lørdag 14. desember 2019

Ønsketenkning

I all enkelthet går Alexanderteknikken ut på å finne ut hva du gjør som du ikke behøver å gjøre og så slutte med det.

Det vi ønsker å slutte med er alt som hemmer oss. Det å bli anspent og fiksert eller kollapset og uorganisert. For å oppdage slike tendenser er det til hjelp å være oppmerksom på lengden og bredden i kroppen. Både anspenthet og kollaps gjør oss kortere. Det er som om vi tar mindre plass.

Oppmerksomhet om lengde og bredde, om rom og volum, kan være nok til at vi unngår å trekke oss sammen. Det fungerer preventivt. Men uvaner kan være sterke. Oppmerksomhet er ikke alltid nok. Vi må tenke mer proaktivt. Det vi kan gjøre er å aktivt ønske mer lengde.

Å ønske
Å ønske lengde virker sterkere enn bare å være oppmerksom på lengden. Det kan være flere grunner til at det fungerer slik.

For det første kan det å ønske lengde være en direkte motsats til en uønsket tendens. Hvis du for eksempel har for vane å stramme nakken og gjøre den kortere vil et ønske om å la nakken bli lengre virke preventivt ganske enkelt fordi det er umulig å gjøre nakken både lengre og kortere på en gang.

For det andre er ønsket om mer lengde et ønske om bevegelse. En intensjon om bevegelse setter i gang prosesser i kroppen for å forberede bevegelsen. Muskelskjelett-systemet blir med ett mer dynamisk. Potensialet for endring øker. Intensjonen om lengde gir større sjanse for positive endringer.
Mer lengde og bredde, rom og volum, betyr økt muskellengde, redusert spenningsnivå, økt følsomhet og økt arbeidspotensiale. 
Å ønske mer lengde (og bredde, osv.) innebærer vel og merke et ønske om en bevegelse som vi ikke kan utføre muskulært. Det er en tenkt bevegelse.

For det tredje er ønsket om lengde og bredde (osv.), på den måten vi anvender det i Alexanderteknikken, innebygget i vår fysiologi. Å ønske lengde og bredde blir vanligvis formulert som å: la hodet gå fram og opp slik at ryggen kan bli lengre og bredere. Dette kan sies beskrive det som skjer når vi ønsker å være oppreist i forhold til tyngdekrafta. Det er motsatt av det som skjer når vi blir anspent og stressa. Da drar vi hodet bakover og ned og gjør oss kortere. Fordi det er en naturlig og innebygget respons i forhold til tyngdekrafta er det å bli lengre og bredere noe vi kan la skje av seg selv. 

Ren ønsketenkning 
Ønsket om lengde og bredde, (eller økt volum og ekspansjon), er et ønske om bevegelse som kan integreres i intensjonen til alle bevegelser vi gjør. Dette er en form for ferdighet. Som alle ferdigheter læres den litt eller litt, og over tid. Men det er ingen vanskelig ferdighet, ikke vanskeligere enn for eksempel å lære å kjøre bil.

Jo mer erfaring du får i å ønske lengde og bredde i aktivitet, jo lavere grad av oppmerksomhet er nødvendig for å tenke retningene. Det vil være tilstrekkelig å ha det i bakhodet. Med økt erfaring vil du også bli i stand til å tenke mer detaljert og mer i tråd med fysiologien og skjelettets struktur. Sist men ikke minst vil økt erfaring gjøre at du blir mer og mer i stand til å oppdage om du gjør mer enn å bare tenke. 

Det største hinderet for å lære det å tenke lengde og bredde mens du er i aktivitet, er at du forsøker å «gjøre» retningene, at ønsket om lengde og bredde er mer enn bare en intensjon. Ønsket om lengde og bredde, om å la hodet gå fram og opp og la ryggen bli lengre og bredere, må bare være et rent ønske. Ren ønsketenkning om du vil.


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søndag 8. desember 2019

Oppmerksomhet i bevegelse

I all enkelthet går Alexanderteknikken ut på å finne ut hva du gjør som du ikke behøver å gjøre og så slutte med det. For å finne ut hva du gjør må du være oppmerksom. Men oppmerksom på hva? Hvis det ikke er konkret blir det vanskelig å gjennomføre 

Lengde og bredde
I Alexanderteknikken organiserer vi oppmerksomheten på en bestemt måte. Vi er oppmerksomme på lengde og bredde, på avstander og rom. Vi inkluderer alltid forholdet mellom hodet og resten av kroppen.

Hva du gjør med hode påvirker det som skjer i resten muskelskjelett-systemet. Du kan bruke kroppen feil på to måter – du kan være anspent eller du kan kollapse. Er du anspent drar du hodet inn i kroppen, kollapser du synker du sammen. I begge tilfelle blir du kortere.

Ved å være oppmerksom på lengden fra hode til halebein kan du unngå å gjøre deg selv kortere. Ved å bevare lengden vil du lettere oppdage når du spenner deg. Musklene vil ha bedre lengde og vil være både potensielt sterkere og mer følsomme.

Kroppskunnskap 
Jo mer du vet og kan om kroppen din, jo lettere er det å ha en klar forestilling om lengden og bredden. Å vite hvordan kroppen henger sammen betyr ikke minst å vite hvor leddene er. Et viktig ledd er leddet mellom hodet nakken. Blir du kjent med hvordan hodet balanserer på toppen av ryggsøyla vil du lettere forstå hva du gjør med hodet i forhold til resten av kroppen. 

Leddene er ment for bevegelse. Vi ønsker mulighet for bevegelse i nakken, men også stabilitet. Blir nakken «slakk» kollapser kroppen. Å ha mulighet for bevegelse kan sammenlignes med ei lukket men ulåst dør. Den kan når som helt åpnes. I Alexanderteknikken beskriver vi det som å ha en «fri» nakke. Er nakken fri unngår du unødvendig spenninger og du beholder lettere lengden i kroppen.

I bevegelse
Tanken om lengde og bredde i kroppen kan du bruke når som helst. Størst effekt vil det ha når du beveger deg.

Det meste av bevegelse gjør vi uten å tenke over hvordan vi gjør det. For å ha oppmerksomhet om lengde og bredde mens du beveger deg, må du begynne å bli bevisst øyeblikket du får lyst til å gjøre en bevegelse. Ønsket om bevegelse setter kroppen i beredskap. Ønsket om bevegelse setter også i gang eventuelle uvaner du måtte ha.

Blir du vant til å være oppmerksom på øyeblikket når lysten til å gjøre en bevegelse dukker opp, kan du velge å la nakken være fri og ha lengde og bredde underveis i aktiviteten du gjør. Da kan du bevege deg med mindre spenning, lettere og mer følsomt. 


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lørdag 30. november 2019

Hands on the Back of the Chair (part 2)

This article is written for Alexander Technique teachers, teacher trainees and advanced pupils. It is the translated and rewritten version of Hender på stolrygg (del 2).

In the Alexander Technique, any activity can be used as an 'exercise,' anything from simple everyday movements to highly skilled movements related to sports or playing a musical instrument. We can also use activities especially adapted for the purpose of learning and practising the Alexander Technique. The 'Hands on the Back of the Chair' procedure (HOBC) is such an activity, developed by Alexander himself. 

Last time I wrote about the origins and history of this exercise, or 'procedure' as we Alexander Technique teachers prefer to call it. In this and following instalments I'll have a look at the details of the procedure, and the physiological features that underlies its functioning.

In the Alexander Technique we always give priority to the central structure, the head, neck and back. This time I will for once go the other way and begin by taking into consideration the use of the fingers. When performing the HOBC procedure, we take hold of the top of the chair in a particular way. Why do we do that?

