Mindfulness walking and the Alexander Technique


Mindfulness walking and the Alexander Technique








Walking is one of the healthiest exercises.

However its not so much what you do it the way you do it.

Your body loves the flowing, perpetual rhythm of walking, but have you noticed, it doesn’t always feel that way. We often feel the compression of time, rushing to get to a particular destination, head cluttered with thoughts, breathing stilted, stiff joints and muscles; and not very present in the activity of walking – particularly if is a very familiar route.

Walking can be a very natural easy activity, however we bring our own unique habits and characteristics into walking.

Consider for a moment your particular way of walking, and what habits and patterns may accompany your walking?

I was out walking recently and need to ask for directions to a well known venue, I knew I was very close by, however what I noticed was nearly all the people I was going to approach had headphones on. This really made me wonder what they were listening to, where were there thoughts were. I imagine they were listening to music, radio, podcasts, audio books and lots of other interesting things.

Look around today and so many people are using mobile phones, their heads pulled down into these devices, (causing potential damage to the body), narrowing their field of vision, often clutching bags with tight hands, arms, shoulders and shuffling or waddling on their feet.

Think for a moment of some the strange walks you’ve noticed – how and why do people get into these awkward habits? Most people aren’t even aware of the way they walk.

Our habits and patterns of walking and moving are influenced by how we feel, our self- image, our view of the world, our culture, fashion our communities, family, job/title, peer group, celebrities and popular culture.

We have an innate desire to imitate and model those around us we admire or aspire to be like. Think of people that may have influenced how you walk or move, this could have been when you were a teenager, or even your earlier formative years.

The way you think and the way you feel and your self-image have a big influence on how you walk and carry yourself.

So the quality of thinking and we bring to the activity of walking is fundamental – this awareness then enables you to distinguish and identify habits, so you can choose them instead of them choosing you. Remember most of your habits are blind spots. Walking is one of the best ways to practice and implement principles of the Alexander Technique.

This first thing is to become very curious about walking, begin to notice your rhythm and pattern of walking, what are you thinking or feeling when walking?

How do we become present and poised in the process of walking?

You can make a commitment and declaration to be present to your surroundings, your body, your senses, your thoughts, actions and reactions.

Becoming present will have an immediate influence on how you walk; it will take you out of your automatic pattern/habit, which will have you be more purposeful, poised, balanced and coordinated in your movements.

These are some thoughts and directions you can bring to walking.

Think of your head floating up on top of your spine. Think of being light, think tall, think of your shoulder being open and wide.

Your eyes affect the balance of head and the body which influence you movements.

Let your eye line be level with the horizon. Don’t look down at the floor – it displaces your head and puts you out of balance. The rest of your body then has to compensate.

If you do need to look down, think of your eyes rolling down or your head releasing on top of the tip of your spine – so your whole  head and neck isn’t pulling down.

Mindfulness walking and the Alexander TechniqueKeep a sense of the space all around you.Use your peripheral vision, think of expanding your vision

Keep a sense of the space all around you.

Think of everything coming towards you, rather than you walking and pulling (rushing) towards everything. You can think of the future coming towards you.

Think of the ground- the earth giving you support. Sense the feet meeting the ground and the ground meeting your feet – allow the feet to roll spread, open and widen as they meet the ground

Notice the weight that falls into each foot, is it equal? Is it light?

Notice the movement in the pelvis and shoulders when you walk.

Ideally there will there be a counter rotation of the pelvis and upper torso/shoulders, which provides a natural mechanism for maintaining a natural spiral movement thought the spine when you walk.

Are your arms swinging freely at the sides, are your hands clenched, is your jaw tight, are you frowning. When walking let the knees bend easily and release forwards and away from each other.

When this is all working well is like a four wheel drive, the cross pattern of your two arms and legs are synchronized and flowing

We always move easier when we smile; be playful, your just collecting information, gathering data, cultivating awareness and presence. Think of your back life is always pulling us forward, we are so front orientated we forget our backs. Your not judging, comparing, just observing.

When all this works well gravity becomes your friend; gravity works to support you.

