Rough Notes from
Marjory Barlow's Workshop

San Francisco, California, April 1995
Taken by Bob Britton (so beware, they might not be exactly correct or gospel). Elizabeth Walker also gave us many illuminating demonstrations of how she works during the 5 days they were here. Michael Frederick should have a video available in the future against which you can check these notes. Marjory spoke a great deal more than I was able to jot down. Both ladies looked great and of course were an inspiration to us all. If you have any questions or see any glaring errors or confusions, don't hesitate to E-mail me at:

Marjory Barlow at the workshop.

Marjory's hands

In the picture of Marjory's hands, Marjory is demonstrating giving a direction of separation between the iliac crest and the lower ribs. As shown Marjory is standing on the opposite side to do this. Also shown is how Marjory uses the arms by the side arrangement. Not as effident but was happening is the widen to the elbows, wrists in direction of hands on back of chair familiarity.
The teacher on the table is Simone Biase.

FM used to say, "Take 2 bites of the cherry." referring to doing a double (2 step) monkey.

Be wrong. MB tells herself when trying to be right : "I'm already wrong. Just don't make it worse."

On putting hands on back of chair while doing a monkey. FM wanted it to be a series of orders to keep going. The usual + wrists in elbows out, pull to the elbows, do not do it, inner arm separation both out of shoulder and from wrist to elbow. Each direction the opposite of the one before.

"There is all the time there is."

Let the feet be turned out for monkey.

AT work must be fun. FM said to MB, "You know dear, I'm always happy."

Shoulders stay with trunk.

Do not be rigid with thought.

Being wrong is the way we learn.

Practice inhibition with simple everyday tasks. Tea water, refrigerator, doors. FM said to take a long time to get ready for bed working with oneself, before going to sleep, and when getting up. "If you don't think when you wake up it will be 11am before you do."

Hamlet- "Let the words fit the action and the action fit the words." when teaching.

Bring intelligence into the body. FM would say, "That leg looks intelligent." FM: "The whole needs to be informed with thought."

Release the inner arm muscles.

Attention to the sound of the voice. FM paid much attention to his sound and was thankful that his voice was the problem so that he could track it easily.

FM "Talk to the body gently and it will do anything."

Don't depress your students. Don't feed the student too much at once.

"When you are successful do less."

FM used table a lot and said, "lying down one can just do the orders."

Alexander work is about changing consciousness. FM said that you can't work on a large group of the population at once, but that with an individual you can help them change to get to a more conscious plane. Onto the deeper implications.

You can't win so don't try to be right.

Don't use the technique as a stick to beat your students.

FM used to have everyone work on themselves while he kept an eye on them in the training class.

Teach students how to work on themselves when you are not there. Teach students how to use their brains. Using hands is secondary. "This is an exercise in learning how to think." FM Marjory- Too much over reliance on the hands.

"My job is to teach people how to work on themselves." MB

If you teach from the first lesson about inhibiting, there should be no confusion about being considered a "healer."

Thinking is much more immediate than imagery.

Make an easy friendly atmosphere. Students are no good if they are like "scared rabbits." FM

"My brain is in my hands" FM

AT is about changing patterns of use in the nervous system. Thinking is the heart of the problem whether conscious or not.

Non doing came about specifically in regard to non doing of the directions not to everyday activities.

Be careful of too much length at the expense of width. FM never repeated length directions such as up up up up.

Doing table work FM never put hands on stomach as he felt it distorted and did not give a clear view of the shoulders. Arms were laid alongside body, palms facing down. A direction of wrists in and elbows out can continue here.

While waiting for the a pan of boiling water, M realized that there was a point about an inch forward of her heel which did not contact the ground when she stood with her hips forward. Standing balanced it did. Location of a nerve plexus which serves the toes. Linked into the lengthening reflexes.

Take a look from in front of your pupil to make sure you are using your fingers evenly.

"You are quite perfect except for what you are doing."

Eye direction and head direction are different. FM "when you want to go up you put your eyes up, when you want to go forward you put your eyes down." NOT GOOD FM said never to put your eyes down. Look out (forward). Looking around will help free neck muscles. FM would say look at a painting, turn student around, and then ask for a description.

Pat McDonald discovered the relationship of the sub occipital muscles at head neck joint to head neck directions.

FM admired Australian cricket player Bradman for his use on the pitch, not at the bar. Went to see him whenever possible.

FM when asked where one should be on one's feet said, "It will change with your use."

Every person can rediscover the technique. FM"I don't want you to believe." Listen, practice, and judge for yourself.

Pianos or violins do not have bad habits. It is how they are used. The same with us.

FM liked story of the boy who when asked why he was writing so fast said that he had to finish before the ink ran out. apply to student trying to respond quickly.
FM also liked story of: "Go out into the garden, see what Johnny is doing, and stop him." apply to student or self as always something somewhere needing inhibition.

Go on when it feels impossible. That's when the magic happens. Don't make it easier.

The sub occipitals are the "handmaidens of the cranial globe."