The Precision Grip
Alexander stressed the importance of following the instructions with regard to the particular use of hands and fingers when doing HOBC:
Special attention is directed in this connexion to the instructions given in the following illustration to the pupil in regard to the work to be done with his hands and arms, associated with a more or less co-ordinated body, and particularly to the position of his fingers, wrists, and elbows when placed on the chair as directed (Alexander 2004, p.110).
When performing HOBC, we take hold of the top rail of the chair with fingers and thumbs in a precision grip, more precisely defined as a type of pinch grip.(1)

It is clear from the very first description we have of this procedure, from 1910, that the fingers should be straight: 
The hands are placed so that the four fingers are kept quite straight on one side of the back of the chair and the thumb on the other side of the back of the chair. (Alexander 1995, p.103).
In the later and more detailed exposition in Constructive Conscious Control from 1923 he writes that the fingers should be as straight as possible, and also the thumb. (The italisation is Alexander's own): 
... GRASP THE TOP RAIL OF THE BACK OF THE CHAIR GENTLY AND FIRMLY, KEEPING THE FINGERS AS straight AS POSSIBLE AND QUITE FLAT AGAINST THE WOOD OF THE FRONT PORTION OF THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR, THE THUMB ALSO TO BE KEPT AS STRAIGHT AS POSSIBLE, BEING CALLED UPON TO DO DUTY ON THE BACK PORTION OF THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR, WITH THE WRIST CURVED SLIGHTLY INWARDS ... (Alexander 2004, p.117).(2)

If the fingers are kept straight, one is ensured, according to Alexander, that the minimum amount of tension is applied:

If the pupil will carry out the act ... whilst continuing to recognize as factors of primary importance the keeping of the fingers straight and the wrists curved inwards, the minimum tension will be exerted (ibid, p.121).
He ads that the position lends itself to observing one's hands and wrist to ensure correct performance:
... It should be remembered here that the pupil's position in this act is an ideal one for watching the hands and wrists. Therefore, if the pupil will watch carefully any tendency to the incorrect movements described above, these can be checked as soon as they show themselves (ibid).

I would anyway recommend doing HOBC in front of the mirror from time to time. There is always more to discover if you observe yourself from another angle. 

If your wrist or fingers deviates from the position, it is an indication that too much tension is applied:
Immediately the pupil interferes with the position of the fingers or wrists (in the latter case, tending to curve them outwards instead of inwards), this will indicate that the point of minimum muscular tension has been passed (ibid).(3)

Not allowing the wrists tending to go outwards is most easily achieved if the fingers are not only kept straight, but also vertical:

Straight in themselves and vertical (i.e. not slanting to left or right) (Langford 2004, s.138. See also: Dimon 2015, s.25; Soar 1999, s.27).

The Earthworm Muscles 
If we are going to try to understand the rationale behind the position of hands and fingers in HOBC we have to have a closer look at the muscles involved.

The skeletal structure that makes up your palm consists of the carpal bones and the four metacarpal bones, (we disregard the thumb for now). Between the metacarpals there are three groups of small muscles. The dorsal interossei, closest to the back of your hand, spread your fingers. The two other groups, the palmar interossei and the lumbricals gather the fingers. All three groups contribute in the action of straightening the last two joints of the fingers. The main muscle responsible for extending the fingers (extensor digitorum) is not capable of performing this on its own.(4) 
Additionally, these muscles are used for flexing the fingers at the knuckle joint (metacarpophalangeal). In cooperation with the muscles moving the thumb, the interossei and lumbricals can perform the task of taking hold of the chair with straight fingers, involving mainly the small intrinsic muscles of the hands. 


The lumbricals, meaning 'earth worm' in Latin, plays an important part. What is special about these muscles is that they do not connect directly to bones. They arise from the tendons of the deep flexor muscle (flexor digitorum profundus) and ends in the ligaments of the extensor. (Dimon 2008, p.180). It could be said that by their function the lumbricals engage the deep flexor muscle to work partly as an extensor.(5)

The lumbricals are relatively weak, but very sensitive. They have a high density of muscle spindles and contribute to the precise and sensitive use of the fingers. They make it possible to take hold of the chair 'gently and firmly' as Alexander instructed (Alexander 2004 s.109).(6) 

To sum up we can describe three aspects characterising the particular use of the hands and fingers in HOBC:
  1. This way of using the fingers and hand distributes the work among a high number of muscles, necessitating a lower level of tension in each, thereby leading to potentially higher sensitivity. (7)
  2. The involvement of the intrinsic muscles of the hand reduces the demand on the larger muscles in the lower arm, facilitating release and 'lengthening,' particular of the flexors. (Dimon 2008, p.180)
  3. The hold on the chair involves extensors as well as flexors. (Some Alexander teachers call this an 'extensor grip' (Dimon 2015, s 27).(8) Activating the extensor musculature counteracts the normal tendency of excessively engaging the flexors of the fingers, arms and shoulders when taking hold of something. Avoiding flexor overactivation is crucial to other physiological effects of the HOBC procedure.
A simple experiment illustrates the difference in the functioning of muscles between this type of precision grip and the commonly used 'power grip.' 

Hold a pencil or pen pointing vertically, using minimal amount of force, just sufficient to not drop it. Alternate between using a power grip, holding it as you would the shaft of a hammer; and using a precision grip, keeping fingers and thumb straight as when performing HOBC. 
With your other hand, lightly palpate and squeeze your lower arm, especially the area closest to the elbow. The differences in the organisation of muscular tension should be observable. 

Gently and firmly 
Alexander's instruction was to take hold of the chair ‘gently but firmly,’ (Alexander 1995, p.103). How firm is firmly? Walter Carrington is reported to have illustrated in it this way: 'If you are drying a good wine glass, you hold it firmly enough not to drop it, and gently enough not to crack it' (Langford 2004, p.138).

The contact with the back of the chair is to be a stable and neutral point of reference. You are not to put any weight on the chair. nor at the outset actually lift or pull. Alexander writes about a 'gentle forearm pull' and 'supporting the torso with [the] arms' (Alexander 2004 p.120). This primarily describe sensations which are the result of the process of directing and the organisation of passive muscular pulls, not necessarily something performed directly. I will return to this in later instalments. 

[This bllog post is not finished. It will be extended with additional material within the next few days].


Related blog posts


Notes
1) The pinch grip is a form of precision grip where by an object is pinched between the palmar surface of the fingers and the opposing thumb. (precision-pinch-grip)
In Mind and Muscle Elisabeth Langford uses the term 'pincer grip', giving an example of a person reading a newspaper holding it between straight fingers and thumb (Langford 1999, p.188)
Several Alexander teachers describes this as 'cortical opposition' (Grennell 2002, p.6, Carrington D. 2017, p.275). I have not been able to find an exact definition of the term. 

2) Alexander Technique books where you can find descriptions of the positioning of the fingers and hands on the back of the chair: 
Alexander Technique in Everyday Activity (Carey 2014, p.152/156)
Alexander Technique Workbooks (Nicholls 2014, p.36)
Articles and Lectures (Alexander 1995, p.103) 

An Evolution of the Alexander Technique (Carrington, Dilys 2017, p.275)
Body Breath and Being (Nicholls 2008, p.149)
Constructive Conscious Control (p.117)
Defining the Alexander Technique (Soar 1999, p.27)
Directed Activities (Grennell 2002, pp. 6, 65, 75, 77, 94, 129)
Mind and Muscle and Music (Langford 2008, p.138-139)
Notes on the work of Dilys Carrington (Nicholls 2013, p. 92) 
Only Connect (Langford 2004, p.138)
Secrets of the Alexander Technique (McDonald/Ness 2001, p.122)
The Ground Rules (Barlow 2011, p.122) 
The Use of the Hands in Teaching (Dimon 2015, p.22-23)
Think More Do Less (Carey 2017, p.120-122)
Thinking Aloud (Carrington 1994, p.142)
You Guide to the Alexander Technique (Gray 1994, 128-127)


3) In her Alexander Technique Woorkbooks 1 Carolyn Nicholls says: 'If you let your fingers curve, you have allowed the flexor muscles to come into play too much' (Nicholls 2014, s 36). Wrong position of hands and fingers could of course just as well be caused by general collapse, or too little muscle tension where tension is needed. 