So remember to think tall and light, so as to walk more freely and easily, with poise and balance. As well as being great exercise, walking is a wonderful time to work with some Alexander Technique ideas. It doesn’t have to be a walk in a special place, just your regular walk

Here are four tips to try out:

1) Don’t keep looking down at the floor – not only is it boring, it displaces your head   forwards on top of your spine and puts you out of balance. The rest of your body then has to compensate.

2) Use your peripheral vision. Don’t glaze over, or tunnel vision in on one thing.

3) Keep a sense of the space all around you – beneath your feet, above your head, in front, to the sides and behind you.

3) If you are walking well, you are moving forward whilst releasing downwards and falling upwards. This stimulates postural reflexes that send us up against gravity – we ‘fall up’ in an easy and free way while walking.

Take a moment to think of indigenous tribes and cultures; they often characterised a very natural walk easy harmonious walk.

Remember we always move better with  a smile.



Posted in Alexander Technique related post | Leave a comment

Inhibition and Direction = primary flow

Inhibition and Direction = primary flow.

Inhibition and Direction are at the heart of F.M Alexander’s discoveries; and when practised and applied to your daily activities; you will begin re-discover your poise, presence, balance and ease.

So what do these principle procedures mean? And how can they be of  benefit.

Inhibition simply means stopping or pausing before you move, react or go into an activity. Inhibition is not to be confused with the Freudian meaning, where we feel inhibited or shy. The developer of the Alexander Technique used this meaning long before the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

As you begin to notice some of your movements, and how much effort you apply to an activity, you will then have an opportunity to inhibit (Stop or pause). This creates the possibility of a responding, acting or moving in a more conscious and poised manner.

 Awareness is fundamental to noticing your actions, reactions, and habits.

Alexander said,“ the work” is primarily about how we choose to respond to our own thoughts and emotions, to sensations, to appetite, sexuality, discomfort, fatigue and pain, how do we choose to respond to criticism, to praise, to deadlines, to the wind?

How do we interact? How do we adapt? How do we relate? How do we receive? How do we play the game?

So very simply if we stop or pause there is that magical moment of awareness, and in that moment we have choice, where can direct the course of our thinking or actions, we can choose a new plan of coordinating ourselves. This has the potential to stop harmful habits that limit and diminish your poise and get in the way of your ability to fully express yourself and feel alive.

 We are bombarded with a constant stream of internal and external stimuli.

Stopping or pausing creates a space, a clearing, and a space of nothing, a clean slate, and an opportunity to create something new – choosing a new path, direction, or response.

The famous psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s – (Auschwitz Holocaust survivor) quote sums up Inhibition and direction perfectly: See picture below.


Directions and inhibition are interlinked and work together.

Alexander described the Primary Directions as “an ideal state of ease, freedom and expansion in the human organism. The directions are never something you try to “do”, but rather a flow of conscious thought that’s directed from the mind to the various parts of the body (the directions are a way to prevent you from unnecessarily tensing or collapsing) while in activity.

They are as follows: I allow my neck to be free,

So that my head can release forward and up,

So that my entire torso can lengthen and widen,

So that my knees can release forward and away,

(Forward and away means specifically that your knees release forward from your hip joints and away one from the other)

So that my heels can release down (into the floor or ground)

Keeping in mind that the Directions are preventative by nature, you can also think of them as: I won’t stiffen my neck, I won’t pull my head back and down, I won’t shorten my spine or narrow my back, I won’t lock the back of my knees and tilt toward my hips, I won’t pull my knees in toward each other. I won’t stiffen my legs and feet.

Instead I’ll let my weight pass through my spine, pelvis, legs and feet so that I can release up and away from the ground.

Whenever you see anybody moving with great ease, confidence, balance and coordination, they are usually moving in the manner described here in the Primary Directions (whether conscious of it, or not).

A great place to start to practice the directions is when you lie down in constructive rest or walking. As you begin to practice you will begin to notice how much more release and expansion you get. Notice how your breathing gets easier. Notice how you calm down. Notice how you become more present, more connected to yourself and your surroundings. If you practice daily, your ability to direct yourself gets clearer, stronger and more efficient.

