Quietening the Mind and Body

I wanted to share some ideas from a couple of pieces I’ve read which are about a gentle way of being more present.

Philippa Perry writes about ‘focused attention’ in How to Stay Sane. Focused attention improves how we observe and experience our body and mind in the present, without criticism. It can boost our concentration and help with stress.

A Holland and Barrett magazine article had some practical suggestions to put this focused attention, or meditation, into place. A ‘countdown to calm’:

  • Look around you. Name FIVE things that you can see
  • Next name FOUR  things you can hear
  • Reach our and touch THREE different textures – how do they feel?
  • Breathe in – try to notice TWO different smells
  • Can you taste ONE thing? Take a deep breath and exhale slowly

I’ve found these very helpful and easy to do (apart from the taste and smell which are not my strong points). I can also just start them straight away rather and that helps break into the daily mind chatter. They are simple and possible to do anywhere, sitting, standing, walking or lying down.

Posture in cold weather

As the temperature falls,  there can be a tendency to hunch up and hold ourselves tight, the Alexander Technique provides an opportunity to be present and to notice your physical responses. Here are three areas to consider:

  1. Neck. Are you ducking your head down in the cold/rain/wind? How does your neck feel when you do this?
  2. Shoulders and Arms. What are your shoulders up to? Have they crept up to your ears in an attempt to keep warm? Does this actually warm you?  Are your arms and hands tight if you cross your arms around yourself in the cold?
  3. Back. Are you curving your back forward and down? Is your back held tightly? Are your ribs moving freely with your breath?

Perhaps you could observe these three areas daily for the next 7 days. It doesn’t matter if you are indoors or outdoors, still or moving. Any increased body awareness is a bonus.

Let me know how you get on.

Cat wearing a red scarf



Sit Stand Desk. The wonders of an ironing board!

Working from home. Laptop open on an ironing board. Wooden chair in front of ironing board.

Working from home

An ironing board can become a sit stand desk. It’s adjustable to suit different height chairs. It can be raised up if you want to stand. And if you’re demonstrating something, you can alter the height accordingly. There’s more versatility to an ironing board than meets the eye!

A larger sit stand desk would be more appropriate if you need more space on your desk, whether for work or study or for a hobby. But for simple day to day usage, an ironing board is a simple and effective solution and doesn’t take up too much space.

Posture – shoulders raised too high

When typing, we want to have relaxed shoulders. If our chair is too low, our shoulders will raise up to our ears. The two options are to raise the chair height or to lower the table height. At home, most people don’t have adjustable height chairs. They may be sitting on a dining chair or a chair in the bedroom. So this is where an adjustable height table comes in. Lower the ironing board (or sit stand desk) and that will be more comfortable.

If you don’t have an ironing board or a table that you can alter, try putting some books or cushions on the chair. That might help with your shoulders. But then are your feet dangling? If so, put some books or cushions to rest your feet onto.

Posture – table too low

If you can’t adjust your chair and your table is too low, you might be hunched over to the desk, rounding your back and neck. This is where it’s useful to raise the height of the table. If you don’t have an ironing board, you can put your laptop or keyboard on some books so that when you’re typing, your forearms are parallel to the keyboard.

Talk with me

In my online sessions, I can have a look at your furniture set up and advise on any adjustments needed. I have a very practical approach and try to use equipment you already have in your house – cushions or pillows, books, recipe stands etc – rather than advocating buying something expensive. If you do want to buy some furniture, I can recommend what to look out for. As well as my many years of Alexander experience, I’m a trained DSE ergonomics assessor and know what to look out for.

Sitting and Back Pain

Do you have back pain from sitting for long hours? Lying down on the floor for 5-10 minutes is a great way to look after your back, especially if you’re sat at a screen all day.

woman lying down on back, head on books, knees bent, feet on floor, hands on stomach

This allows your back to unfurl after slumping. The floor gives us support. Taking time out also benefits our mind. Stopping. Pausing. We can breathe more easily. Tuning into our self is mindful. Noticing our body. Noticing our emotions.

Set Up

  • Surface: Ideally, lie on the floor rather than a bed/sofa.
  • Head. Support your head with books so that your neck is in neutral. If there are too many books, your chin will tuck down and it may be difficult to swallow. With too few books, your head will roll back, pushing your chin upwards. Make sure the books don’t dig into your neck.
  • Legs. Bend your legs and look for a comfortable distance away from your torso.  Your knees should float up towards the ceiling independently: don’t lean them against each other. Ensure your feet are flat against the floor. Experiment with the distance between them: you want to to feel like your legs are balanced rather than being held tightly. You should be able to relax all the muscle groups in your legs, including those behind the knee. 
  • Arms. Place your hands on your belly or your chest. Alternatively, put them out to your sides, with your hands facing up. Ensure there’s some space under your armpits so you don’t end up bunched up under your arms.


  • Release tension step by step. First, start thinking at the neck to let the neck free.
  • Think of your back lengthening and widening.
  • Think of your legs extending from the torso and your arms widening away from it.
  • ‘Scan’ down your body to find areas of tension and see if you can relax them.
  • Breathing slowly and deeply can also help your muscles release tension. After a little while, allow the breathing to be natural and not forced.


  • Easing back pain
  • Better posture
  • More calm and relaxation – less stress
  • Taking time to tune into our bodies encourages a subtle awareness of ourselves. It helps us release tension, and become more aware of our posture in daily activities.

If you’re using a laptop when sitting on the sofa, have a look at these top tips too.