Bad posture and back pain? The missing link…

I was relaxing and reading The Guardian last week, and came across an article that fits directly into my work life. This article by Emma Beddington examines the link between bad posture and back pain, and gives ten ideas for how to improve the way you sit and stand.

None of those ideas were the Alexander Technique.

And it got me thinking, because while there were some great ideas in the article, there was one clear idea that was missing. The whole article was giving ideas about what to DO to improve your bad posture, but never talked about why is might be poor in the first place. Nor did it help with ways to stop the causes.

So I did what I have started doing: I made a video for Instagram. And I’m sharing it here, just in case you need a reminder of why shoving your head backwards and giving yourself a double chin isn’t really the solution to your bad posture. I hope you like it.

Big questions: can the right chair prevent back pain?

sitting comfortably

Can using the right chair prevent back pain?

If I was given a pound for every time I’ve been asked this question (or a variant), I’d be fairly comfortably off by now. In my experience as an Alexander Technique teacher, one of the most common niggling worries for people from all walks of life is sitting. They have to do a lot of it (computers, cars, offices, orchestra rehearsals…) and are convinced that they aren’t doing it very well. Sometimes they even experience discomfort, or downright pain from sitting. If they just bought the right chair, would the problem go away?

Is this you? Are you wondering the same thing? Could buying the right chair prevent back pain?

I can’t give you a straight yes or no answer, unfortunately, because it’s a more complex issue than it might seem on the surface. So I’m going to give you two reasons why I say no, buying the new chair won’t help. But I also give you one reason why yes, thinking about the chair really will help you.

No the first: injury and disease

The first and most important thing to say is that if you have a diagnosed injury or a disease that causes your back pain, just buying a new chair won’t solve the issue. It might give you some relief, and some Alexander Technique lessons could help you move more efficiently to mitigate the effects of the condition. But a chair can’t cure you, and only a chair salesperson in need of a good commission would allow you to think so. Can the right chair prevent back pain? No, not if your problem is illness or injury.

But, I hear you say, I’m not injured. Should I go out and buy a nice new chair? Here’s why the answer is still no…

No the second: it isn’t the chair, it’s the way you sit in it!

It isn’t just me who gets asked frequently about furniture. FM Alexander had the exact same problem. And my answer to the question is the same as his: furniture isn’t the issue. It’s the way we use it that causes us problems. If someone has sat poorly (using too much muscular effort in the wrong places) on a cheap office chair for many months or years, is the purchase of a fancy new chair suddenly going to change her sitting habits? Does someone with poor dietary habits change his entire processes around food just because he purchased a slightly tight-fitting new suit? Probably not.

This is why FM Alexander was so concerned that we should have the mental tools to adapt ourselves to our environment. This particular passage I’m about to quote is primarily about child education, but if it’s good enough for kids, it’s probably true for the adults too:

What we need to to is not to educate our school furniture, but to educate our children. Give a child the ability to adapt himself within reasonable limits to his environment, and he will not suffer discomfort, not develop bad physical habits, whatever chair or form you give him to sit upon.*

My aim as an Alexander Technique teacher is to give you the tools so that you are able to organise yourself to be comfortable on ANY chair. If that interests you, then maybe you should talk to me about having some lessons.

But sometimes you do need to look at the furniture, too…

Did you see the caveat in FM’s statement? He says that the child should be able to adapt within reasonable limits. In other words, there may be times and places where you will need to take careful note of the chair or office set-up. After all, if you’re going to be using your desk for eight hours every day, it is clearly common sense to make sure that you are giving yourself the best conditions you can, within constraints of budget, time and common sense. Humans are adaptable, but that doesn’t mean we should live with something that is just not fit for purpose.

One of my friends once found herself with neck ache, even though she had a lovely new desk set-up at work. I asked her to tell me about it. It was a corner desk, she said, with lots of lovely room for all her books and notes right in front of her. The monitor was to her left, and the keyboard to her right.

I’ll say that again. Her monitor was to her left, and her keyboard to her right.

No wonder she was getting neck ache! When she changed her keyboard to the other side, the neck ache went away.

The moral of the story: there is no such thing as the perfect chair. The right chair won’t prevent discomfort; learning how to sit easily and efficiently is a much better solution. But if you are like my friend, you may want to take a good look at your office set-up too!

