Tag Archives: lying down

Marjory Barlow on lying down work – Seán Carey


FM Alexander provided no written instructions concerning how you or your student should carry out lying down work. This meant that information about the practice of lying down by oneself was mainly transmitted to students in the last few years of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century by Alexander’s early assistants and then from the mid-1930s by the first group of formally trained teachers, which included Marjory Barlow.

It’ s also evident that the vast majority of people who had lessons with Alexander himself in the 1940s and ‘50s were not told anything about the advantages of performing one or more daily sessions of lying down because his focus in this period was very much on chair work. Nevertheless, although as far as we know Alexander never made lying down a personal practice he encouraged his first group of training course students to perform it, though it seems he gave very little information in regard to its frequency or duration. ‘Like a lot of things concerned with the technique FM expected you to work out what was best,’ Marjory said. ‘He wasn’t especially prescriptive. But I’ve found from personal experience that lying down is best performed every day and that around 20 minutes is about right.’

Marjory told me that her group of training course students were instructed by FM to squat to get on to the floor. He advised them to have a slightly wider standing stance than for monkey and exaggerate the turn out of their feet to facilitate bending of their knees. The trainees were also told not to anticipate the movement on to the floor (no surreptitious crouching or stooping, in other words) but rather to maintain their internal length while standing, and then allow their knees to release over their well-turned-out toes to go into a deeper and deeper squat so as to arrive on the floor using their hands and knees for support. The students were then instructed to put both knees to the left or right to lie on their side, their legs straightening as they did so. Alexander then invited them to pause and roll over to place their head on a small pile of books that they had previously placed on the floor.

The next task involved bending one leg at a time so that they ended up with both feet flat on the floor, toes pointing out slightly and knees pointing towards the ceiling. As the students discovered for themselves bending the knees without disturbing the head, neck and torso relationship (especially not over-activating the abdominal muscles) was not at all easy to accomplish.

You can read more about how Marjory Barlow taught lying down work in Seán Carey’s new book, ‘Think More, Do Less: Improving your teaching and learning of the Alexander Technique with Marjory Barlow’, which has been written for Alexander teachers, trainees and advanced students. It is now available through Amazon or HITE.