4)Several species has some degree of opposable grip but: 'The pad-to-pad pinch between the thumb and index finger is made possible because of the human ability to passively hyperextend the distal phalanx of the index finger.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumb 

5) In a note to his article 'The Emancipation of the Upper Limbs: "Hands of the Back of a Chair' Revisited" Malcolm Williamson cites David Gorman's The Body Movable: Vol. II, The Upper Limb: 'In effect because of their diagonal course, contraction of [the] lumbricals displaces functionally the insertion of flexor digitorum profundus from the front to the back of the distal phalanx and transforms it into an extensor muscle (Gorman 1981 p. 121)' (Williamson 2019, p. 59).

6) ‘With the smallest physiological cross-sectional area in the upper extremity, the lumbrical muscles have weak motor function, which is only 1/10 of the interosseous muscle. Because it is spindle-rich, the lumbrical muscles play an important role in the sensory feedback of the distal interphalangeal, proximal interphalangeal and metacarpalphalangeal joints of the fingers’. A Biomechanical and Evolutionary Perspective on the Function of the Lumbrical Muscle 

7) As a general rule the higher the tension, the lower the sensitivity. This is related to the Weber-Fechners Law.  

8) One of the exercises in The Use of the Hands in Teaching is titled «Extending Hand at Wrist to Form an Extensor Grip» (Dimon 2015, p.27). This exercise is more or less identical with exercise A) in this article. 

Literature
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 1995. Articles and Lectures. Mouritz.
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 2004. Consctructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Mouritz.
Barlow, Marjory. 2011. The Ground Rules: Marjory Barlow in Conversation with Sean Carey. Hite Books.
Carey, Sean. 2017. Think More, Do Less: Improving Your Teaching and Learning of the Alexander Technique with Marjory Barlow. HITE Books.
Carrington, Walter. 1994. Thinking Aloud: Talks on Teaching the Alexander Technique. Mournum Time Press.
Carrington, Walter and Dilys. 2017. An Evolution of the Alexander Technique: Selected Writings. The Sheildrake Press. 
Dimon, Theodore Jr. 2008. Anatomy of the Moving Body: A Basic Course in Bones, Muscles, and Joints. North Atlantic Books (2.ed).
Dimon, Ted 2011. The Body in Motion Its Evolution and Design. North Atlantic Books
Dimon, Theodore. 2015. The Use of the Hands in Teaching. Dimon Institute (egenpublisert).
Gray, John. 1994. Your Guide to the Alexander Technique. Victor Gollancz Ltd.
Grennell, Gerard. 2002. 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). Mouritz.
Johnson, Jennifer. 2009. What Every Violinist Needs to Know About the Body. GIA Publications Inc.

Langford, Elisabeth. 1999. Mind and Muscle. An Owner's Handbook. Garant Uitgevers.
Langford, Elisabeth. 2004. Only Connect: Reflections on Teaching the Alexander Technique. Alexandertechniek Centrum vzw.
Langford, Elisabeth. 2008. Mind and Muscle and Music: A companion to Mind and Muscle: an owner's handbook. AT Centrum vzw, Leuven.
Nicholls, Carolyn. 2008. Body, Breath and Being. A new guide to the Alexander Technique. D&B Publishing.
Nicholls, Carolyn. 2014. Alexander Technique Workbooks 1: Hands on the back of the chair. Blurb (egenpublisert). 
Soar, Tim. 1999. Defining the Alexander Technique. Publisert privat.
Williamson, Malcolm. 2019. ‘The Emancipation of the Upper Limbs: “Hands of the Back of a Chair” Revisited’ in The Alexander Journal 27, 2019.


alexanderteknikk, alexander technique, articles in English, articles for teachers, 

søndag 24. november 2019

Hender på stolrygg (del 2)

(Denne bloggartikkelen er skrevet for Alexanderteknikk-lærere og viderekomne elever). 

En hvilken som helst aktivitet kan brukes som øvelse i Alexanderteknikken, alt fra små og store hverdagslige bevegelser, til bevegelser knyttet til spesifikke ferdigheter som det å spille et instrument. Vi kan også bruke aktiviteter spesielt tilpasset det å lære Alexanderteknikken. 

«Hender på stolrygg» er en av øvelsene, eller «prosedyrene» som vi foretrekker å kalle det, som Alexander selv utviklet i den hensikt.
Forrige gang skrev jeg om øvelsens opprinnelse og utvikling. I denne og de neste delene av artikkelen skal vi se på detaljene i øvelsen og de fysiologiske forutsetningene den bygger på. 

I Alexanderteknikken begynner vi alltid med den sentrale strukturen, hodet, nakken og ryggen. Denne gangen skal jeg for en gangs skyld gå andre veien og begynne med fingrene. I «hender på stolrygg» holder vi i stolen på en helt bestemt måte med fingrene. Hvorfor gjør vi det? 

Presisjonsgrep
Alexander var svært nøye med hva eleven skulle gjøre med hender og fingre under utførelsen av «hender på stolrygg»:
Special attention is directed in this connexion to the instructions given in the following illustration to the pupil in regard to the work to be done with his hands and arms, associated with a more or less co-ordinated body, and particularly to the position of his fingers, wrists, and elbows when placed on the chair as directed (Alexander 2004, s.110)

Stolryggen gripes med strake fingre på forsiden og tomlene tilsvarende på baksiden. Dette er en variant av «presisjonsgrep» og har kanskje mest til felles med det som betegnes som «pinsett-grepet».

Allerede i den første beskrivelsen vi har av øvelsen fra 1910 er Alexander klar på at fingrene skal være rette: 
The hands are placed so that the four fingers are kept quite straight on one side of the back of the chair and the thumb on the other side of the back of the chair. (Alexander 1995, p.103).
I den neste og mer detaljerte beskrivelsen sies det at fingrene skal være så rette som mulig, (bruken av store bokstaver er Alexanders egen). 
… GRASP THE TOP RAIL OF THE BACK OF THE CHAIR GENTLY AND FIRMLY, KEEPING THE FINGERS AS straight AS POSSIBLE AND QUITE FLAT AGAINST THE WOOD OF THE FRONT PORTION OF THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR, THE THUMB ALSO TO BE KEPT AS STRAIGHT AS POSSIBLE, BEING CALLED UPON TO DO DUTY ON THE BACK PORTION OF THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR, WITH THE WRIST CURVED SLIGHTLY INWARDS … (Alexander 2004, s. 117) (1)

Om fingrene er rette vil man kunne ifølge Alexander forsikre seg om at man bruker minimalt med spenning:
If the pupil will carry out the act … whilst continuing to recognize as factors of primary importance the keeping of the fingers straight and the wrists curved inwards, the minimum tension will be exerted. [obs italic her] (ibid, s.121)

Han legger til at det i denne posisjonen er det enkelt å observere hender og fingre visuelt for at sikre korrekt utførelse:
… It should be remembered here that the pupil's position in this act is an ideal one for watching the hands and wrists. Therefore, if the pupil will watch carefully any tendency to the incorrect movements described above, these can be checked as soon as they show themselves (Ibid).

Jeg vil likevel anbefale å gjøre «hender på stolrygg» foran et speil av og til. Å se hender og fingre (og resten av deg selv), fra en annen vinkel kan gi nyttig informasjon. 

Kommer hender og fingre ut av posisjon er det tegn på bruk av mer spenning enn nødvendig:
«Immediately the pupil interferes with the position of the fingers or wrists (in the latter case, tending to curve them outwards instead of inwards), this will indicate that the point of minimum muscular tension has been passed [Sjekk italics her] (ibid).(2)
At håndleddene ikke skal falle utover betyr at fingrene ikke bare skal være rette, men også loddrette:
«Straight in themselves and [italic] vertical (i.e. Not slanting to left or right)» (Langford 2004, s.138). (Se også Dimon 2015, s.25 og Soar 1999, s.27).

