Bringing Balance to Your Life

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Reasoned Considerations

Read previous blogs from 2021

Read previous blogs from 2022


I have less bones! (January 2023)

drawing with bones on the side of the neck
Illustration: I have less bones!

I have been working with a thirteen-year-old complaining about back issues. We had a few movement sessions in which we applied F.M. Alexander’s ideas and principles

Text neck

As always, during our interaction, we chat, we exchange ideas, and we focus on the general before going to the specifics. So, one of the first things we did was work with the head/neck relationship with the body in movement as it is the key to freedom and ease of motion (Weed).

That relationship was very rigid and very stiff. As many teenagers and older people, our Wellbeing Improver tends to lead her chin towards her screen; she has what is called at times a ‘text neck’ or a ‘tech neck’. Rather than moving from her hip joints which would give her a greater range of motion, she moves from her neck, which translates into her neck being forward relative to her body. As she does this nth times during her day, she finds herself in chronic pain in her back.

During our session, experimenting moving from the hip joint, rather than from the neck to look at her screen when she wants to get closer to it, Wellbeing Improver managed to stop her usual movement behaviour.

The payoff of a different pathway

As a result of that change, she had more movement in her head/neck relationship and was moving her head and her body to look at the screen in a different manner. That different pathway brought about more mobility and eased the pain she was experiencing in her back.

I have less bones!

What she found out for herself was that she had “less bones in her neck”! Bones have the ability to move in relation to one another and those in the neck form the cervical spine. She was not, however, talking of those bones. She was referring to the ‘bones’ on the side of her neck. You would be right to ask: which bones on the side of the neck?

A bit of background information

Bones, muscles, and connective tissues (fascia) are usually defined as distinct entities. However, while the embryo develops, bones, muscles and connective tissues all originates from the cells of the mesenchyme. Bones, muscles and connective tissues are specialisation of the same tissue and can then be said to be on a spectrum from + soft to + hard. If so, one can say that bones are “mineralized condensation of fascia” (Scarr 2018). Levin also says that bones “are soft-matter gels, that may have either a rigid or compliant phase”.

If it can be so of bones, there is no reason why it cannot also be so for muscles: they can have a rigid and a compliant phase.

What was happening?

From what our teenage Wellbeing Improver said one can infer that the muscles on the side of her neck were heading more towards a rigid phase, which is not usually their permanent biological phase. By being constantly more towards the rigid phase, the side neck muscles were also modifying the geometry of the structures of the neck.

It is not that she had less bones in her neck, it is that the side muscles stopped being on a rigid phase, a rigidity Wellbeing Improver associates with ‘being a bone’.

Exploring new ideas and having a different understanding brought about positive changes. Judging by Wellbeing Improver’s smile, the ‘loss of a few bones’ was not such a bad thing!

You might also be interested in:

Moving our head (April 2022)

Do we 'do' up to be upright? (February 2023)

drawings of sitting to standing and standing to sitting
Illustration: Drawings of sitting to standing and standing to sitting

Today meet a Wellbeing Improver who is ‘doing up’ to be upright.

This might not how we view ‘up’ in ourselves. What she thinks does not have to be real, true or even scientifically accurate. Her view of ‘up’ is of interest to us as she is moving in a way that is consistent with what she is thinking as ‘up’.

Have you ever had the feeling that we move as we think and vice versa? (Le Huche)

Wellbeing improver wanted to explore going from sitting into standing, i.e. what she calls “standing up”.

F.M. Alexander says in Man’s Supreme Inheritance that we performed the simplest acts in accordance with our own idea and judgement. So, throughout our sessions, we examined some of Wellbeing Improver’s ideas.

Attempt at grasping an understanding of standing up

To stand up means to rise to the feet which is what happens when we go from sitting to standing

Now, to rise means to move from a lower to a higher position, a meaning that ‘up’ can also convey.

So, when we are standing up, we are spatially at a higher position than we were when sitting down.

The question is now: what is involved in standing up for Wellbeing Improver and is standing up the same thing as going from sitting to standing?

Sit up! Sit upright!

‘Sit up!’ and ‘Sit upright!’ are injunctions we all have heard at some point. Have you noticed that, when we comply with sitting up or sitting upright, we ‘DO’ the sitting up and the sitting upright and we find ourselves in some unnatural body configuration?

It turns out that, for Wellbeing Improver, sitting up and sitting upright translate into similar movement behaviour:

a) A spatial displacement of her body from a lower level to a higher level

b) a specific displacement within the body itself from a lower to a higher level

a) and b) mean for her that she is sitting up. This idea of ‘up’ is carried over in the act of standing up.

When up is not up but upright

It is reasonable to acknowledge that, sometimes, we muddle things up. It looks like it might be happening with our Wellbeing Improver. Isn’t it the case that sit up and sit upright involve a spatial change as well as the expression of the outcome of being humans?

If that is so, we might want to stop bending down and sit up, going spatially from being lower to being higher, the outcome of which would be to sit upright.

As bipeds and humans, we are upright, and it is our muscle tone that helps us to be upright while sitting or standing. This is an intrinsic human characteristic that we do not need to act upon: we do not need to add our personal flavour of movement behaviour to what we understand as up or upright.

So, we might want to revise our understanding of sit up and sit upright. Going spatially from a lower level to a higher one does not mean we have to add an ‘up’. Actually, we very likely do not need to ‘do the up’ when we hear those injunctions. Without going the ‘up’, we will still be upright.

