit geben, seine Fähigkeit zum Innehalten und Ausrichten anzuwenden und zu entwickeln.

Gerard Grennell, der die 3-jährige Ausbildung bei Walter und Dilys absolvierte, hat diese "games", wie sie auch genannt werden, mit Wort und Zeichnung festgehalten und zusammengestellt. Herausgekommen ist eine faszinierende Sammlung von Bewegungssequenzen, angefangen bei den "Originalübungen " über einfache Aktivitäten wie z.B. die Arme heben bis hin zum Stehen, Gehen, Treppensteigen, Krabbeln und vieles mehr. Drehungen, Spiralen, einen Stuhl anheben, auf den Fersen sitzen oder Schreiben werden genauso besprochen wie der Gebrauch der Hände beim Unterrichten. Jede "Übung" wird mit einfachen, klaren Zeichnungen dargestellt und kurzen Texten erklärt. Dabei gilt zu bedenken, dass in der praktischen Unterrichtssituation die wenigsten dieser Sequenzen gleich in ihrer Ganzheit ausgeführt werden. Vielmehr wird der Schüler, geführt vom Lehrer, eine Sequenz nur in kleinen Teilen durchgehen, gemessen daran, wie er seine Inhibition und Ausrichtung bewahren kann. "Directed Activities" bietet Lehrern und Studenten der AT eine unschätzbare Quelle an Informationen und Anregungen zum eigenen Experimentieren!

2002 © Jan Pullmann. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2008-2014. All rights reserved.