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



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.

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.

Working on a horse’s saddle

Alexander Technique working on horse's saddle image

Alexander Technique working on horse's saddle image

Why use a saddle?

Once someone has had a few lessons, we may look at saddle work on a specially made wooden trestle.

The body can often balance more easily on the saddle so it is useful to explore tightness in the legs and hip joints. And if someone hitches up their back and shoulders to be upright, they can discover this is not necessary.

You don’t need to be a horse rider to benefit from saddle work. Office workers often love it as it can be more comfortable than sitting on a chair. And horse riders have often achieved remarkable improvements in their riding.

Origins of saddle work

This way of working originated in 1955 from a four year old girl with spina bifida. She didn’t have the use of her legs so couldn’t stand and sitting was difficult.

My old teacher, Walter Carrington, started working with her on a toy donkey. It was fun for a little girl and easier for him to work with her to build up her strength and balance. As she grew bigger, he eventually moved on to the horse’s saddle and wooden horse. Her upper body became quite strong and she was able to walk using callipers and crutches and the way was freer to lead an independent life.

Scoliosis and the Alexander Technique

Galen Cranz photo

A colleague in the States, Professor Galen Cranz, has recorded 4 short videos describing her personal experience of scoliosis which she’s had since childhood and these are well worth watching, particularly if you have scoliosis yourself or know someone who does or if you work therapeutically with people who have scoliosis.

In Video 1, Galen talks about her severe scoliosis from childhood. Not only was this obvious physically but it was also a lonely, isolating condition, particularly during her teenage years. She and her family decided against treatments such as surgery for fusion of the spine or a brace. Most treatments on offer addressed external factors and were quite held and fixed.

Swimming was the first thing that helped as the water gave support and relief, as described in the second video. She decided to put aside time for self care and swimming formed a large part of this. Galen had a lot of pain from bending over books but doctors were only able to offer pain relief medication. Advice to ‘sit up straight’ caused pain and so she practised slumping but that made the pain worse.

scoliosis xray

Moving to Berkley in 1975 led to the discovery of the Alexander Technique – video 3. This made a great impact as it was very gentle with no manipulation. She was amazed to be without pain for a while at the end of her first session [this is not the same for everyone but fortunately was the case for Galen]. She also had Alexander Technique sessions in the swimming pool.

After some time she went to New York and had ten Alexander lessons in a row – one per day. This made a major difference as, for the first time, it was more than just managing pain but it also improved her physical structure. Her spine got straighter and she could sense it. This was a major turning point.

After another lot of ten daily sessions, Galen decided to train in the Alexander Technique. This was a huge commitment. In the first term, her spine improved by 13 degrees. Another significant step forward was making friends with someone else who had scoliosis as they could share experiences.

Galen explains in her video 4 significant concepts from her Alexander Technique studies:

  •  that the body can change
  • that psychological factors play a part in poor posture
  • the technique gives a tool and a set of standards for quality movement which are broadly applicable to all sorts of activities
  • that she could use all these to a new academic field – body conscious design

The fourth video sums up what has helped in the overall quest to live with scoliosis. Scoliosis is not something that goes away and so Galen Cranz cautions against anyone who says they can cure it. And she has found that a variety of different approaches have helped in her exploration, many of which are supported by her understanding and application of the AT. These include Rolfing, craniosacral osteopathy, Tomatis listening therapy, alpha brainwave training, gyrotonics and body mind centering.  It’s worth listening to her discussions on these as she gives some cautionary advice.

Finally, the sequence of videos ends with her making the realistic statement that progress is not linear. Her learning has been on an upward trajectory but with significant setbacks. She has needed to find both internal and external change and feels that ordinary physical therapy misses the emotional, psychological and mental cognitive component.

Towards the end of the talk, there is a wonderful illustration of the change to her spine. It shows the  first X-ray from over 20 years ago superimposed over the most recent tracing of her spine, highlighting the very significant positive change from her years of endeavours.

On a personal note, I wanted to watch these videos having worked with a number of people with scoliosis and have found this most educative. In particular, one needs to regard this condition with more than its physical manifestations. It requires a change in mind body thinking, sending messages to the musculature for longer lasting change.

My thanks to Professor Cranz for making her personal story available to the public.