It might help to think of going from sitting to standing instead of standing up as the latter might be associated with some movement behaviour as with Wellbeing Improver.

Shall we unfold our legs?

When we want to go from sitting to standing, we need to change the angle at the hip joint and bring what we call the torso towards what we call the knees. This movement is going to make the angle at the hip joint smaller. Such movement does not involve any idea of ‘up’, as Wellbeing Improver understands ‘up, as the angle at the hip joint gets smaller, quite the opposite.

This change in angulation allows us to bring our weight off the chair into the legs. Now, what is needed is an unfolding of the legs, or a straightening of the legs to find ourselves standing upright.

Now, we find ourselves going spatially from a lower level to a higher level without a ‘doing up’ with just an unfolding of our legs. ‘Unfolding our legs’ or ‘straightening our legs’ gives us a different perspective and brings about a movement that is simpler and that uses less energy.

What do we mean by looking or seeing? (March 20th 2023)

eye receiving a ray of light bouncing off an object
Illustration: eye receiving a ray of light bouncing off an object

We use our eyes throughout the day looking at screens, books, people, and many other things, etc. Now, looking is almost always combined with another activity such as reading when we look at words AND make sense of them; or walking when we move our legs AND use our sense of sight for balance and to direct ourselves; or when we are told something like: (stop messing around!) Look at the map! When we are asked to “concentrate” and use our sense of sight. When we think about it, we use our eyes a lot. It shouldn’t be a wonder that at times we feel that our eyes are strained; or should it?

What do we understand as to look?

Very often, we understand to look as an act we do going from within ourselves to outside of ourselves. The reality, however, is quite the opposite when we use our sense of sight…

What happens when we use our sense of sight to look?

Here is a very simply formulated explanation. When we use our sense of sight, when we “look”, light enters the eyes and goes to the back of the eyes where cones and rods (two photoreceptors) detect light and turn it into electrical impulses. Those signals travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Our brain recognizes shapes and patterns of light that bounce off a person, an object, etc.

This is quite different from what most of us understand as “looking”, “seeing”: the eyes receive the light and our brain is the one that “sees”.

What are the implications of receiving the light?

First of all, the eyes are receptive organs. In a way, people and objects, etc. shine into someone else’s eyes. So, we are designed to RECEIVE the light that bounces off whatever is in front of it. Receive, i.e. something outside of us is getting inside of us.

Second, when we “look” we do not have to be active, we do not have to “do” looking or seeing, whatever this means for each of us.

Third, in all likelihood, we will discover that “we do less reading”, or that “we do less looking at the screen”!

Although receiving the light, what might we do to look?

Although our eyes are receptive organs, we might add our own flavour of what we understand as “seeing” or “looking”.

We might overuse the muscles that participate in the accommodation of vision (cillary muscles).

We might also overuse the suboccipital muscles, 4 pairs of muscles at the back of our neck. Those muscles are important for head movements and are responsible for eye tracking. So, when we tense up our neck, we bring discomfort; when we hold on on the back of our head, it may well be that will have an effect on our eyes and that they will not function as well.

Because our eyes receive light bouncing off objects and people, it is unnecessary to accompany light reception with the two above mis usages.

What does this mean for everyday life?

Why don’t you experiment and find out for yourself?

What I know from other Wellbeing Improvers and from personal experience is that the outcomes of receiving light as opposed to “look” or “see” can bring more (and at times significant) comfort in everyday life. Shapes and patterns might be more in focus, eyes might be less strained; we also do not direct effort where it is not actually needed.

The possibilities that conflicts may create (April 2023)

conflicts and possibilities
Illustration: conflicts and possibilities

D. Weed illustrated in his writings, lessons and workshop that every movement is a gesture of an idea or a belief.

An example of a movement associated with a belief or idea

Let’s consider the following example.

One Wellbeing Improver sits and pays attention to what a speaker says. She sits a certain way, - her way - as “pay attention and listen” has a value attached to it and corresponds, as far as she is concerned, to extending her lower back when listening and being seated.

Listen to your body and see if “paying attention and listening” corresponds to extending your back. It is likely that it is not. However, some movement behaviour, your movement behaviour might be associated with “paying attention and listening”.

So one can see that for siting and listening, different movement behaviours can take place. It is not the action as such that is different. What is different, though, is the way each and every single of us, thinks about paying attention and sitting.

How we sit and pay attention reflects how we think about sitting and paying attention: what we think is what we get

Apparition of discomfort and even pain

Let’s say that, some times down the line, Wellbeing Improver develop discomfort and even pain in her lower back while sitting and listening to a speaker. One way of considering the issue would be to say that the chair is not comfortable enough, the chair does not provide enough support, the chair this, the chair that. Another way might be to consider that we might be contributing to our discomfort.

Considering that we might be contributing to our discomfort could lead us down a guilty path. A more constructive path would be to find some relief in that acknowledgement. If we are contributing to our discomfort, it means that we can also stop contributing to the discomfort that we generated for ourselves. If we created that discomfort, it is reassuring to know we could also stop it.

How to stop?

The question is how? Where do I start?

Let’s think again about our Wellbeing Improver who associated a value and corresponding movement to “paying attention and listening”. Provided she does not associate that value and the corresponding movement, provided she changes her thinking about “paying attention and listening”, she will not introduce her habitual movement pattern(s).