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the IRDEAT ed.,  p.92.
Image of Ai WeiWei’s Marble Chair (outside the Royal Academy) by Jennifer Mackerras

Sitting all day – is it evil?

Businessman stretching in an office

Is sitting all day evil? There are increasing numbers of articles in fashionable magazines and on trendy websites that will tell you that yes, sitting is intrinsically evil and can kill you. The Huffington Post, for example, seems to run an article on the evils of sitting every couple of months.

I mean, we always knew that sitting, especially sitting all day was a problem. Huge numbers of people experience discomfort through sitting, especially at their desks and computers. Backs, necks, shoulders all seem to beg for mercy. But now we’re told that sitting isn’t just uncomfortable – it can actually shorten your lifespan.

Is it true, and what can we do about it?

Sitting is the new smoking.

That’s the advice Marc Hamilton, director of the Inactivity Physiology Program at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, gave to the magazine Runner’s World. Apparently, sitting for long periods may cause an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase to decrease in the bloodstream. As this enzyme clears noxious fats out of the bloodstream, this is bad news. Apparently this sends out harmful biological signals that could be implicated in cardiovascular disease.

According to the articles I’ve seen, sitting still for long periods has been linked to not just obesity, but cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, though personally I’d want to see more studies come up with similar results before I got too worked up about the evidence.

But before you panic and throw away all your chairs (as some people have done, and would advise you to do – see this article), let’s examine the issue with the clear-sightedness that FM Alexander would want us to use.


Problem number 1: chairs are not cigarettes

Sitting is part of our normal range of movement behaviours. It’s one of the things we are designed to be able to do. If we say that one movement behaviour is intrinsically bad, how many others will we find that are just as evil or worse? What about rock climbing (all that looking upwards), or playing the violin (having your head tilted to the side can’t be good for you, surely) – should we ban those, too?

If there’s a problem with sitting all day, that’s not the chair’s fault, but ours for thinking that doing any one thing for prolonged periods isn’t going to have repurcussions. It’s a bit like food. I love chocolate, but I don’t eat it every day. I love carrots too, but if I ate them for every meal I’d soon turn orange. Who tied us down and forced us to sit in the one spot all day long?


Problem 2: Will exchanging standing for sitting be any better?

Instead of sitting all day, why not stand up or work out? A lot of authors out there on the web are telling their readers to exchange their chairs and conventional desks for ‘standing workstations’ or treadmill desks. Is this a good idea?

Well, it depends. FM Alexander would tell us that many of the problems we experience are not context-related (relevant only to a specific activity), but are the result of a deterioration in the general manner of use of ourselves. In other words, there’s a way we like to use our bodies – maybe tightening neck muscles, or raising shoulders, or jutting pelvis forwards – that we bring into every activity that we do. And in some of those activities that general way we like to use ourselves becomes problematic.

If this is the case (and Alexander Technique teachers down the decades have anecdotal evidence that this is true), then just swapping standing for sitting isn’t going to help, because we’re going to bring our poor manner of use along into the new activity. If we keep our shoulders raised all the time, we’re going to do that while we’re standing, and the knock-on effects of that through our whole system is going to generate achiness in just the same way it did while we were sitting. It might move or be subtly different in some way, but the cause is the same.

So the whole ‘sitting is bad for you’ campaign has two major flaws: the chair didn’t make us sit for prolonged periods, rather, we did; and there’s nothing to say that standing or using a treadmill desk is going to be any more beneficial in reducing overall harm to our systems.

What, then, should we do? I’m going to give you three top tips.

 1. Don’t sit still! Take breaks!

Chairs are just a tool, in the same way that a computer keyboard is just a tool, or a hammer is just a tool. We need to decide how to use them safely. So don’t sit still for long periods. Get up and walk around once an hour, even if it’s just to the water cooler and back. If you can’t trust yourself to remember, set a timer.

2. Think about your general use of yourself.

Do you hunch your shoulders? Do you jut your pelvis forwards, or crane your head forward on your neck? Do you permanently have one shoulder raised so your handbag won’t fall off… even if your handbag isn’t there? Start taking the time to observe yourself dispassionately, or see an Alexander Technique teacher for some advice.

3. Keep an open mind.

Read the articles. Check out the research. Make sure that you understand the issue before you do anything drastic like junk your furniture or spend thousands on a treadmill desk. Do what seems best for you in your circumstances, taking the research into account. You may well decide that the cardiovascular benefits of a treadmill desk are exactly what you need! But don’t be rushed into anything without thinking about it.

