String on top of the head

Drawing of side view of head with arrow pointing up from top of headPeople often think the Alexander Technique is about imagining a string or golden thread coming up from the top of the head.  It is certainly useful to think upwards. Much of our attention is downward: reading, typing, texting, cooking, childcare. This can make us slump and this can cause back pain or neck pain.

String on top of the head – Neck Tension?

A thread coming up from the top of the head can sometimes make people over stretch their neck. They may also tip the head backwards. And this can bring tension into the body.

String on top of the head – Back Pain?

Backache, whether it’s lower back pain or upper back pain, can happen when we’re trying to do the right thing. But knowing what the right thing is can be tricky. And so the Alexander Technique is useful as it dispels some myths. If you are overstretching imagining the string, then you might still have back tension or lower back pain.

Good posture is free and not rigid or held

We want connection to the floor as well as thinking up to the top of the head. Try some of these ideas listed below as well as imagining the string and then see what works for you. There’s only so much we can do for ourselves. We rely on feelings that may be faulty and have habits we’re unaware of. An Alexander Technique teacher has an objective eye to see what your habits are – where you overstretch or where you slump. They can then guide you, through explaining and hands on work, so you can have better posture and feel more comfortable.

New ideas

Think up from your feet all the way to the top of your crown.

Think of the space above your head.

Imagine your hair sprouting from the top of your head.

Imagine bubbles constantly travelling up through your body to the top of your head.

Find an Alexander Technique teacher

You’re welcome to contact me for a free 15 minute consultation on the phone or zoom before trying out a lesson with me. If you don’t live in London, then my professional body can guide you to someone in your area.

Text Neck from Poor Posture

Drawing showing strain on neck if leaning forward in neck

AT drawings - strain on neck

Holding your head down to look at a mobile when texting can put a real strain on the body. A recent study states that texting can harm your health.  Poor posture is one of the main causes.

Text Pain, Neck Pain

Our heads are quite heavy, around 4-5kg. This is the weight of 4-5 litres of water:

AT drawings - weight of head in water

Better Posture

This is fine when the head is in balance. But tip the head forward and start multiplying those bottles of water.

Thus good posture and head balance is important. This is what the Alexander Technique is all about. Imagine a point between your ears. This is where the head neck joint is.

Drawing of Natural Head Balance restored by the Alexander Technique

Forehead Forward

Next, consider that the forehead faces forward and doesn’t tilt upward. We don’t need to fix it the head into place but need to think for it to be in balance.

Drawing of Head Neck Balance for correct posture

Phone to eyes, not head to phone

Now let’s bring the phone into the picture. Instead of tilting the head down, we can bring the phone upwards towards the eyes. This leaves the head neck balance alone and takes the strain off the neck, back and shoulders.

Alexander Technique Lessons

Any Alexander Technique practitioner can help you learn the skill of ‘mind talking to muscle’. We help you to understand what natural body use is and how to achieve it for yourself. We have a very gentle touch which guides the body how to let go more, even when it may have spent years, or even decades, holding on for dear life.

Call now to book an appointment and start taking care of your spine.

The Alexander Technique – Who was Alexander?

FM Alexander - founder of the Alexander Technique
photo © 2005 The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, London


The Alexander Technique was founded by Frederick Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor born in 1869.  He became hoarse and struggled for breath on stage. Doctors did not find anything physically wrong with him and advised him to rest his voice for a few weeks.

His voice came back but his problems returned as soon as he recited again.  He wondered what he was doing wrong and set up a room with mirrors all around. He observed himself closely and discovered that he had a number of habits as soon as he went to talk.  The habits included tipping his head back, sticking his chest out and tightening his legs.

He spent time quietening these habits which were strongly established. He also freed up his body tensions helping his voice to become strong and giving him a lot of breath control  Other actors asked for his advice which led to him sharing his Technique with them.

He became known as the “Breathing Doctor” and medics asked him to help with some of their patients. They were so impressed with his abilities that they urged him to go to England to expand his work. He came over to London in 1904 and set up a training course to train Alexander Teachers in the 1930s. He died in 1955 at the age of 87, teaching the Alexander Technique right up until his end.

My teachers, Walter and Dilys Carrington, trained with Alexander and worked alongside him from the 1930s until he died. Walter was full of wonderful stories about Alexander, or FM as he was known, and I feel very privileged to have trained with him and Dilys.

Head Balance – Part 2

Drawing of Head Neck Balance for correct posture

Drawing of Head Neck Balance for correct posture

Having found out where the head balances on top of the neck, what next?  Our heads are very heavy – the equivalent weight of 4 to 5 litres of water. With this heavy weight on top of the body, it needs to work with us and not against us. If the head hangs down, it pulls on the neck and back. If we tilt our head back it’s also a strain on the neck, back and shoulders. Pushing our head forward to look at the computer screen also strains the neck and back.

So we want to find a natural balance point that takes the stress and tension away from the body.

We need to free the neck first. This is just a thought rather than something to do. Allow the muscles to undo tension in the neck and to not clamp or fix onto the head. Soften the jaw. And then allow the head to slightly nod forward from the balance point between the ears. Then think to free the neck again.

The head neck balance wants to be free, not fixed in one position. So we need to keep reminding the head and neck of their optimal balance as existing habits will creep back very quickly.

Head Neck Balance Part 3 shows the rockers on the base of the skull in more anatomical detail.

There is quite a bit more to this than meets the eye and this is easy to mistranslate. It really needs the skilled guidance of an Alexander Technique teacher’s hands to help. If you’d like more insight, you can come along for a one to one lesson.