The reason for that is that she will have changed her thinking. By changing her thinking, her movement(s) will be different. When getting herself out of her way, she will be able to go into something more practical; she will get out her own trap and put a stop to a problem she was creating for herself.

Giving up our way of doing things is difficult; we all have personal experience of this.

Changing our movements may lead to some serious arguments and conflicts with ourselves.

Changing our movements will take us in a different direction than our way

Changing our movements produces a change of relationship in ideas

Changing our movements will bring several thoughts in conflict

We will feel different - which can be rather uncomfortable - as what we were doing before is history.

However, it is very often when we acknowledge this kind of conflict that change happens for the better as we open ourselves to POSSIBILITIES.

Let's train our brain to move better (May 2023)

Picture of a brain on some gym equipment
Illustration: Brain training

At times, we can find it difficult to do something, to make a decision, to perform a movement, to begin something, and so on. Have you ever noticed that, when we follow a series of steps – when we follow a process – in any area of our lives, things are ‘easier’ and not so daunting?

Let’s consider how we can train our brain so that we make our lives easier and simpler.

Let’s stay in the present

It can prove rather difficult to ‘stay’ in the activity we are performing. Our mind ‘wanders’. However, it’s when we are not completely in the present that ‘accidents’ or oddities generally occur.

Think about a common place situation: when we cannot remember where we left our keys, is it really a memory problem or is it a case that we were not fully present when we left them somewhere else such as…. In the fridge!

Let’s be clear

It is a good idea to direct our attention on what we intent to do. If we are to walk, let’s look around us and then let’s plan our walking in the present conditions. What does walking involve? Once we’ve figured this part out and, once we are clear about this, let’s walk and see what happens.

Doing so, we are developing our capacity to direct our attention rather than letting it being distracted.

How we sit and pay attention reflects how we think about sitting and paying attention: what we think is what we get

When going through such a process, we might indeed be “relearning” some motor skills we might no longer be using or upon which we might have imposed our own ideas. To achieve this, we actively involve and task our nervous system to perform skilled movements and actions.

Let’s not associate efforts with results

Do we believe that intense effort is proportional to best result? If so, we might want to reconsider and change this.

Going back to basics, understanding some principle(s) and being able to apply them might take longer. However, more accurate foundations are first likely to bring about long-lasting results. Secondly, they are unlikely to bring about other issues.

Let’s stop if it does not work

When performing an activity, we sometimes know we are not going to be able to achieve what we are aiming at as we are no longer in the present of our activity. When this is the case, let’s stop, let’s stay in the present, let’s be clear and let’s perform our activity once more.

It will only take a few seconds.

However, the outcome will very likely be less tension, less anxiety and the reward of performing our activity in a more considered way.

Let’s be actors embracing the new and the how

We have to be actors, nobody can do it (fully) for us. Two components can make a difference in us being successful actors. First, let’s start anew each time: When we are attached to the past, we cannot start anything new As Birger says: “the old path never grows old if our view of it keeps it alive” (Birger in Stinissen). This ‘newness’ provides choices, lets us explore, prevents us being bored and, ultimately, brings progress.

Second, let’s be mindful of HOW we are performing something rather than what we are doing.

Learning occurs through attention, perception, experience and repetition. The more mindful we are about how we choose to organize ourselves against gravity, and the more we practice long forgotten movement behaviors, these new patterns start to become better represented in our CNS [Central Nervous System] (…) This is neurological reprogramming. (Key 2018)

Not just one way (June 2023)

Arrows pointing at more than one way
Illustration: Which way?

Sometimes we find ourselves in a tunnel vision and we want to get things right, right in a certain way – most of the time our right, of course - , and we want to know how rightly to achieve right.

However, in many life circumstances, there is more than one way to skin a cat, the same way there is more than one way to edit a picture for example. What is ‘right’ will depend on the present circumstances we find ourselves in.

Perhaps what we ought to bear in mind – and so in any circumstances – is that when we work to principle, and when we work with the circumstances we find ourselves in, we will find the best efficient way forward for the present circumstances. Consequently, as our circumstances change, the best efficient may forward is very likely to change accordingly.

As a result, we might consider keeping in mind that there might be more than just one way and it might prove useful to keep an open mind about the choices and possibilities we have.

More than one way also presents some advantages


We express creativity: because there is not just one single way, we can express our creativity and find solutions out of the box. As far as movement is concerned, this creativity, which may have served us at one point in the past, can get in our way if we stop considering the conditions present we find ourselves in and use this creative way as a default movement and hence as an unreasoned shortcut.

We engage our brain: Keeping in mind that there might be more than one way to go about things means that we keep engaging and training our brain on a regular basis. This is particularly important when we want to change the way we move. We need the reasoned repetition in order to create new neurological pathways which will become, in time, the ones we will activate the more while older ones will not be so often activated.

We keep being flexible and plastic: Keeping our options open prevents us from getting bored. If we perform an activity, a movement, as if for the first time based on the conditions present we find ourselves in, we don’t know in advance what the outcome is going to be. This is both challenging and stimulating and also prevents boredom settling in. More often than not, we are nicely surprised of the outcome as we have not imposed what we think should have happened on whatever activity we are performing. This requires accepting the unknown.