When students say, " I must remember how this felt." not so good as one is changing all the time and one will feel differently. Better to have understood some principles.

"I am not going to teach you what is right. I will help you find out what is causing you to be wrong."

FM "Try to hook your daily activities to the work." Meal times are a good one.

FM "Learning the AT is the hardest thing you will ever do."

MB "Whenever I have 5 minutes I cast myself down on a surface."

FM was the most religious man in the true sense that MB ever met. The soul of kindness. Never refused a question and never failed to make the work fun. FM"Never forget what it is like to be a beginner." FM "did not suffer fools gladly"(MB) and sometimes "consciously controlled himself into a rage" with people who thought they knew it all. His pulse remained the normal. A born actor.

FM always was concerned with "the deeper implications of the work" "living consciously." FM always interested in refinement. He had tremendous emotional passion to act and so to find a cure for his vocal problems. FM did not have many rules just that one must come to class everyday. One could be in a depressed state and spending 2 minutes with FM would bring one out of it. It was what he was.

FM "The moment you start to think about breathing you change the breath."

WAs are an exercise in thinking.

FM took whispering into whispering vowels, words, sounds and then into vocalizing and even into shouts.

Putting on the plays was all based on the WAs, the points being 1 to use selves well, 2 to be heard in every seat, and 3 to have no stage fright due to good use. No one was allowed to just learn one part. All needed to learn all the parts (to also be able to whisper them) and know what they meant. A deep understanding of Shakespeare resulted.

FM was always clear about getting things in order. Mouth must be open before sound begins. Sound must end before mouth closes. FM called early closing, "trapping a mouse."

Letting the jaw drop is undoing.

FM put fingers by jaw joint. Now go wrong and pull jaw back. Notice small opening of mouth. Now let jaw go forward before opening and then notice large opening of mouth.
The jaw forward is first.
Jaw just falls open. releasing.
WAs on table are a good idea.
WAs good for seasickness.
Think of something funny (seasick nuns [a had to be there joke]) Tip of tongue on top of lower teeth so that the tongue is flat. No force and no sustaining of sound.
Breath will just come in. Widen back.
FM felt that WAs are an important basis of speaking, breathing, and eating. There isn't a single cell of the body that is not improved by breathing more efficiently.

"Don't force anything ever." MB

"It is hard work to pull down."

Hands are the most potent stimulus there is.

FM "You can't help feeling. It's just not a reliable guide."

Must not be afraid to say the wrong thing (such as the dreaded word feeling). FM said you can't help feeling. OK to be wrong. MB related how after 14 years of AT in 1945 FM used her to demonstrate in front of the a new training class and because she was emotionally challenged at the moment (husband in the audience) it was a disaster. FM had a good time ("was tickled pink") and MB later thought it was the best lesson she ever had.

To be aware of our emotional habits because that's where the trouble comes from.

Feeling becomes re-educated. You come to know more and more subtly wrong doings. Having the assurance that you are not too badly wrong.

All a question of intention. Go slowly so that you know what you want. The AT is 2 things: Intention and Attention.

MB"All a question of being on the spot....being there."

Free the joints so that the muscles can work.

FM "It is not the furniture, it is how you are using yourself.

Reduce the amount of work you are doing. Give yourself a chance.

FM said giving orders is like wishing for good weather tomorrow when you are going to go on a picnic. (Can't do much about the weather).

FM called the directions "Inhibitory Orders" .

Like going into neutral when shifting a car.

Can't do the orders.

EW Giving it space to work.

MB "Never be afraid to be wrong as long as you know it. We are after awareness."

MB "This planet is not the place for perfection."

FM "If you get perfection today, you will be farther away from perfection than you ever were."

Be careful about taking hands off. As if the student won't know that they are gone.

See those stimuli coming.

Listen for the response in the student. The student's "body" will tell you how much or how little of a touch is necessary.

MB when training and asked at dances what she did she would reply, "Kinesthetic re-education." People would say "Oh yes yes, of course." or "What the hell is that."

We are all caught up in being right.

Don't try to get right and them start working. You have to start with where you are.

Be interested in now you are wrong not how you are right.

It is always difficult with new hands (referring to a teacher one has not worked with before).

We spend out lives teetering between right and wrong.

When defining the AT go back to FM: inhibition and ordering.

Some say one's students will go wrong ordering. But they will go wrong no matter what you do. Your job is the correct their wrong understanding of ordering.

FM would not let students take the big breath that sometimes comes when lengthening. At that time FM would say to do a whispered ah or to widen the back.

Just observe what's happening.

Be reasonable

When asked how she defined the Alexander Technique MB said, "This is a way of finding out what's wrong with your use so that you can change it. Learning to be aware and to reduce tension.

Your head loves to float up out of your body. Let it.

FM. would sometimes use the little finger side of his hand to make little free-wristed karate chops onto a student's back when they were in monkey. But he would say that he couldn't do it for very long because it hurt his hands.

This is a lifetime job.