The Centre for the Alexander Technique

Pete’s Blog – 30th December 2018 – Doing and Non-doing

Oh dear!  It’s been over a year…….

Here goes with another of my musings on the subject of how one should teach the Alexander Technique. It’s on the general theme of doing and non-doing. Firstly, let me say that I’m defining the undesirable thing that one needs to not do as any distortion of good use in oneself. Thus it’s not necessarily about what one does but about how one does it – with better use. It is about not doing bad use. And the aim is to enable the pupil to do the same.

The options are as follows:

Option a. For the teacher to stay back and up (neck back is the same as head forward – think about it), place the hands on the pupil and wait for something to happen. Try it….. If the pupil is sensitive enough to be able to receive it, it can be brilliant.

However if the pupil feels nothing one has the option to continue doing the same thing, make some suggestions as to appropriate ways of thinking on the part of the pupil and carry on as before.


Option b. To attempt to give the pupil an experience intentionally which will require maintenance of everything in option a. plus a manipulation of some kind with the hands. This, of course, is a much more skilled operation. Mostly we are taught initially to put the hands on by organising ourselves in the appropriate manner and then putting the hands on the pupil. In some places that is as far as it goes. But in others the student either continues to do nothing or very little with the hands (Option a) or something more manipulative whilst maintaining this directed organisation (Option b).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Option a. This has the advantage of enabling the pupil the space and freedom to experience whatever is happening in themselves without any imposition from the teacher. The risk here is that the pupil experiences nothing .

Option b. This has the advantage that the pupil experiences something which the teacher wishes consciously to impart. The disadvantage is that the teacher’s overall use or manipulative skills are not sufficient to impart the right thing.

As usual this dimension is a continuum and the teacher should aim flexibly to develop the skills to deliver both ends of the continuum and the various positions in the middle.

Some people are sensitive to intrusiveness no matter how skilfully applied. Some people are in their current state just not sensitive enough and consequently need a bit more (skilled) intervention.

Alexander refers to both approaches in his writings. Without checking extensively he refers to the non-doing of the misuse in relation mainly to the pupil’s work on themselves and the more manipulative approach to the teacher’s work on a pupil. Certainly he appears to be seeking actively to give the pupil an experience in the short video clip we have of him working and he refers extensively in his writings to giving the pupil an experience.