We introduce variety: The outcome of taking the previous step is that, while working to principle, we introduce variety in our lives as well as in our movements:

Healthy movement has variety, is easy, is relaxed. (Key 2018)
If the mechanical principle employed is a correct one, every movement will be made with a minimum effort. (FM Alexander, Man's Supreme Inheritance)

You might also be interested in:

I 'know’ or the full stop that stops growth (May 2022)

When we think we know... (May 2022)

Can you do it? Yes, you can (July 2023)

help: a hand shake, a talk, a cup of something, a massage
Illustration: Can you do it?

We do need help and/or support from others in our lives - sometimes more than other times. And that’s ok.

What does help mean?

Let’s assume that we do not find ourselves in a life-threatening situation.

Help can take different forms:

a little push in the right direction;

an item being lent to you;

a listening ear,

a cup of coffee,

a smile,

some medication,

some pampering (it will be different for each of us)


Help is what it is and is partial. By that I mean that it is not 100% in the sense that help usually is made up of at least help 1 – the help we provide for ourselves - and help 2 – the help something or somebody else provide.

I think we can all agree that when we ask a neighbour to lend us some flour, we do not ask them to provide all the ingredients to bake a cake: help 2, the flour provided by the neighbour, is partial; help 1 is what we provide ourselves.

The same reasoning can be applied to health and wellbeing conditions although we may find it more difficult to ask for help then.

It is not surrendering

Getting helped is NOT a surrender. It is a smart acknowledgement that maybe changes need to happen to improve our health and wellbeing. It is all the more important and it is worth remembering that help provided by something or somebody else can only go so far.

Getting help does not mean either that we do not have any say or that we are simply coasting along. We work TOGETHER with the help that is offered or provided to us.

This is an important point as then we are ACTORS: we help ourselves (help 1) while being helped (help 2). And, make no mistake, when we get helped we hold the leading part: WE ARE IN CHARGE.

What does this mean in our life and particularly for movement?

When and if we are in charge and we are actors, this means we can change, modify something. We are truthfully plastic and we can bring change about.

Let’s say we move a certain way – our movement behaviour – and, as a result, we are in pain.

If we are experiencing pain as a result of a movement behaviour, what needs changing is the movement behaviour, that is to say how we organise the way we move.

It is possible to bring about such a change by thinking about HOW we move and hence, by retraining our brain. Indeed,

The act performed is of less consequence than the manner of its performance. (F.M. Alexander, MSI)

What is the outcome?

Such an active outcome usually brings about more mobility, a better quality of movement and of life, easier and optimized movement, less pain.

More often than not we come to understand that we are blocking some movement patterns, which, when we let them happen (and do not block them), make our movements lighter and more fluid.

Be patient with yourself

It is reasonable to ask ourselves how long it’s going to take to notice a positive change.

The questions we often fail to ask ourselves is: how long did it take us to notice we were moving in a way that was not helping us and led to discomfort or even pain? Usually, a fair amount of time as, very often, it did not happen overnight.

The evils of a personal bad habit do not reveal themselves in a day or in a week, perhaps not in a year, a remark that is also true of the benefits of a good habit. (MSI)

So give yourself time and do not get disheartened. The biggest help you are ever going to get will be coming from you.

Can you do it?

We are plastic (June 2023)

Breathing (September 2023)

Illustration: Breathing

Did you know that we take air in and take it out of our body around 17.000 times per day?

My body breathes whether I want it or not

Breathing is one of the characteristics of any living organisms. Indeed, we take our first breath as soon as we are born and we always end up taking a breath – sooner or later – even when we hold our breath.

What happens when we are breathing?

When we are breathing, we take air in (what we call inhalation) and we let air out (what we call exhalation).

During that process, we are actually expanding or condensing in all directions: so, while breathing, our ribcage expands and contracts.

That process creates movement.

There is movement when we breathe

There is movement in the ribcage: as air is a gas, it will fill any void and will let the lungs expand.

As more air comes in and as the lungs expand, the diaphragm being attached to the bottom of the lungs, will push downwards, and pull the lungs downwards.

This pulling downwards of the diaphragm leads to the organs in the abdomen being pushed down in the abdomenal cavity.

The expansion of the ribcage will also move the muscles attaching to the ribcage as well as to our arms and their joints as the arms attach to the ribcage at the junction between the sternum and the clavicle.

The body knows

The body knows which muscles to use to take air in and to let air out, i.e. knows how to breathe. Our body is clever, and we sometimes forget that we are well-made. We are in possession of a beautifully designed system – the respiratory system – that works for us.

Although we are well-made and we are all able to breathe, we are looking to ‘breathe properly’. However, here is something to bear in mind:

(…) there are as many theories or the ‘proper breath’ as there are people to espouse them. (Myers, Earls 2017)

It could be that instead of trying to breathe ‘properly’ we could try and breathe more efficiently.

What could promote efficient breathing

There are probably a few things that could promote efficient breathing.

One easy step is not to think that we are breathing but to simply think that we are letting air in and letting air out. That way, we prevent our minds to apply a shortcut to what we label ‘breathing’ as an individual.

Another step is understanding that to ‘breathe’ we do not need to exert control.

Furthermore, it might be enlightening to have a look at how we get involve in our ‘breathing’.

We might be expanding our bellies let’s think about this. It is actually the lungs that expand and fill with air… When we expand our bellies, we tense the muscles of our abdomen making it hard and tense. As a result, our inhalation is shallow, and the intestines have nowhere to go.

