Directions and Directing

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Directions, and Directing

“Let me therefore present to you what I consider to be the purpose of our teaching, which is to persuade our pupils to, in Alexander’s words: ‘Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, and to let the back lengthen and widen’, and to get them to do this as often and accurately as possible in their ordinary activities.”
Patrick Macdonald The Alexander Technique As I See It p73

“From there we then come to the question of what is popularly known as the orders or the directions: neck to be free, head forward and up, back to lengthen and widen, knees forward and away. Those are usually referred to, spoken of, as the primary orders or directions. Indeed, so they are. When you say to a pupil, “Free the neck, order the neck to be free,” for the first time, you must expect a reaction, and the reaction will nearly always be a reaction of anxiety. "
Walter Carrington Thinking Aloud ("Teaching Directions to Beginners")

"What you are doing with the orders or the directions is confronting yourself with a picture, and the more vivid the picture, the better. Then, in comparison with that picture, you can consider, evaluate, and criticize your own state. The clarity of that picture is very important, but also the understanding that the right thing does itself enables you to set about seeing why the right thing isn’t doing itself. What’s in the way? What’s wrong? What’s causing the trouble? If you go along with what I’ve said, and you avoid falling into the trap of doing, you will be able to convince yourself that what I am saying is right. If you see your task in the proper light, which is to stop yourself doing what you are not supposed to be doing, it will experimentally prove itself."
Walter Carrington Thinking Aloud ("Teaching Directions to Beginners")

"What we are really saying is: “How would I really wish you to be? How should we both wish ourselves and each other to be?” We should wish that we had free necks, because if we’ve got free necks, then we know that the head will be freely poised, and it will be freely poised in such a way that you could say it was going forward and up. If the head is going forward and up, then for sure, the back is lengthening and widening. If the back is lengthening and widening, then the knees can go forward and away. So you are describing a situation."
Walter Carrington Thinking Aloud ("Teaching Directions to Beginners")

“And I think where students and teachers get confused is that instead of inhibiting and directing to get a new situation, they get impatient and try to force things.”
Walter Carrington Personally Speaking

Giving directions, then, is not and cannot be the same for a new pupil, as it is for one of a few weeks’, months’ or years’ experience of the Technique.
Patrick Macdonald The Alexander Technique As I See It

"Now, that’s what Alexander meant by directions – you want to go up to your full height and these are the directions, this is how you do it. We have to put it into words otherwise I couldn’t give you the directions. But you’ve got to remember more than the words – you’ve got to remember the practical significance of the words. ”
Walter Carrington Explaining the Alexander Technique p119

Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see or email Bradley on .