Maybe Hamlet had it right when he said “there’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Let’s stop blaming the tools, and start reasoning out how to use them effectively.


“You can do what I do”… 5 hints from FM Alexander about what it takes if you want to improve posture (or anything else).

search for clues to improve posture

Do you want to improve posture (or anything else, for that matter), but feel a bit stuck as to how to go about it? Today’s post may have some answers…

I’ve been a bit silent for the past few weeks on the blogging front. Apologies. I have been very busy researching and writing lectures for a new course I am teaching at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, this time to the music degree students. It is a course that is part experiential Alexander Technique, and part lecture-based presentation of FM Alexander’s ‘Evolution of a Technique.’
It has been a real learning curve for me, never mind my students. I have been studying Alexander’s text in a depth that I haven’t ever quite managed before. It has been revelatory.

What I have discovered is a whole new perspective on the journey that all students face on the road from threatened passion on to improvement and ease. Marjory Barlow, amongst others, recounts that FM often used to say, “You can do what I do, if you will do what I did.” But what exactly did FM Alexander do?

The points below are some of what I believe are the essential markers of FM’s journey from a threatened acting career to an improved voice and a whole new vocation. I think we could all benefit greatly if we took some of these points on board.


“I must try and find out for myself.”

FM suffered vocal problems, so he did the obvious thing and went to the doctor. He tried all that was available to sort out any medical problem that may have existed. This is really important. If there is a medical issue, you need to get it sorted out by a medical person. But FM suspected that the reason why the medical solutions didn’t help was because his troubles didn’t have a medical origin. He suspected he was doing something while speaking that caused his problem. So he decided to find out.

The learning point:

If you’ve got issues that you suspect aren’t medical, be thorough and check out the medical, but also think about finding out if you’re right. And no one can do this for you. An Alexander Technique teacher is trained to help and offer principles to help you on the path. But ultimately, you have to do the work yourself.


“I could do no harm by making an experiment.”

FM knew his problem occurred while reciting, so he watched himself in a mirror, first in ordinary speaking and then when reciting, in order to see what differences there may be between the two activities. And he didn’t just do it once. He did it many times.

This is classic scientific method: look at the evidence, make a guess about why things are the way they are, construct a way of testing if you’re right, and then run the test several times.

The learning point:

Think about your issue. Can you construct a way of testing its extent or causes?


“I found myself in a maze. For where was I to begin?”

There are many occasions, especially in the first half of Evolution of a Technique, where FM Alexander has made so many observations, has so many different things to test and try, so much on his plate, that it is almost overwhelming. So what does he do? He picks a place to start, and keeps experimenting.

The learning point:

When you’re bogged down and don’t know what to do first, sometimes the best thing to do is just pick a spot, and start there. You’ll soon find out if there was somewhere better!


“…all my efforts up till now to improve the use of myself in reciting had been misdirected.”

FM had vocal problems, and tried to trace backwards to find out what was causing them. He found some physical movement patterns of his head in relation with first his neck, then his whole body, which seemed to be the cause. So he tried to stop doing them, and even to do something else. And while he had some small degree of success, he found he wasn’t able to do all the things he wanted to do. FM found himself down a cul de sac.

The learning point:

That happens to all of us. We try something, and it doesn’t seem to work. Failure is normal and to be expected.


“Discouraged as I was, however, I refused to believe that the problem was hopeless.”

If there’s one quality (other than passion) that characterises FM Alexander, it is that he was tenacious. He experienced massive setbacks in his quest to solve his vocal issues, yet he didn’t allow his disappointment to get the better of him. Seth Godin recently wrote a blog about the difference between being tenacious and persistent. Telemarketers, says Seth, are persistent, because they keep pestering. Seth continues:

“Tenacity is using new data to make new decisions to find new pathways to find new ways to achieve a goal when the old ways didn’t work.”

This, for me, typifies FM Alexander. He kept looking for new data, made new decisions, tried new pathways, and discovered amazing things as a result.

The learning point:

What can you do today to be tenacious in pursuit of your goal?

These are just 5 things that I have discovered during my journey with FM Alexander in Evolution of a Technique, all from the first half of the chapter. There’s plenty more in the next half!