We might be tightening the muscles at the front of our neck, especially if we are anxious or frightened; or we might be tightening the muscles at the front of the neck because we are tightening the muscles at the back of our neck…

Some of the ‘controls’ we might be putting in place might mean that we come up against other problems, which was not our aim, when we put those checks into place.

So, it might be a good idea to open our mind to the mechanisms of breathing and maybe reject some of our ideas. It might be time to let our bodies do their job without our own input, which is very often an interference.

We can exert some controls though as far as intensity and speed are concerned. We can – to a certain extent – choose when to breathe.

The Wonders and Possibilities of Disorganisation (October 2023)

messy place
Illustration: Disorganisation

Disorganisation can be good

Organization is praised and is a positive quality that we can be judged against. How many of us have heard while growing up: you are not very organized! You need to be more organised!

It is not very often that we hear that disorganisation can be a good thing. I would like to invite you to embrace such an idea – however alien it may be to you – for a few paragraphs. I am going to contend that disorganisation can be a good thing and can have a positive outcome on our wellbeing.

Organisation can be an interference

We can compare our familiar movement behaviour(s) to a filter or a set of filers (in the same way they are used in photography) that we have piled up or organised in a particular way on our body. This particular and organised way is what we call the ‘familiar us’.

When we take away one or several of our filters, i.e. when we stop some movement behaviour(s), we have a glimpse of a stage of our boby before we added some filter(s). When we disorganised ourselves, when we depersonalised ourselves, we become, in a way, more of ourselves because by removing one or several filters from our body, we actually remove interferences or impositions that get in our way.

Most of us will have experienced such a situation as the following: hit by the stimulus of stress or of a negative thought, we trigger a muscular response. That muscular response might even have a braking function on our emotions. In such an instance, we are organising our response to a stressful situation and that response will be different for each of us. We have added some ‘muscular meaning’ to a situation we have labelled as ‘stressful’.

If we are really focused on a negative thoughts or limiting belief, our nervous system will send messages almost immediately to our muscles, which will then constrict. (Levine, Phillips 2012: 113)

Disorganisation can be beneficial

Should we learn to prevent such a physical response, we will very likely contribute to increase our wellbeing.

Being less personalised, less organised opens the door to options and possibilities we have forgotten we had at our disposal. We might notice our movements are freer and more fluid. We might experience less discomfort and even be in less pain. We might not feel so mentally overwhelmed.

Being less organised ties in with experiencing having more time. I can see you raise your eyebrows as this idea that is counterintuitive. But it turns out that, when we are more efficiently coordinated, we get a sense that we get more time to perform our activity.

Sometimes being organised is not all that it seems to be and can be detrimental to our wellbeing and health.

So, let’s allow ourselves to be less organised in our bodies and see where that will take us. We might be nicely surprised on a physical and on a mental level!

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My personalised gift to me (September 2022)

When we (think we) know and we dont (November 2023)

speech bubbles
Illustration: I know! No, you don't!

At times we think we know and we don’t. This applies to knowledge and is also true about movement.

Let’s take as an example the activity of lifting an object. Bear in mind that, whether it is heavy or light, is of no importance. The principle to apply is going to be the same.


Anecdotally, we have all witnessed a young child grunting while picking up a toy car imitating an older person they watch lifting something. I bet you have… There is unmistakably some kind of association on the old person’s part between lifting and grunting that the child is picking up and imitating. And the grunting generally verbally express and underline the effort or the effort we think we hat to put into the activity.

We will look here at lifting up a bottle out of the fridge, something we can all relate to.

We know how to lift a bottle out of the fridge, don’t we?

We can just go to the fridge, open its door and grab the bottle we are after without any consideration about what we are doing and, certainly, without any consideration to the conditions present. This is one way of doing it and it DOES THE JOB: getting the bottle out of the fridge. And that is because we ‘know’ how to grab a bottle and we ‘know’ about its weight, and we know ‘how’ much force to apply to lift it up. No big deal because WE KNOW!

But how could we have known beforehand how heavy the bottle would be especially if the bottle or carton is not transparent? In this case, did we rely on present information…. Or on past information?

But have you ever noticed that, at times, our enthusiasm – or could it be else – have us on the verge of throwing the bottle out of the fridge, or on the verge of crushing a plastic bottle before even lifting it up? This could have – as you can imagine – some unexpected consequences. This is because one more time WE KNOW!

But did we know? There seem to be a few things we did not know…. And it is because we applied a shortcut process that, sometimes, we find ourselves faced with unexpected consequences

Another way to lift a bottle out of the fridge

There is another way to lift a bottle out of the fridge. This other way means foregoing shortcuts which means we cannot be sure of what we are going to face (in the current hypothesis, nothing dramatic, but still, it is the unknown!).

Let’s work with the idea and principle that we will use as much effort is needed and no more. AND NO MORE. This means that I do not need to assume how much force is needed before I get to the bottle. This also means I have no preconception of muscular contraction and that I find myself in the present rather than in the past.

Interestingly, this entails being interested in what is required to lift a bottle out of the fridge, rather than the bottle: the activity comes first and the object, the bottle, second.

So maybe we could consider resisting the temptation to know. Give it a try and you are likely to find out that your movements are more simple and more controlled.

You might also be interested in

I 'know’ or the full stop that stops growth (May 2022)

Everyday life

An Everyday Activity: sitting and getting closer (January 2023)

Illustration: People sitting, getting closer to desks
Illustration: People sitting

This is a very likely everyday activity for any of us: getting closer to something while we are sitting.