Ormmusklene
Skal vi forstå hensikten med håndens og fingrenes posisjon i hender på stolrygg må vi se nærmere på musklene som er involvert.

Skjelettet i håndflaten din består av fire mellomhåndsbein. (Tommelen ser vi bort ifra her). Mellom disse knoklene har du tre grupper av muskler. De bakre mellomhåndsmusklene, nærmest håndryggen, gjør at du kan sprike med fingrene. De to andre gruppene, de palmare mellomhåndsmuskler (dvs. de nærmest håndflaten) og «ormmusklene» (lumbrical), samler fingrene. Alle tre grupper muskler bidrar til å rette ut fingrene. Fingerstrekkeren (extensor digitorum) på oversiden av underarmen kan ikke gjøre dette alene. I tillegg bidrar også disse musklene til å bøye fingrene i knokeleddet. Sammen med muskler som fører tommelen mot fingrene kan disse musklene utføre grepet på stolryggen med miminal involvering av de store musklene i underarmen. 

Ormmusklene (lumbrical) spiller en viktig rolle. Det spesielle med disse musklene er at de ikke har utspring eller feste i knoklene. De springer ut fra senene til den dype fingerbøyeren (flexor digitorum profundus) og ender i bindevevet til fingerstrekkeren. Ved sin funksjon kan disse musklene sies å involvere fingerbøyeren også som strekkemuskel.(3)

Ormmusklene er relativt svake, men til gjengjeld svært sensitive. De har stor tetthet av muskelspoler og bidrar til følsom og nøyaktig bruk av fingrene.(4) De gjør mulig å ta tak i stolen «gently and firmly» og med minimal bruk av muskelspenning slik Alexander instruerte (Alexander 2004 s.109). 

Oppsummert kan vi beskrive følgende tre aspekter ved dette spesielle grepet:
  1. Grepet gjør at muskelarbeidet spres over flere muskler slik at hver muskel kan fungere med et lavere spenningsnivå og dermed på en mer følsom måte.(5)
  2. Involvering av de små musklene i hånden gjør at de større musklene i underarmen ikke behøver å engasjeres på måten de ellers ville gjort. Vi kan dermed lettere få «lengde» i underarmen, og særlig i fingerbøyerne.
  3. Grepet involverer i stor grad bruken av strekkemuskler såvel som bøyemuskler. Noen Alexanderlærere betegner dette grepet som et «extensor grip» (Dimon 2015, s 27).(6)  Aktiveringen av strekkemuskulatur motvirker den typiske tendensen til å bruke for mye av bøyemuskler i fingre, arm og skulder når vi griper noe. For mye sammentrekning unngås. Dette er avgjørende med tanke på andre fysiologiske effekter av «hender på stolrygg» som jeg skal komme tilbake til senere.
Et enkelt eksperiment kan illustrere forskjellen i organiseringen av muskelbruk ved dette grepet sammenlignet med et mer vanlig «kraft-grep»: Hold en blyant eller penn loddrett med minimal bruk av kraft, akkurat nok til ikke å miste den. Hold den vekselsvis med et «kraftgrep», som om du skulle holde i skaftet på en hammer; og med et «presisjonsgrep», mellom strake fingre og tommel, som når du gjør «hender på stolrygg». Klem med den andre hånden rundt underarmen, særlig i området nærmest albuen og observér forskjellene i organisering av muskelspenning i de to grepene. 

Forsiktig men fast
Alexander skrev at stolen skulle holdes «gentle but firmly», (Alexander 1995, s.103). Hvor fast er fast? Walter Carrington som var Alexanders assistent i mange år skal ha sagt det på denne måten: «If you are drying a good wine glass, you hold it firmly enough not to drop it, and gently enough not to crack it» (Langford 2004, s.138). 

Kontakten med stolryggen skal være et stabilt og nøytralt utgangspunkt. Du skal ikke legge vekt på stolen, heller ikke løfte eller dra. Alexander skriver om «gentle forearm pull»og «supporting the torso with [the] arms» (Alexander 2004 s.120). Dette er først og fremst beskrivelser av en opplevelse og et resultat av retninger og organisering av muskelspenninger, ikke noe du nødvendigvis gjør aktivt. Jeg kommer tilbake til dette i senere blogginnlegg.

Øvelser
For å få fullt utbytte av å gjøre «hender på stolrygg» må du være i stand til å utføre grepet på stolryggen med strake, vertikale fingre. Ikke alle er i stand til det. Her følger forslag til noen øvelser du kan gjøre for å bli kjent med denne måten å bruke fingre og hånd på. Jeg forutsetter at du stopper opp og tenker retning for hvert steg og sørger for å inkludere oppmerksomhet om resten av kroppen.(7)

A) Underarm på bord. (Dimon 2015, s.27)
Sitt ved et bord og legg en eller begge underarmer på bordet. La hånden ligge på bordet i den posisjonen den faller av seg selv. Det vil normalt være et mellomrom mellom bordflaten og knokeleddet til pekefingeren. Løft og pek med pekefingeren slik at den danner en rett linje med pekefingerens mellomhåndsbein. Gjør det samme med de andre fingrene etter tur samtidig som du samler fingrene. La tommelen bli liggende på bordet.

Løft hånden noe mer, så langt det går med håndledd og tommel fortsatt liggende på bordflaten. La hånden være i samme posisjon mens du bøyer fingrene fra knokeleddet. Tuppen av langfingeren og eventuelt en eller to andre fingre vil berøre bordflaten. (Tommelen kan eventuelt føres mot de andre fingrene nå ved at du lar den gli langs bordflaten). 
La fingertuppene fortsatt være i berøring med bordflaten mens du løfter hånden til fingrene er vertikale. Før tommelen mot pekefinger, eventuelt langfinger. Løft hånden/hendene fra bordet. 
(Øvelsen kan også gjøres stående ved ei hylle med passende høyde). 

B) Knoker mot vegg. (Dimon 2015, s.28)
Stå eller sitt foran en vegg. Legg knokene mot veggen. Fingrene vil automatisk bli bøyd ved knokeleddet. Samle fingrene i den grad de ikke allerede er samlet. Før tommelen mot pekefingeren, eventuelt mot en av de andre fingrene. Ta hånd/hender vekk fra veggen. 

C) Tomlene først. 
Sitt eller stå i monkey bak en vanlig spisestuestol, så nærme at du lett kan ta tak i sidene på stolen. Begynn med å peke aktiv med fingrene mot gulvet med samlede fingre. Tommelen lar du være passiv og for seg selv. Løft hånden og plasser tommelen mot baksiden av stolen slik at du kan la fingrene peke forover på hver side. Før hendene forover noe slik at du lar tomlene strekkes slik at du kan tak i stolen fra sidene ved å bøye fingrene fra knokeleddet. Deretter kan du flytte ei og ei hånd til toppen av stolryggen om du vil.

Som tommelfingerregel (bokstavelig talt), kan vi si det er en fordel å plassere fingrene mot stolryggen først, deretter la tommelen finne sin plass. Denne øvelsen er et unntak.

D) Fingre på bok. 
Variasjon 1 
Sitt med med ei bok i ene hånden, forsiden av boken mot deg. Begynne med å la den andre armen henge langs siden. Pek med fingrene mot gulvet og samle fingrene, la tommelen være. Løft hånden og legg de flate rette fingrene mot bokens bakside. Du må la albuen peke ut til siden. 

La tommelen komme i berøring med bokens forside. La tommelen gli inn på bokens forside og ta resten av hånden med seg. Håndleddet bøyes og albuen kommer nærmere siden av kroppen. 
Du holder nå boken mellom fingre og tommel. Slipp tak i boken med den andre hånden og snu hånden slik at fingrene peker nedover. Behold posisjonen med fingre og tommel og la vekten av boken hjelpe deg til å tenke retning på fingrene. 