Which brings me to a question…

My RWCMD students have been getting enormous benefit out of studying FM’s journey in detail – even though the majority (contrary to what I’d been told to expect) had never even heard of Alexander Technique before entering my classroom. So I’m wondering… how many more people would really enjoy an in-depth class looking at Evolution of a Technique?

I’m thinking of making a class that does just that: a study of Evolution of a Technique. Course notes, discussion time, plenty of time for questions, and held both in person here in Bristol, and online via Skype.

Would you be interested in a course like that? If so,  send me an email and let me know. I honestly have no idea if there’s any interest out there for a course like this, so PLEASE, if you’re interested, contact me and let me know.

Image by winnond from

Does perfect posture for the piano (or anything else!) exist? And if not, what should we look for?


Does perfect posture for piano – or flute, or singing, or trumpet, or cycling, or anything else, for that matter – exist? This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, as I’ve recently started teaching Alexander Technique to a new class of music students.

Perfect posture for the piano – or perfect posture for whatever instrument my student studies – is usually high on a student’s agenda at the beginning of a course of lessons with me. If they’re in my teaching room to learn Alexander Technique, they’ve probably booked the appointment because they’re having trouble playing to the standard they’d like. And a lot of the time they’ve been told, often by a teacher or coach, that their posture is poor and needs fixing.

So they’re in my teaching room. Wanting to learn the secret of achieving perfect posture.

I’ve been reading a book called Piano Notes by noted pianist and critic Charles Rosen, and he very much writes what I have experienced in my practice – that looking for an externally verifiable perfect posture is to look at the problem completely the wrong way around.* Let’s investigate.

If there was a perfect posture, then it would have to fit everyone. I other words, any pianist would have to sit the same way, use the same hand technique, and so on. And for this to work for everyone, all pianists would need to be roughly the same size physically and have the same hand shape.

But we know that this isn’t true. Rachmaninov and Richter had famously large hands. By all accounts, Ashkenazy has quite small hands. Casadesus had famously stubby fingers. Is it reasonable for us to expect that all these players should use the same fingering technique and the same hand position? And what about seating position? Should we expect all sizes of people to sit in the same way?

If there was indeed such a thing as a perfect hand position or seating position, we may well be left with the uncomfortable conclusion that those people who weren’t physically suited to it shouldn’t play piano. Hm.

And what about perfect seating posture at the keyboard? If there were such a thing, then there would also be a myriad ways to sit which were not perfect. But what if, in order to get the effect the composer demanded, you had to sit or move in such a way that you left the ‘perfect’ position? That would be a tricky dilemma!

Perfect posture punctured!

Put simply, my students are having trouble maintaining ‘perfect posture’ as they play, because it doesn’t exist. There is no one right way, because there is no one right person. There are so many different shapes and sizes of performer, and so many different demands placed upon them by different pieces of music, that to try to make firm and fixed rules is doomed to failure.

And I think my students know this in their heart of hearts. But they still want fixed rules to follow, because it is somehow more comforting to think that there is a perfect answer out there, and if they just have the secret of it, they’ll never have to think or worry about playing again.

FM knew all about this very human desire for rules we can follow unthinkingly, which is why even in his very first book he was at pains to point out that instructions that helped one student could be troublesome or even detrimental to another. That’s why he didn’t give lists of instructions on how to sit or stand.**

So in the end, we need to work out for ourselves what is likely to be best for our bodies, whether we are playing musical instruments or just chopping the veggies. But how are we to do this? Are there any guidelines that can help us?

Look to the anatomy, and learn from basic principles of how we’re structured. For example, a 90 degree angle between forearm and upper arm is always going to be beneficial to aim for, because it’s where you arm has maximum torque (turning power) and thus the most potential and freedom to move.

Work out what is required of you. For example, if you’re playing piano and come across a section of music that the composer intends to be loud and forceful, make note of this.

Check out the externals. Is the piano stool high, or low? Is the veggie knife sharp? Is the music stand high or low?

Once you know all the contributing elements, you can design your own optimum solution for the circumstances you’re in right now. Just remember that today’s optimum might be different to tomorrow’s!


*Charles Rosen, Piano Notes, London, Penguin, 2004, pp.1-3.
** FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance, IRDEAT ed., pp.155-157.

Back problems? Why spending money on STUFF may not help.