We might want to get closer to a computer screen, to a canvass, to a magazine, to a music sheet, to a work top, and so on.

Same activity in different situations; still same discomfort

So, getting closer while sitting can happen in a job situation or in a leisure situation. Both environments could lead us to say something like: my back is hurting, my neck is hurting, my shoulders are hurting. As this can happen both in a work and in a leisure capacity, should we put the blame entirely onto desk jobs for all our discomfort, aches and pains?

Several choices: which one to go for?

One of the first things to ask ourselves is perhaps: how are we going to get closer to a table, a desk, a cavass, etc, while sitting?

There usually seems to be several scenarios we can choose from such as:

We use primarily our neck;

We use primarily our hip joints;

We use our neck and a little bit of the hip joints;

We use our hip joints primarily and fine tune with our neck.

All are going to get us closer to a table, screen, or canvass. They differ, for example, in efficiency, in the amount of energy involved and in the range of movement achieved, i.e. the extent (the range) a joint can move or be moved.

The range of movement of the neck in flexion is 40 to 60 degrees and in extension 45 to 70 degrees. As for the hip joints, the range of movement in flexion is 0 to 125 degrees and in extension 115 to 0 degrees.

Making a reasoned choice rather than blaming the situation

Moving efficiently and appropriately depends on the present circumstances we find ourselves in.

From the flexion range mentioned above, we can see that the hip joints have a bigger range of motion than the neck.

So, should we want to move closer to something, such as a table or a screen, while sitting, it is likely to prove more efficient and less costly in energy to bend from the hip joints rather than the neck.

Once most of the travelling happened at the hip joints, fine tuning can be achieved using the neck.

Moving in such a way could solve a few of our discomforts, aches, and pains. If this is so, we are part of the problem, and this could leave part – or even the whole – desk-job-blamed situation off the hook.

Moving from the hip joints: an illustration

A Wellbeing Improver wanted to explore painting while sitting as she was experiencing back pain in her lower back while performing that activity. She surmised her bad posture was to blame.

Part of her problems resided in her concept of posture as it implied, for her, some rigidity.

Should we accept the following definition of the Alexander Technique: the Alexander Technique is the study of thinking in relation to movement, instead of a rigid posture, we talk about sets of relationships between body parts in movement. That is the first thing.

Second, moving from the hip joints involves closing the gap between the trunk and the thighs which translates into bending forward.

These two ideas together with some gentle manipulations brought about the following changes:

A change in the head/neck relationship

A change in the relationship of the hip joints and the pelvis

No pain in her lower back

I was also able to observe that she had more movement in her arm, she was not pulling down so much in her lower back, and she was not so close to the table. She, however reported that she was closer to the table. As she was not using her neck so much to get near the table and as she diminished the angle at her hip joints, I can understand why she might say that.

In all evidence, Wellbeing Improver performed her activity differently and did not move in the way she usually did. She did not change her present circumstances, but she stopped some movement behaviours which brought about constructive and positive changes.

An Everyday Activity: Going backward to bend forward (March 2023)

Illustration: People sitting

Today, let’s have a look at the movement behaviours of a baker who, to bend forward at his work counter is going backward.

Some of us might have had your highbrows shot up at such a conception of bending forward. But it makes sense to him.

Our Wellbeing Improver stands for 10 hours a day and thinks he does not stand properly as he’s got back pain in his lower back. He experiences more discomfort when he comes and works at the worktop.

In such a professional setting – or at home at the kitchen counter – there are a few questions our Wellbeing Improver – or us – might want to answer for ourselves when we perform the everyday activity of bending forward at a work or kitchen top.

Closing or opening an angle

Say your body is a surface of 180-degree angle and you want to bend towards the top, are you going to close or open the angle?

Wellbeing Improver: 'I am going to close it'.

This means the trunk is going to get closer to the thighs.

How to close the distance between the trunk and the thighs?

Which joint?

A joint is the space that exists between two bones.

Which joint is going to allow you to close the distance between your body and the table?

Wellbeing Improver: 'The abdominals. No, to bend forward, it's the back.'

Such an answer leads to more questioning as it is relevant to find out what our Wellbeing Improver means. If the abdominals and the back are joints, we have to be able to answer the following questions, if we define a joint as a space that exists between two bones: are the abdominals and the back bones? and are they joints?

Where are the muscles required for the activity located?

To work, muscles need to cross a joint and they need to be in a position to do the job. Should you want to bring your hand towards your ‘shoulder’, the muscles at play are the ones in the inside of your arms.

If you contract the muscles in your back, are you going to bend forward or backward?

Wellbeing Improver: 'Forward.'

When facts do not match our reality, we may draw a blank

Wellbeing Improver was absolutely convinced his back was actively involved in bending forward and it took him a while to conclude that the back was not involved in bending forward.

Without such an option he could not think of any joints involved in bending forward. I suggested the hip joints and we went to work.

What could happen when we are open to revision?

Wellbeing Improver could not ‘find’ his hip joints and could not bend from the hip joints to start with: moving from the hip joints was so unfamiliar. When gently persuaded to do otherwise, he bent from the hip joints and he went down very rapidly; so rapidly, in fact, that he nearly had his nose in the worktop!

Wellbeing Improver: 'Ah'.