Variasjon 2
Før du gjør denne varianten, ta en kikk på håndflaten din og spør deg selv om du vet hvor knokeleddet er når du ser hånden fra denne siden. Som eksperiment, sett høyre pekefinger på den innerste eller nederste streken på langfingeren på venstre hånd. Forsøk å bøye langfingeren. Du vil oppdage at knokeleddet sitter et lite stykke inn i håndflaten. Finn ut hvor langt inn du må sette pekefingeren for at du lett skal kunne bøye langfingeren. I motsetning til de to andre strekene på fingeren motsvarer ikke den innerste streken lokaliseringen av leddet. (Johnson 2009, s.110. Langford 2004, s.138. Langford 2008 s.140).

Begynn som i forrige variasjon med boka i den ene hånden, forsiden mot deg. Den andre armen hengende langs siden. Pek mot gulvet med fingrene, samle fingrene. Løft hånden og plasser den mot ryggen av boka slik at bokryggen ligger på tvers håndflata, akkurat langt nok vekk fra fingrene til at du fritt kan bøye fingrene i knokeleddet. Bøy fingrene i knokeleddet slik at du har de rette, flate fingrene liggende på bokens bakside. La tommelen komme i kontakt med forsiden. La den gli innover til kontakten tilsvarer peke- eller langfinger. Slipp taket med den andre hånda. Snu boka slik at du holder den med fingrene pekende nedover. La vekten av boka gjøre fingrene lengre. 

I denne siste øvelsen var boka i berøring med håndflaten som en hjelp til å bevisstgjøre hvor bevegelsen skjer når du bøyer fingrene i knokeleddet. Når du gjør «hender på stolrygg» skal ikke håndflaten være i berøring med stolen, bare fingrene. 



Tomler til slutt 
Noen av øvelsene ovenfor krever at du bøyer ganske mye i knokeleddet. Hvor mye du bøyer og hvilken posisjon hånden har kan variere når du utfører «hender på stolrygg». Alexander gav ingen andre instruksjoner enn at tommelen skulle være: «on the other side of the back of the chair. (Alexander 1995, p.103), og «… to be kept as straight as possible …» (Alexander 2004 s.117).

Lærerne Alexander utdannet utførte «hender på stolrygg» på litt ulike måter og dermed har det oppstått ulike tradisjoner i måten å utføre øvelsen på. Noen lærere bøyer lite i knokeleddet og lar siden av tommelens ytterste del berøre stolen. Andre plasserer tuppen av tommelfingeren på høyde med fingertuppene og må dermed bøye maksimalt i knokeleddet. Hvilken finger tommelen møter kan også variere, enten det er peke- eller tommelfinger, eller midt mellom de to.(8)

Noen øvelser relatert til «hender på stolrygg» går ut på å rette ut og peke med samlede fingrene før hånden føres til stolen. Tommelen legges da gjerne inntil de andre fingrene slik at hånd og fingre er i samme plan. Dette har både fordeler og ulemper. Fordelen er at hånden ligner mer på en fot, noe som fremmer bruk av strekkemuskler og demper bruk av bøyemuskler. Ulempen er at det ikke er slik tommelen er ment å fungere.(9)
I senere bogginnlegg skal jeg skrive mer om ulike variasjoner i utførelsen av «hender på stolrygg».

Holde for å slippe
Jeg hørt flere gi uttrykk for at grepet vi benytter i «hender på stolrygg» ikke er et «avspent» grep. Det er riktig. Grepet krever en viss tonus. Det krever også mykhet i fingre og hånd. Paradoksalt nok vil den aktive bruken av fingre og hender gjøre dem mykere etter hvert. Dermed blir kontakten med stolen etter hvert mer følsom. Men denne følsomheten er også avhengig av hva som skjer i resten av systemet. 
En forklaring på hvorfor vi griper tak i stolen «gently but firmly» er at vi holder med fingrene for å kunne slippe andre steder, særlig i skulderpartiet. Hensikten med «hender på stolrygg» er like mye å redistribuere tonus som å avspenne. Den helt bestemte posisjonen på hender og fingre gir de nødvendige forutsetningene for at noe skal skje i andre deler av armen. Det skal jeg fortelle mer om i neste del av artikkelen.





Relaterte blogginnlegg 

Noter
1) Andre Alexanderteknikk-bøker hvor du finner fingrenes grep på stolryggen beskrevet er:
The Use of the Hands in Teaching (Dimon 2015, s.22-23) 
Alexander Technique Workbooks (Nicholls 2014, s.36) 
Think More Do Less (Carey, s.120-122)
Only Connect (Langford 2004, s.138)
Mind & Muscle & Music (Langford 2008, s.138-139) 
Thinking Aloud (Carrington 1994, p.142-143)
An Evolution of the Alexander Technique (Carrington, Dilys 2017, s.275)
The Ground Rules (Barlow 2011, s.122) 
You Guide to the Alexander Technique (Gray 1994)
Body Breath and Being (Nicholls 2008)
Directed Activities (Grennell 2002)
Defining the Alexander Technique (Soar 1999)
2) Carolyn Nicholls i sin lille bok om hender på stolrygg hevder at: «If you let your fingers curve, you have allowed the flexor muslces to come into play too much» (Nicholls 2014, s 36). Feil posisjon på hender og fingre kan selvfølgelig også være tegn kollaps og mangel på muskelspenning der spenning er påkrevd. 
3) Malcolm Williamson siterer David Gormans anatomiverk The Body Movable: Vol. II, The Upper Limb i en fotnote til artikkelen «The Emancipation of the Upper Limbs: ‘Hands of the Back of a Chair’ Revisited»: «The fingers are flexed at the large knuckels (the metacarpophalangeal joints) by action of the Lumbrical muslces in the hand. Gorman explaines why the fingers remain straight: ‘In effect because of their diagonal course, contraction of [the] lumbricals displaces functionally the insertion of flexor digitorum profundus from the front to the back of the distal phalanx and transforms it into an extensor muslce’ (Gorman, p. 121)» (Williamson 2019, s. 59).
4) «With the smallest physiological cross-sectional area in the upper extremity, the lumbrical muscles have weak motor function, which is only 1/10 of the interosseous muscle. Because it is spindle-rich, the lumbrical muscles play an important role in the sensory feedback of the distal interphalangeal, proximal interphalangeal and metacarpalphalangeal joints of the fingers». A Biomechanical and Evolutionary Perspective on the Function of the Lumbrical Muscle
5) Generelt gjelder at jo høyere muskelspenning, jo lavere sensitivitet. Dette har å gjøre med Weber-Fechners lov
6) En av forøvelsene til å gjøre hender på stolrygg beskrevet i The Use of the Hands in Teaching har beskrivelsen «Extending Hand at Wrist to Form an Extensor Grip» (Dimon 2015, s.27). Denne er mer eller mindre identisk med øvelse A) i denne artikkelen. 
7) Utgangspunktet og inspirasjon for disse øvelsene er å finne i The Use of the Hands in Teaching. (Dimon 2015), Directed Activity (Grennell 2002), Body Breath and Being (Nicholls 2008) og Alexander Technique Workbooks 1 (Nicholls 2011). 
8) Tradisjonen etter Walter Carrington er å bøye mye i knokeleddet. Her er ett eksempel: «Drop and rotate your thumbs to bring them opposite your finger tips, allow the palm to drop and and the wrists to curve inwards» (Nicholls 2014, s. 39)
Marjory Barlow, Alexander niese og en som la vekt på å holde på tradisjoner, mente det var en fordel å plassere tommelen overfor langfingeren: «Marjory told me that the pad of the thumb can be placed opposite any of the other fingers but that through experimentation she had found it useful to place it in opposition to the second finger as that action facilitated release in the armpit and a widening of the back» (Carey 2017, s.124).
9) At one time, the thumb's use in keyboard playing used to be indicated with a cross. Later, when noting reminders to themselves or their pupils, pianists took to calling the thumb ‘1’ - the 1st finger. So who cares, what's in a name? Except that a few players try to use it s though it really were[italic] another finger – and this is very dangerous indeed, since the thumb's natural movements, evolved for the primary purpose of grasping objects, are approximately at right angles to those of the fingers. (Langford 2004, s.148).