The latest big thing in back care in the workplace appears to be the sit-stand workstation. Again, it’s been in the news both here and in the USA that sitting – not just slouching, but sitting in any form –  for long periods is unnatural and dangerous. To avoid the evils of our chairs, what we apparently need to do (this month) is to spend loads of cash on a super-adjustable desk that we can use both sitting and standing. There are even versions available with a treadmill attachment.*

At this point I want to quote my American colleague, Lynn Brice Rosen: aaaaaargh…

When we start having problems with discomfort at our desks, it is SO tempting to look for the magic bullet: the one perfect product that will solve all our problems. I know this, because I’ve experienced it. When I was a postgrad student and my arms started hurting while I worked, I bought a fancy chair. I bought an ergonomic keyboard. I bought a fancy mouse.

I slouched on the fancy chair. I was smarter than it was.

I thumped away on the fancy keyboard.

I held the mouse in a death grip and crashed down on it whenever I clicked.

The stuff didn’t help. It just didn’t help.

The problem wasn’t the poor design of my equipment. The problem was me.

The problem wasn’t what I was doing. The problem was how I was doing it.

That’s why I despair every time I see a new report telling people to go out and spend money on stuff to fix their problems. Because I know that if most of them just stopped and really thought about HOW they were going about what they were doing, they could make substantial improvements to their wellbeing.

So if you’re suffering at your desk, this is my suggested plan of attack:

  1. Go to the GP and have it checked out. There may be a medical condition that needs attention.
  2. Set reminders so that you get up and move around. The Pomodoro Technique suggests 25 minute work periods.
  3. Have you left your pelvis behind? Experiment with rotating your pelvis forwards.
  4. Try the 50% less game. Can you type or click using half as much force?

And when you’ve tried these ideas, send me a message and let me know how you’re getting on. We really don’t need to spend money on more STUFF to make improvements to our wellbeing!

* You, like my husband, may feel that you’ve been on a treadmill at work, metaphorically speaking, for a while and have no wish to make it literal!

Avoiding the ow: know what you’ve got (and how to use it)!


I want to tell you a story about me and my son going for a run together, because it so neatly explains how just a little knowledge about how the body works can make a big difference to your experience of moving.


So. My son and I went out for a run around our local park. The perimeter is about 2km (a little over a mile), so not too taxing even for a nearly nine year old. 

About two thirds of the way round, my son said his right shoulder was starting to ache. Now neither he nor I could say we are experienced runners, but even we know that our shoulders shouldn’t be doing most of the work while running!

After checking it was okay with him to do some Alexander Technique work, I ran behind him for a few paces to see what was going on. He was throwing his entire shoulder region all over the place as he ran.

I break my story here to explain some anatomy…

Most people don’t realise that, functionally speaking, they have two shoulder joints: the shoulder girdle, which is formed by the collarbone and shoulderblade; and the glenohumeral joint, which is the ball and socket joint formed by the shoulder blade and the upper arm bone (humerus).

If you’re just moving your arm forwards and backwards, the glenohumeral joint will do the job admirably. You don’t need to waggle the whole shoulder girdle.

Back to the story.

I asked my son to stop, and with a bit of hands-on work I explained to him that he could use his whole shoulder region, but that he had a different shoulder joint that could move his arm back and forth more easily. And when he just move at the ball and socket joint, his arm moved so freely and easily that my son laughed.* And then he started to run.

For the first two paces, the right arm was moving in the new way, and the left arm in the old waggly way. But then he changed his left arm to the new streamlined movement. Not only did he move more gracefully, he moved more easily.

Result: he took off. He flew along. I had to work hard to keep up with him!

Once my son stopped doing the waggly thing with his arm, his shoulder stopped getting sore.** Once he knew which joints did what, his running improved.

What could you improve, if you just knew what muscles and joints you have, and how to use them?


* FM Alexander talks about how children love learning about how their bodies work. He writes: “They are not slow to recognise that they are themselves the most interesting machines, and their natural interest in mechanics finds full scope in the process of their own re-education.” Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, IRDEAT edition, p.381.

** An important caveat here. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, SEE A DOCTOR. There may be something physiologic or structural  going on that the doctor can sort out. The Alexander Technique is fantastic, but it isn’t medicine, and can’t cure medical conditions.

Image by coward_lion from 


On ‘fixing’ your posture – a polemic


Want to fix the poor posture you’re convinced is making you tired and sore?

Great! There are loads of different things you can buy that can fix that for you (they say).