It was a meaningful and light-bulb moment Ah.

He was then able to perform the activity on his own: he had less back pain, the movement was more fluid and less tiring, he was more centred; his movement was more controlled.

Before our interaction Wellbeing Improver could ‘bend forward’ at a worktop. He was successful in what he wanted to do. However, that success was at a cost, and he started experiencing sometimes discomfort, sometimes pain in his lower back to the point that this was getting in his way of him being able to perform his job.

A few questions led him to turn his concept of bending forward at a worktop on its head, which led him to move differently. He had to give him his ‘familiar way'.

This change in thinking “enabled [him] to put into practice new [ideas] in new ways of doing things”. This contributed to improve his wellbeing and made his workday pain free.

You might also be interested in:

Open to revision (October 2022)

An Everyday Activity: Getting ready to walk (May 2023)

Illustration: A man with his hand on another man's shoulder
Illustration: You are stopping me from walking!

In the absence of disease or injury, without coercing someone physically, it can prove easy to stop somebody from walking by preventing them from putting into place how they get ready in order to be able to ‘walk’ or rather to perform the activity they label ‘walking’.

So, how might we do this and get ready to walk? Let’s look at different possibilities of how we might get ready for this everyday activity.

We might tighten our neck muscles

There is no doubt that a lot of us do tighten the muscles at the back of our neck. We can do this to the extent that we end up with a ‘tension headache’ and… other things that actually get in our way.

Now, if we accept the thought: “the poise of the head in relation with the body in movement is the key to freedom and motion” (Weed), we will very likely realize that tensing up the muscles at the back of our neck is not going to be of great help in any activity and certainly not in the activity of walking: the muscles at the back of our neck are not and cannot take us from A to B.

We might sway left or right

This way of walking more often than not comes with some kind of loss of balance and instability. As a result, getting into walking can be quite a scary prospect as we are, in a way, diving with our trunk to one side and, to prevent the fall, we tense up somewhere else and even everywhere else. As you can imagine tensing up in such a way is not conducive to moving forward.

We might raise one or both shoulders

Sometimes, should someone put their hands on one or both of our shoulders and ask us to start walking, we might let them know that their hand is ‘preventing’ us from doing so! Why? Simply because, for us, moving our legs is preceded or accompanied by raising one or both shoulders. Unless we do raise one or both shoulder(s) we ‘cannot walk’. However, simply lifting one or both shoulders cannot take us forward.

We might tense our legs

Should we choose the option of tensing our legs, it means that we are actually moving too much. Too much is the result of moving in two directions at the same time with the consequence that we end up not moving. Now, imagine the effort that is going to be needed to move something – us – with the brakes on! Wouldn’t it be then difficult – and near impossible – to walk forward or to walk up a flight of stairs?

And so on

We are all very creative with how we move so there are more ways to get ready to walk.

Some questions to ask ourselves

Why do we do this?

Because this is our familiar and default way of walking and we identify those movement behaviours with ‘walking’.

What happen when we stop?

We might not be able to walk.

If we do manage to walk, and stop introducing such movement behaviour, we might find ourselves at a loss, and having the impression that we are not walking at all! And this, despite even though we are more mobile and everything we do flows better.

How to move from here?

How to come out of everything 'we do so that we feel that we are walking'? We can follow a process. A relatively easy and simple idea would be to think of just putting one foot alternately in front of the other instead of walking. Why not try and find out where this takes us.

An Everyday Activity: Walking and arms (July 2023)


Walking is a conspicuous everyday activity. We walk to move around and to take us from A to B; we walk to take our heads, trunks, arms and hands somewhere else; we walk to go and do what we need or want to do.

While walking, we are biologically designed to move from the hip joint - the space between our pelvis (the acetabulum) and the femur (the head of the femur) - and the other joints of the legs follow. Though walking involves the lower limbs to propel us forward, it is a mechanical process that involves the whole body.

Not a single way of walking

Have you ever noticed that there is not one single way of walking? Next time you go shopping have a look around you. We all walk - somehow or other - and in fact:

[our] walking, or gait, pattern is based on how others walked around [us] when [we] were growing up. (Bowman)

This accounts for some differences. We can add to that that we sometimes modify our walk because of an injury or because of a particular situation we found ourselves in. According to Earls:

Various studies have shown that the arm swing adds little to the efficiency of the gait”. (Earls)


Everyone seems to accept that there is a contralateral swing with the lower limb, but there is little agreement on the reasons for this. (Earls)

While not essential to walking, we still use our arms. There might be different reasons for that:

our arms are a counterpart to our lower limbs

there is a lot of movement at the gleno-humeral joint (what we call the “shoulder”) as there is a lot of movement at the hip joint

an accompaniment of movement all the way to the shoulders?

a need for an up movement to be able to move - and up the shoulders go - even though our hip joints do not

The question is, what do we think we need to do with our arms and gleno-humeral joints when we perform the activity of walking. Let’s have a look at two examples.

Scenario 1

For one Wellbeing Improver, walking goes hand in hand with bringing her shoulders back and stiffening her whole trunk. The reason for that is that her message to the world is, hey I’m here!. She is acting on that message and ‘act on’ that message in as much as she translates this idea and belief into a movement behaviour particular to her. She feels worn out when she walks , which is not surprising.