Litteratur
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 1995. Articles and Lectures Articles. Mouritz.
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 2004. Consctructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Mouritz.
Barlow, Marjory. 2011. The Ground Rules: Marjory Barlow in Conversation with Sean Carey. Hite Books.
Carey, Sean. 2017. Think More, Do Less: Improving Your Teaching and Learning of the Alexander Technique with Marjory Barlow. HITE Books.
Carrington, Walter. 1994. Thinking Aloud: Talks on Teaching the Alexander Technique. Mournum Time Press.
Carrington, Walter & Dilys. 2017. An Evolution of the Alexander Technique: Selected Writings. The Sheildrake Press. 
Dimon, Ted 2011. The Body in Motion Its Evolution and Design. North Atlantic Books
Dimon, Theodore. 2015. The Use of the Hands in Teaching. Dimon Institute (egenpublisert).
Gray, John. 1994. Your Guide to the Alexander Technique. Victor Gollancz Ltd.
Grennell, Gerard. 2002. 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). Mouritz.
Johnson, Jennifer. 2009. What Every Violinist Needs to Know About the Body
Langford, Elisabeth. 2004. Only Connect: Reflections on Teaching the Alexander Technique. Alexandertechniek Centrum vzw.
Langford, Elisabeth. 2008. Mind and Muscle and Music: A companion to Mind and Muscle: an owner's handbook. AT Centrum vzw, Leuven.
Nicholls, Carolyn. 2008. Body, Breath and Being. A new guide to the Alexander Technique. D & B Publishing.
Nicholls, Carolyn. 2014. Alexander Technique Workbooks 1: Hands on the back of the chair. Blurb (egenpublisert). 
Soar, Tim. 1999. Defining the Alexander Technique. Publisert privat.
Williamson, Malcolm. 2019. «The Emancipation of the Upper Limbs: ‘Hands of the Back of a Chair’ Revisited» i The Alexander Journal 27, 2019.


søndag 17. november 2019

Organisert oppmerksomhet

Alexanderteknikken går ut på å finne ut hva du gjør som du ikke behøver å gjøre og så slutte med det. I prinsippet enkelt, men som jeg nevnte i en tidligere artikkel kan vi møte noen utfordringer på veien.

En av utfordringene er at vi er så vante med vanene vi har at vi ikke legger merke til dem. De er usynlige for oss. Så hvordan kan vi begynne å legge merke til dem?

«Vi må begynne å kjenne bedre etter», tenker du kanskje. En veldig naturlig tanke. Men i Alexanderteknikken løser vi dette på en mer indirekte og mer elegant, og til syvende og sist mer funksjonell måte.

Vi bedrer følsomheten og evnen til å registrere hva som foregår ved å forbedre koordinasjonen av muskelskjelettsystemet. Det kan vi gjøre uten at vi behøver å «føle» detaljene. Bedre koordinasjon betyr at musklene har dynamisk spenning, er relativt avspente og dermed mer følsomme.

Koordinasjon av muskelskjelettsystemet er avhengig av hvordan vi organiserer oss i forhold til tyngdekrafta. Denne organiseringen skjer automatisk, men vi kan påvirke den, og for å påvirke den trenger vi oppmerksomhet.

Men det vi trenger er utvidet oppmerksomhet, ikke fokus på detaljer. Vi trenger ikke «konsentrasjon». For snevert fokus vil ofte gjøre at vi holder igjen og hemmer bevegelsene. 
En generell oppmerksomhet er tilstrekkelig til å observere forholdet mellom delene av kroppen og forholdet mellom oss selv og omgivelsene.

Oppmerksomheten er en begrenset resurs, den må utnyttes med omtanke. Heldigvis kan oppmerksomheten også trenes. Å kunne velge hvordan å bruke oppmerksomheten er en form for ferdighet.

Å koordinere muskelskjelettsystemet handler i stor grad om å organisere oppmerksomheten. Du kan trene på det med en veldig enkel øvelse. Du kan spørre deg selv: «Hvor er hodet mitt?». Du behøver ikke å «kjenne etter» for å vite hvor hodet ditt er. Det er nok bare å registrere det. Deretter kan du tenke på hvor hodet ditt er i forhold til for eksempel kontakten du har med bakken, det du berører med hendene, skjermen du ser på og/eller rommet du er i.

Når du er blitt vant til denne formen for organisert oppmerksomhet er neste steg å kunne ha litt oppmerksomhet om deg selv også mens du er i bevegelse. Når du kommer så langt har du et godt grunnlag for å mestre Alexanderteknikken.


Relaterte blogginnlegg

søndag 10. november 2019

Hands on the Back of the Chair (part 1)

This article is written for Alexander Technique teachers, teacher trainees and advanced pupils. It is the translated and rewritten version of Hender på stolrygg (del 1).

We like to say the Alexander Technique isn't exercises. Technique is something you can apply to any activity. This means, on the other hand, that anything can be used as an exercise for practicing the Alexander Technique. 
We Alexander teachers dislike the word exercise, however. We are in general sceptical of anything that can lead to mindless repetition of movements, so we prefer to call it ‘procedure’ instead. 
In the Alexander Technique tradition, some rather peculiar activities, or exercises, or procedures, have played an important role both historically and in practice. Maybe the most peculiar of all is ‘Hands on the Back of the Chair’, that strange activity of holding on to the top of the back of a chair with your fingers.

First traces
In 1908 Frederick Matthias Alexander described his method in a small booklet entitled ‘Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems.’ A supplement was published two years later in which an early version of hands on the back of the chair was one of the exercises presented. Both papers can be found in Articles and Lectures (Alexander 1995).

Alexander had worked for several years with Dr. Spicer, a physician who had been one of the first to have lessons when Alexander arrived in London in 1904. By 1910, however, they had fallen out. Alexander accused Spicer for plagiarising his ideas.(1)

In Articles and Lectures, editor Jean Fischer writes in a comment to ‘Supplement to Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems’:
These descriptions of two teaching procedures may well have been written (and copyrighted) in order to establish Alexander's prerogative in regard to his technique, and to counter Dr Spicer's attempts to usurp him. They appear to have been written with a certain urgency as, unlike Alexander's other writings, they do not contain the usual preliminary introductions or qualifying clauses. 
… Like the original, the supplement is concerned with giving examples of procedures for obtaining a position of mechanical advantage to “bring into use the proper muscular coordinations.” 
… The first procedure, “Chair Exercise” is the earliest description of what is more commonly known as “hands on the back of the chair,” i.e. The procedure of being in a position of mechanical advantage, whilst taking hold of the back of a chair (Alexander 1995, p.102). 