Make a commitment to use yourself more consciously in your activities. Practice using them as you cook, drink tea, talk, walk, work at the computer, and sing anything can be made easier by directing yourself in a conscious way.



Posted in Alexander Technique related post | Leave a comment

How to avoid Yoga injuries

Yoga is growing like wild fire. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people practice yoga in the USA, and the UK is catching up.

Why has yoga become so popular?

The overwhelming popularity of yoga can be attributed to many things. Accessibility, affordability along with the association of ancient spiritual wisdom and a healthy lifestyle, all make yoga very attractive.

Other perceived benefits of yoga such as a lean, strong flexible body, being calm, present, balanced, connected to body and soul, getting rid of back-pain, depression, anxiety; the antidote to a stressed busy mind and lifestyle are also very appealing.

The Dangers of Practicing Yoga









Many yoga teachers and students experience injuries caused by how they practice yoga. What I have come to notice, through attending hundreds of yoga classes, is that many people begin yoga hoping to alleviate stress, tension and achy joints, but often, in their pursuit of nirvana, reinforce already existing habits of poor use and coordination.

These (repetitive patterns of movement) habits are usually caused by simple, everyday activities, such as sitting, walking and standing; being pulled into smartphones or computer screens; and a lack of knowledge, awareness and understanding of how the body functions as a whole integrated system.

We unwittingly bring our (repetitive patterns of movement) habits into the yoga class, most of which are unidentified, what I refer to as our “blind spots,” because we are usually unaware these blind spots exist, they are therefore difficult to stop.

“The things that don’t exist are the most difficult to get rid of.”
We cannot stop doing something we do not know we are doing. F.M. Alexander

 I see this in yoga all the time – students trying to get the pose, position or sequence “right” and, in the process, unwittingly reinforcing already existing, poor habits.   

Why are so many people getting yoga injuries.

Western culture is very competitive, result and goal oriented. It’s often this end-gaining attitude of wanting immediate results and a “get it right” mindset that result in excessive tension and injury.

“The process is much more important than the goal.”

The genius that developed the Alexander Technique said, “It is not the degree of ‘willing’ or ‘trying’, but the way in which the energy is directed, that is going to make the ‘willing’ or ‘trying’ effective.” F.M. Alexander.

“Trying is only emphasising the thing we already know.”

Yoga emphasises the qualities of listening to the body, giving quality attention to detail, correcting, adjusting, guiding, not being ego and result oriented. However, we tend to bring our individual character traits and ego into the practice of yoga. We often look around the yoga class to compare, for guidance or feeling we need to be able to do what the other people in the class are doing and becoming very competitive. What I see in others, I can see in myself.

Being aware of our characteristics and habits, and not being so goal, oriented, listening the the body, breath, and having a good understanding of the biomechanics, alignment and balance of the whole self, will create more ease, flow and presence and hopefully prevent injury altogether.

We bring our (unconscious) habits into everything we do.

Many of the yoga classes I have attended over the years do require a great deal of strength, flexibility, endurance, coordination and balance, which are some of the amazing benefits of yoga. The western version/fusion of yoga usually involves various breathing techniques, a sequence of postures, balancing poses, inversions, headstands, shoulder stands, handstands, backbends, seated postures and other Houdini like contortions of the body.

Your body/mind has to be in really good condition to withstand the pace of many yoga classes today. (if not it’s likely you will get injured) 

Popular classes or teachers will usually have lots of students, so no matter how much of an expert, or diligent the teacher is when guiding and making adjustments, it is impossible to observe and guide everyone.

I have attended many classes where teachers do not make corrections or adjustments. This can be for all sorts of reasons, but I’ve noticed that in many cases, people simply do not like being adjusted or touched or the teacher doesnt want to cross that sensitive boundary

So how do we address some of these issues? How can we avoid injuries?

How can we work more intelligently, intuitively to experience ease, flow, precision, balance and poise?

I believe the Alexander Technique addresses many of the underlying causes of injury by understanding our faulty, sensory perception and habits of movement, function and body design.