Buy that fancy new chair.
Get those wobbly sole trainers. Heck, get the knee boots too – you’re worth it.
Spend a fortune on a new mattress. Buy a new pillow, too.
New mouse. New mousemat. New monitor platform. New keyboard.
Ladies, junk your gorgeous handbags for sensible backpacks. And don’t even think about high heels.
And now you can even buy a phone app and cover yourself with sensors so the phone can tell you off for slouching.


Go off and spend money on all those things. Because we all of us have an unlimited supply of money and can use it to do stuff for us so we don’t need to think, right?

Um… Well, no, actually. In the first place, most of us don’t have an unlimited supply of cash. So we need to use our resources wisely.

Which leads me to the second point.

What if throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve it?

What if it’s not the chair, but the way you sit in it?
What if it’s not the shoes, it’s the way you walk in them?
What if it’s not the bed, it’s the way you lie down?
What if it’s not the computer, it’s the way that you use it?

Because if that’s true, you can throw any amount of your hard-earned cash at your difficulties and end up with a house full of cool stuff, but the real problem will lie untouched.

FM Alexander believed that it was the way we use ourselves (mind and body) as we go about our daily activities that can get in our way. He believed that it was possible for us to use our brains to improve our lives rather than the opposite.

In fact, FM said that in the human mind “lies the secret of [our] ability to resist, to conquer and finally to govern the circumstance of [our] life.” * Spend a little time learning a toolkit of ideas and principles, and we can think our way out of our difficulties, by ourselves, for ourselves, any time we choose.

Now wouldn’t that be worth paying for?

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.17.
Image by dan from 


Why sitting up straight could be bad for your posture


Last week I wrote a post about Professor Roy Baumeister‘s appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, talking about willpower. Prof Baumeister, if you recall, advocates us spending time each day reminding ourselves to sit or stand up straight. He has evidence to suggest that spending time exercising willpower over something like ‘posture’ will improve our self-control in other areas.

This week I want to talk about why Prof Baumeister’s advice may help your willpower, but may in the end do you more harm than good. Quite simply, today I am going to tell you why it could be positively harmful to ‘sit up straight.’


People and their people-ness*

FM Alexander wrote in his final book about how each one of us has a psycho-physical unity equipped with “marvellous mechanisms” – that is, we all have a body (and mind), and all work pretty similarly. But each of us chooses how we use this marvellous mechanism we have been given. This is our manner of use. And our manner of use of ourselves can influence our general functioning for ill or for good.**

In other words, we each use our psycho-physical unity uniquely, according to our ideas, beliefs and preconceptions. We each have a me-nes that determines the effectiveness (or not) of our general functioning.

Alexander believed, I suspect with some justification, that “the great majority of civilized people have come to use themselves in such a way that in everything they are doing they are constantly interfering” with the mechanisms that determine the standard of their general functioning.*** Their me-ness gets in their own way.

This means that if we are asked to do an exercise designed to improve our standard of functioning, we will do it through the filter of our me-ness – the very me-ness that Alexander says got us into trouble in the first place.


Me-ness says ‘sit up straight’

Sitting up ‘straight’ is a classic example pf this problem. When we try to ‘sit up straight’, we do this through the filter of our me-ness. Probably without knowing it, we have a whole catalogue of beliefs and preconceptions of what this act will involve. And the likelihood is that most of those preconceptions will be wrong and unhelpful. They will, on evidence from my classes, involve excess tension (frequently of the muscles of the mid- and lower back) and arching of the spine, the onset of muscle fatigue and sometimes even outright discomfort.

Imagine what would happen if you did that every day, as Prof Baumeister suggests, whenever you think of it?


Don’t sit up straight!

So don’t try to ‘sit up straight’. Not, that is, until you’ve had a good think about what that might involve. You could think about (or even research) the location of your hip joints. You could think about which muscles actually need to be involved in sitting (fewer than you’d think). You could think about the part the spine plays in keeping you upright, and what shape it is.

If you think of these things, you won’t be just trotting out your old me-ness.  You’ll be adventuring into the unknown, and exercising that wonderful gift that Alexander said was the secret of our ability to govern the circumstances of our lives – our reasoning intelligence.****


* With a nod to Prof DF Kennedy of Bristol University for this wonderful phrase
** FM Alexander, Universal Constant in Living in the Irdeat Complete Edition, pp.523-4.
*** ibid., p.526.
**** FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.17.

Image by Stuart Miles,