Prehistory 
Alexander did not invent the procedure completely by himself. It is based on a strengthening exercise that seems to have been popular at the time: 
He got the idea at an early stage in his teaching when he was working with a group of students in Australia. One of the group had picked up the idea that a good way to expand the chest - the thorax - was to take hold of the back rail of a chair with the hands and then pull on the rail. Alexander observed this and I'm sure tried it out for himself. However, he came to the conclusion that the way most people did it had exactly the opposite effect to the one intended. People did not widen the thorax but rather narrowed it, raised the chest and hollowed the back. But he also recognized there was a possibility of carrying out the procedure in quite a different manner and one that would, indeed, be useful (Carrington / Carey p.91).
The procedure may have been inspired by a world famous bodybuilder:
The precise origins of hands over the back of a chair remain somewhat mysterious. The most likely explanation is that while living in Australia someone showed Alexander a 'strongman' exercise that aimed to increase chest size, breathing capacity and upper body strength. That person might have been one of his students, a friend or even his brother AR, who one time developed a keen interest in the physical culture system propagated by the legendary Prussian-born bodybuilder Eugen Sandow. 
… The basis of this particular strongman exercise involved taking hold of the top rail of a conventional, straight-backed chair with both hands with what is now known as a 'power grip', in which the palm, fingers and thumb are flexed, and then trying to pull the chair apart. … Apparently Alexander observed others performing the chair-pulling exercise and tried it for himself before concluding that although the size of someone's chest could be significantly increased because of the bulking up of the chest musculature, the overall effect was often to reduce their respiratory capacity because the increase in muscle mass of the torso (and arms) caused significant rigidity and interference in the movement of the rib cage (Carey 2017, pp.118-9). 

First rendition 
Alexander observed that this strengthening exercise had a negative effect on the coordination of the respiratory system, but he also realized that a modified version could have positive potential. He made his own version and changed three factors. 
First, he secured general coordination by having the pupil lean forward while giving directions, thereby creating a ‘position of mechanical advantage’ which stimulated a dynamic elastic tone throughout the body.(2)
Second, he changed the grip from a ‘power grip’ to a ‘precision grip’, taking hold of the rail with straight, vertical fingers (Langford 2004, p.138). (The benefits of this I will write about in a separate article). 
Third, he changed the exercise from one of strengthening to one of coordination by reducing the amount of force applied, replacing it with conscious directions. Instead of trying to pull the upper part of the back of the chair apart, the pupil was instructed to pull upwards “as if in an attempt to lift the chair,” and the elbows were directed out to the sides. The arm muscles were activated, but with length and thus increased sensitivity.

Alexanders writes in ‘Supplement to Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems’: 
Chair Exercise (Standing) … Ask the pupil to stand at the back of the chair in such a position that he (the pupil) will be able to easily reach the top of the back of the chair with his hands. … The orders referred to being given, the teacher will cause the pupil's body to incline forward and upward in the direction of the chair and then cause the pupil to place his hands, some distance apart, upon the back of the chair. The hands are placed so that the four fingers are kept quite straight on one side of the back of the chair and the thumb on the other side of the back of the chair. Then the pupil should be told to order or desire relaxation of the muscles of the arm and to grip the back of the chair gently but firmly. Then the pupil must be asked to pull the top of the chair as if endeavouring to lift it and at the same time allowing the right elbow to point directly towards the right and the left elbow towards the left. This pulling movement is employed in supporting the body in such a way as to bring into use the proper muscular coordination and to prevent the defective use previously employed (Alexander 1995, p.103).
Alexander used this chair exercise himself:
Hands over the back of a chair is something that is gradually evolving. I know from talking to FM when he started teaching full time he found that by the evening he was unable to straighten his arms because of all the work and tension he had produced in himself. So he had to stop doing whatever it was that he was doing (Barlow 2011, p.121).
And he used it in the teaching of advanced students: 
Now he did not teach it to pupils when they first started lessons, but he did when they got somewhere with the work (ibid).(3)

Historical recurrence 
Gradually, Alexander developed Hands on the back of the chair into an increasingly subtle exercise. In 1923 he published a new description. Again, the occasion seems to be a case of plagiarism.

Alexander had a pupil named Gerald S. Lee. He was an American priest and author of self-help books. After a long stay in London where he had lessons with Alexander for 18 months, he wrote enthusiastically about Alexander's method in the book The Ghost in the White House

Two years later, Lee wrote a new book. This time a self-help book entitled Invisible Exercises. Some of the content was clearly inspired by Alexander, but without Alexander being mentioned. Lee wrote as if he had figured everything out by himself. (See, for example, pages 49-50).

Alexander was furious. Frank Pierce Jones writes in Freedom to Change
Incensed at this travesty of his technique, Alexander threatened the publishers (ironically they were the same as his) with legal action unless they withdrew Lee's book. Without waiting for this to happen, he decided that he must prove to the public there was something more to his technique than “invisible exercises.” Accordingly, he wrote out a long description of what he did with a pupil in a lesson. He chose the hand-behind-the-chair procedure (which he had been using, he said, since 1910) and went through it step by step, explaining fully what part the teacher played and what the pupil, what the “orders” meant and how they were related to the manipulation of the teacher. Where Lee had been content with half a page of description, Alexander used sixteen. Satisfied that the account was accurate and complete, he looked for a way to have it patented. Since this was not practicable, he incorporated it into his new book, where it was protected by copyright. (Jones 1996, pp. 38-39).
The book in question was Alexander's second, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (Alexander . The fourth chapter of the second part of the book is entitled ‘Illustration.’ Here you will find Alexander's most detailed description of ‘hands on the back of the chair’. This chapter, in addition to the one preceding it, ‘Imperfect Sensory Appreciation,’ and together with the The Use of the Self (Alexander 1985), make up the clearest explanation of Alexander's practical technique (3).

Second rendition
Alexander opens the chapter by listing and describing the basic directions or preventive orders. This is the only time he does so in such detail. Alexander was otherwise very restrictive in giving examples of specific instructions. 
Then Alexander describes a situation where the teacher guides his pupil through the exercise. Unlike the 1910 version, the pupil is seated. Any use of muscular force is all but gone. Instead, great emphasis is placed on the pupil continuously and repeatedly giving the preventive orders. The teacher is the one responsible for making changes come into effect by the use of his hands. 