In many cases, how we perceive ourselves in any given activity or movement can be very different from what is actually happening. This perception is what F.M. Alexander called, “faulty sensory perception.” The basic premise of the Alexander Technique is identifying these unconscious habits and to recalibrate our sensory awareness, (kinaesthetic sense), and learn to undo many of these things we are doing that causes so much tension and pain.

I have been practicing Yoga for over two decades and I am fortunate to say that I have never been injured. I believe this is a direct result of practicing and teaching the Alexander Technique.

The Alexander Technique can be applied to any activity; I would call it a brilliant pre-technique, which can accompany and enhance any activity with awareness, poise, precision and balance.

The method has been around for over 120 years and is practiced all over the world; endorsed by renowned academics, scientists, medical profession, famous actors, singers, musicians and athletes. The Alexander Technique is an education in rediscovering your natural alignment, balance and coordination in anything you do.

Starting lessons with a highly skilled and trained Alexander Technique teacher, (all accredited teachers complete a three year full time training), to observe the biomechanics of the body, will also have you see your undistinguished habits. The teacher will use their skilled hands and carefully crafted words, along with other tools to release the unwanted tension and guide the body, you will experience the potential you, rather than the habitual you.

The common experience after an Alexander Technique lesson is an overall sense of feeling lighter, grounded, poised, calm, present, free, connected and balanced.

A course of 20-30 lessons is recommended to learn the basic principles and procedures in order to apply them to any activity.

To find our more about the Alexander Technique or to find a fully certified teacher near you check the following links:



Posted in Alexander Technique related post | Leave a comment

Do you sometimes feel like an animal in a cage?

Trying to hold yourself up is just as tiring as feeling slumped and collapsed. There is a whole industry including the media advising us about all the things to do and all props and apps to buy to maintain good posture. My colleague Adrain Farrell points this out in his excellent article about posture;  he says “good posture is the absence of bad posture”
 or a much better word than posture is poise.
Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 18.06.14

feeling constrained?

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 18.01.24

Do you know of any animals that go the gym

Posture is dynamic, not static or a position as most people think. Being an expert on posture, people often ask me what is the best posture or position? often my quick reply is; “the best posture is the next one, (in other words move and don’t get stuck in anyone posture) were not designed to be stuck in chairs, being stuck in a chair all day  is the equivalent of putting an animal in a cage, we soon lose that dynamic muscle tone and balance you see in animals, young children and athletes. This causes all sorts of long-term health issues.  You don’t see animals going to the gym pushing weights and running on treadmills. They are also not as susceptible to all the various injuries that go hand in hand with sitting for long hours each day or many forms of exercise including yoga.
If you want to discover an intelligent, kind way to get to know how your body works in harmony with its natural design; instead of pushing your body like it’s a mechanical machine and then being surprised when you are in pain or don’t perform well.  Then come and treat yourself to a lesson and find our how the Alexander technique might benefit you.
The Alexander technique has been around for 120 years and is endorsed by the medical profession, the NHS, renowned academics, scientist and may public figures.
I teach regular classes, 1-2-1 lessons  & workshops in Central London: visit my website for more details.
Posted in Alexander Technique related post | Leave a comment

Mindful Eating & Alexander Technique

I attended a silent 10 day Vipassana retreat which inspired me to write this article.  All of the activities were conducted in complete silence. Eating was one of the rituals I most enjoyed; as it allowed me to be completely immersed in the whole process of eating, which was an amazing experience. I had time to notice my habits around eating, such as my posture and how quickly I usually eat; also to consider the whole journey of how the delicious vegetarian food arrived on my plate.

This made me think about how noisy and distracting eating usually is, and how there has been a fundamental shift in what we eat, and the way we eat in the last two decades; which is having a big impact on our health. We live in a world of fast foods, eating out, takeaways, microwave/oven dinners, a bombardment of information, distractions and visual pollution. Like many habits, eating is not that conscious for most people.