Here is a shortened version where I have largely omitted Alexander's comments so that the remaining text shows the practical execution of the exercise. Capitalisation is Alexander's own: 
When he is seated, his body being supported by the back of the chair on which he is sitting, another chair is placed before him with its back towards him. THE PUPIL IS THEN ASKED TO GIVE THE FOLLOWING PREVENTIVE ORDERS. In the way of correct direction and guidance, HE IS ASKED TO ORDER THE NECK TO RELAX, TO ORDER THE HEAD FORWARD AND UP TO LENGTHEN THE SPINE. … In the present instance, it is explained to him that the order given is to be merely preventive -- a projected wish without any attempt on the pupil's part to carry it out successfully. THE TEACHER REPEATS THE ORDERS AND WITH HIS HANDS HE PROCEEDS TO BRING THE PUPIL'S BODY GENTLY FORWARD FROM THE HIPS. 
THE PUPIL MUST NOW AGAIN ORDER THE NECK TO RELAX, THE HEAD FORWARD AND UP, WHILST THE TEACHER WITH HIS HANDS SECURES THAT POSITION OF THE TORSO IN WHICH THE BACK MAY BE SAID TO BE WIDENED. These orders should be repeated several times and be continued WHILST THE TEACHER TAKES THE PUPIL'S RIGHT ARM WITH HIS HANDS, AND MOVES IT FORWARD UNTIL THE PUPIL'S HAND IS ABOVE THE TOP RAIL OF THE BACK OF THE CHAIR. THE PUPIL SHOULD THEN BE REQUESTED TO REPEAT THE ORDERS SET DOWN AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS PARAGRAPH, AND THEN TO TAKE THE WEIGHT OF THE ARM ENTIRELY, AS THE TEACHER DISENGAGES HIS HANDS FROM THE SUPPORTED ARM. Great care must be taken to see that the pupil has not interfered with the mechanism of the torso in the effort to take the weight of the arm. 
… If the pupil has not interfered with the mechanism of the torso in the effort to take the weight of the arm, HE SHOULD NEXT BE REQUESTED TO GRASP THE TOP RAIL OF THE BACK OF THE CHAIR GENTLY AND FIRMLY, KEEPING THE FINGERS AS straight AS POSSIBLE AND QUITE FLAT AGAINST THE WOOD OF THE FRONT PORTION OF THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR, THE THUMB ALSO TO BE KEPT AS STRAIGHT AS POSSIBLE, BEING CALLED UPON TO DO DUTY ON THE BACK PORTION OF THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR, WITH THE WRIST CURVED SLIGHTLY INWARDS TOWARDS THE LEFT. The teacher will, of course, as far as possible, assist the pupil with these hand movements.
… THE PUPIL MUST THEN BE ASKED AGAIN TO ORDER THE NECK TO RELAX, THE HEAD FORWARD AND UP, AND THE TEACHER WILL REPEAT HIS PREVIOUS EFFORT TO ESTABLISH THAT CONDITION OF THE TORSO AND BACK ESSENTIAL TO SATISFACTORY ARM WORK, WHILST HE REPEATS WITH THE PUPIL'S LEFT ARM THE EVOLUTION JUST PERFORMED WITH THE RIGHT, SO THAT THE PUPIL WILL BE GRASPING THE BACK OF THE CHAIR WITH THE LEFT HAND IN THE SAME WAY AS HE HAS BEEN HOLDING IT WITH THE RIGHT, … 
… When the teacher is satisfied that his pupil has succeeded up to this point, he may go on to give him the additional guiding orders, and proceed to help him to put them into practical effect during the completion of the evolution. The following are the new directive orders. The pupil is asked: -- 
(1) TO CONTINUE TO HOLD THE TOP OF THE CHAIR BY KEEPING THE FINGERS QUITE STRAIGHT FROM THE FIRST JOINTS OF THE FINGERS TO THEIR TIPS, WITH THE THUMBS AND FINGERS KEPT FLAT AGAINST THE TOP RAIL OF THE CHAIR AS PREVIOUSLY INDICATED. 
(2) TO ALLOW THE WRIST OF THE LEFT ARM TO BE CURVED INWARDS TOWARDS THE RIGHT, AND THE WRIST OF THE RIGHT ARM TO BE CURVED INWARDS TOWARDS THE LEFT. 
(3) TO ALLOW THE ELBOW OF THE LEFT ARM TO BE CURVED OUTWARDS TOWARDS THE LEFT, AND THE ELBOW OF THE RIGHT ARM TO BE CURVED OUTWARDS TOWARDS THE RIGHT. 
… The teacher's aim is now to give the pupil the experiences necessary to a gentle, forearm pull from the fingers, and to this end HE WILL TAKE HOLD OF THE PUPIL'S ELBOWS AND DIRECT THEM OUTWARDS AND SLIGHTLY DOWNWARDS, and, following this, will give the sensory experiences required in DIRECTING THE UPPER PARTS OF THE ARMS (ABOVE THE ELBOW) AWAY FROM ONE ANOTHER (THE RIGHT ARM TOWARDS THE RIGHT AND THE LEFT ARM TOWARDS THE LEFT), IN SUCH A WAY THAT THE PUPIL WILL BE SUPPORTING THE TORSO WITH HIS ARMS. THE PUPIL WILL NOW BE ASKED TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE TORSO IN THIS WAY, CONTINUING TO REHEARSE HIS ORDERS, whilst the teacher so adjusts the torso that the large "lifting" muscles of the back will be employed co-ordinately with the other parts of the organism in bringing about such use of the respiratory mechanisms that they will function to the maximum at the particular stage of development reached from day to day. Success in this part of the evolution will bring about a change in the condition of the back which would be described by the ordinary observer as a "widening of the back." (Alexander 2004, p.114-120).
This is generally more or less how ‘Hands on the back of a chair’ is practised to this day. Nowadays it seems to have become more usual to do it standing in a ‘monkey’ position rather than sitting down. In a teaching situation it will vary how much the teacher helps the pupil, and the use of words will vary. Today a teacher would hardly use the word “relax.” Alexander himself stopped using the word later on. There are a great many minor variations among Alexander teachers in the performance of this procedure. Some of these variations I will touch upon in another article. 

Potential properties
What's so special about this procedure that Alexander repeatedly uses it as an example when documenting his technique? Initially, Alexander was probably interested in this type of exercise because of his preoccupation with breathing. Performing the procedure may stimulate coordination in such a way that the breathing process can function more freely. 
Obviously, the procedure is also relevant for the coordinated and delicate use of the hands that is required of anyone claiming to be an Alexander Technique teacher. Alexander writes in Constructive Conscious Control that the procedure described is 
… an illustration of the means whereby we may develop a reliable sense appreciation of the minimum of so-called "physical tension"; for in this sphere of sensory appreciation, the most difficult problem to be solved, in most cases, is concerned with the matter of developing a correct register of the due and proper amount of so-called "muscular tension" necessary at a given time (Alexander 2004, p 109). 
He then continues:
It is not possible, of course, to tell the pupil in terms of relativity the degree of muscular  tension which will be his or her required minimum at any particular moment. Furthermore, even if this were possible, what chance is there that the pupil will be able to register this minimum accurately, when the very factor upon which he will rely for guidance in this connexion (viz., his sensory appreciation) is unreliable, inaccurate, and often positively delusive? … If ever a plan of development by means of exercises to be performed according to written or spoken instructions - minus manipulative help - is to be evolved, this problem will have to be satisfactorily solved. I claim, however, that in its particular application to the evolution about to be described, this problem has been solved, and in a very practical way, and the unfolding of this part of the technique should prove of great interest to the student (ibid, pp 109-110). 
According to Alexander, then, the procedure of putting hands on the back of a chair is something the readers of his books can do on their own, ‘minus manipulation,’ with potential beneficial effect.
If we take a closer look at this weird and wonderful procedure it turns out that it may be stimulating certain intrinsic, potentially dynamic, properties in our physiology. I will tell you more about this in the following parts of this article. 


Notes 
1) Spicer was a throat specialist and had even before he met Alexander been considering the connection between breathing habits and physical symptoms. Spicer borrowed ideas from Alexander, but does not seem to fully have understood Alexander's method. 
2) In Think More, Do Less Carey claims that the exercise described in Supplement to Re-Education of the Kinæsthetic Systems is performed in monkey, i.e. with bent knees. This is a misinterpretation. There is nothing in the description to indicate this. The exercise is performed without bending the knees. But it is possible that the pupil may be supposed to be leaning the upper body forward from the hips. 
3) The article ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ from 1919, reprinted in the book by the same name, is written by a pupil of Alexander and contains text that may be a reference to Hands on the Back of the Chair: – to grasp a chair without implicating the muscles of the upper arm or shoulder, to manage your legs without using the abdominal muscles or contracting the neck (Fischer 1998, p.10). See also the relevant page on The Mouritz Companion to the Alexander Technique
4) By practical technique I do not mean teaching methodology. The educational model that underpins Alexander's examples of teaching is old fashioned and outdated. 


Related articles 


Literature 
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 1985. The Use of the Self. Victor Gollancz.
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 1995 Articles and Lectures Articles. Mouritz. 
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 1996. Man's Supreme Inheritance. Mouritz. 
Alexander, Frederick Matthias. 2004. Consctructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Mouritz.
Barlow, Marjory. 2011. The Ground Rules: Marjory Barlow in Conversation with Sean Carey. Hite Books. 
Carey, Sean. 2017. Think More, Do Less: Improving Your Teaching and Learning of the Alexander Technique with Marjory Barlow. HITE Books. 
Carrington, W; Carey, S. 1992. Explaining the Alexander Technique: The Writings of F. Matthias Alexander. The Sheildrake Press. 
Fischer, Sean ed. 1998. The Philosophers Stone. Diaries of Lessons with F. Matthias Alexander. Mouritz.
Jones, Frank Pierce. 1996. Freedom to Change: The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique. Mouritz.

Langford, Elisabeth. 2004. Only Connect: Reflections on Teaching the Alexander Technique. Alexandertechniek Centrum vzw.