Food is our most intimate connection with nature, when we eat food it is an information and energy exchange. Our cells depend on the vibrant energy and information that heathy nutritious foods provide. The nourishment that is provided through the practise of healthy eating is a gift. As we become more conscious, we will spontaneously make more healthy food choices.

eating 1

Eating on the move

We often gulp food down without giving our attention to taste, texture, smell, colour and sensation. We spend little time to consider where the food is from, how it was cooked, grown or produced. The decline of eating meals at a table is also more apparent than ever, with 35% eating their breakfast in front of the TV or smartphone, and almost half eating dinner while watching TV slouched on the couch.


Research has shown that being present while we eat plays an important role in digestion and the amount of food we consume. If we’re distracted we eat more! Also, the mind forgets we had a meal when distracted so it’s likely we will be snacking later; so eating when relaxed and collapsed in front the TV, or working at a desk, on a mobile device, or on the move isn’t such a good idea: also it’s wise to remember that after eating it takes about twenty minutes for the brain to give the body the signal that it full.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.25.04


If you are stressed, or in a rush when eating, you don’t digest your food properly. This can be the cause of all sorts of health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation,  acid reflux and heartburn to name a few.

The good news is many of these common problems can be reduced or eliminated if we are organised in a more poised and balanced way; this give us time to eat and adopt healthy eating habits.

I  truly believe the Alexander technique is a wonderful life skill that addresses the demands and challenges of contemporary living.  So much of what we do is habitual, eating and movement come under this umbrella of unconscious habits. At the heart of the Alexander Technique is a very simple idea, which is being present and poised in your activities. Eating is a great activity to practice being present; when we are present there is the potential for more ease, poise, balance, grace, appreciation and satisfaction.

Here are a few ideas that can lead to a much healthier attitude and approach to eating.

These five basic Alexander principles can be used when eating. I would like to add that it is best to have lessons with an Alexander teacher for these ideas to make more sense and  more importantly to experience some of the wonderful benefits.

See if you can begin this practice with just one meal a day.

(1)  Awareness: Identifying your habits around food, how do you eat, are you stressed? Rushed? Distracted? Are you collapsed on the chair/sofa?

(2) Inhibition: Stopping yourself from doing the unhelpful habit. This could be poor posture, being distracted, eating too quickly and not tasting and chewing food properly.

(3) Means whereby: This is where we consider the process of eating, rather than the end result. Explore the taste, smell, sensation and colour. Think about the journey of how the food got to your plate, how you eat, how tight are your shoulders, hands and jaw when you eat?

(5) Primary control.  This brings our attention to the delicate relationship of the head relative to the rest of the torso. In other words, are you compressing your body when you eat? What is happening to your posture? Is your head poking forward and down into your plate?

(6) Force of habit: This is one of the biggest obstacles to change, noticing how strong your  habits are around food. This is where the help of a teacher is really valuable. How easily are you distracted, slumped, rushed and tense when you eat?

(7) Mind wondering: This is where the mind wonders off. Notice how easily distracted you are.  I find not having a mobile phone helps. Also by creating the intention to be present will be enormously helpful.

When you choose to be mindful around the habit of eating,  you are less likely to shovel the food down, or be slumped over the food.  You can consider your relationship to your body and the food, and you can ask the questions are you comfortably erect? Are you present?  These questions can have an immediate influence on the quality of your eating habits and posture, all of which impact our health.

Give yourself enough time to eat.

Give a blessing or thanks for food, a moment to consider how the food got to you; the sun, earth, water, growers, producers, packers and delivery vehicles etc, and people who don’t have food.

Hold the utensils lightly in your hand, noticing if the grip is tight, even swapping the knife and fork around, to get you out of your habit of always holding the knife or fork in the same hand.

A great way to practice being present when eating is to ask a question about the food, such as what’s the taste like? The texture? Colour? Smell? Origin etc?

Chewing your food is really important; do this as slowly as you can you, will get to experience the full sensation, smell and flavours of the food.

Eating is so primal and necessary to life; it can also be one of the great healthy pleasures in life, or it can turn into another unhealthy habit.  Enjoy exploring healthy mindful eating habits which can transform your health and give you greater vitality and enjoyment.

Posted in Alexander Technique related post | Leave a comment