Scenario 2

Another Wellbeing Improver has a different scenario: he walks head first, in a jerky way, his legs do not go really backwards, and his arms are away from his body. Indeed, for him, the activity of walking means putting myself off balance. Because otherwise I do not move, which was illustrated in his way of walking. The next question is, what does off balance means for this Wellbeing Improver: bending forward and pushing on my left leg . The next next question is where are you going to bend from to walk? From the shoulders and the buttocks .

So, for him, walking mainly involves bending the shoulders forward and bending his buttocks and the joint involved the most was the ankles. Although our ‘shoulders’ move when we walked, they are not the limbs making us go from A to B and they do not need to be moved forward. Having in mind the shoulders were not bent forward, as he thought they had to, had some consequences for our Wellbeing Improver: when he then tried to walk, he could not move to start with as he was moving far less his shoulders forward. Furthermore, he was not lifting his feet and he was shuffling and appeared seated while walking.

We can see that changing his ideas about what he thought he needed to do with his ‘shoulders’ while walking ad a knock-on effects on how he thoughts he had to walk then. But, is there any correlation between his new idea and the shuffling of the feet? Mmm…

A question worth pondering?

FM Alexander asked of himself the question: is it something that I am doing to myself which is the cause of my troubles? It might be worth for us to ask ourselves that question. If this is the case, there is hope as WE can change our movement behaviours.

An Everyday Activity: walking and moving forward (October 2023)

Illustration: different types of walk
Illustration: different ways of walking

What does walking mean?

Make an experiment, sit somewhere where there is a lot of footfalls and observe. When looking at people going by in the street, we can see that walking is far from being uniform: the activity of walking can have a cultural dimension or can be personalized. For the former, we can think as the way police officers hold themselves and walk, for example. For the latter we can easily see that hardly two people walk the same way (unless they live or have lived together). So, we can infer that, as individuals, we think we have to do certain things to be able to walk. Those things have become familiar and constitute now what we call ‘walking’.

According to the collins-Cobuild dictionary, when you walk, you “move along fairly slowly by putting one foot in front of the other on the ground”.

So, most of us have embellished walking and we have diverged from the definition put forward by the dictionary. Indeed, in essence this is what walking is: putting one foot in front of the other. It is rather simple and simplistic.

It is worth remembering that simple is, most of the time, the best course of action and that simplicity allows us to move better.

Going into walking

Going from standing into walking involves bearing in mind a few things.

First of all, while standing, we are in movement. This is something that we tend to forget , so I will write it again: while standing, we are in movement. It means that we do not put tension wherever it is possible to put tension in our body. If we leave it alone, our body will manage to stand quite easily.

We also need to think carefully about where we think our hip joints are (Read Hips! Hips! Where are you? (October 2021) if you need to refresh your memory). Our hip joints – being joints – will have space in between two bones. Provided we are clear about where our hip joints are, movement will occur from there.

When going from standing into walking, there is a bit of a weight shift so that we can lift the leg up and move forward. We are, in a way, releasing our hip joint, which allows all the other joints in the leg to move

Now we also need to think about some physics principle: The only way a body can move itself forward is by pushing off in the opposite direction it wants to move. So, if we push on something, it will push back. This is a very simple way to phrase Newton’s third law of motion and it is important to have this in mind. So, when we want to go into walking this activity requires us to push our leg behind us.

Above are some thoughts and ideas put forward. However, never forget, that, walking requires movement in the whole body. When it is so, walking is smooth, controlled, simple, efficient and easy.

In the Summer, look at people’ s feet. A significant number, keep their toes flex when they walk. Make no mistake, it is not much help when we want to walk. It is more useful to move our ankles.

You might also be interested in:

My personalised gift to me (September 2022)

You are stopping me from walking (May 2023)

Hips! Hips! Where are you? (October 2021)

Merry dancing with more and less and less and more (December 2022)

The Other End of the Lorgnette: Seeing Things Differently

February 2023

seeing things differently
Illustration 16 (January 2023) of seeing things differently

April 2023

seeing things differently
Illustration 17 (Avril 2023) of seeing things differently

June 2023

seeing things differently
Illustration 18 (June 2023) of seeing things differently

September 2023

seeing things differently
Illustration 19 (September 2023) of seeing things differently

November 2023

seeing things differently
Illustration 20 (November 2023) of seeing things differently


January 2023

Quote by Balogh
Quote by Balogh: The present moment slips by quite unnoticed.

February 2023

Quote by Roberts
Quote by Roberts: A kind of crossroads, I suppose.

March 2023

Quote by Le Huche
Quote by Le Huche: We move as we think.

April 2023

Quote by Roberts
Quote by Roberts: Observation is more than just the eyes.

May 2023

Quote by Myers and Earls
Quote by Myers and Earls: Humans are not constructed from parts.

June 2023

Quote by Garner
Quote by Garner: we are plastic.

July 2023

Quote by Levin and Phillips
Quote by Levin and Phillips: Negative thoughts affect the thinking mind.

September 2023

Quote by Green
Quote by Green: Mental health develops through plasticity.

October 2023

Quote by Bannister
Quote by Bannister: Perfect is a rare commodity.

November 2023

Quote by Heath and Heath
Quote by Heath and Heath: Change begins at the level of individual decisions and behaviours.

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Man's Supreme Inheritance, Alexander, FM [1910] 1996, Sixth edition reprinted with minor corrections December 2002, Mouritz.
This page was last modified on Jan 20 2024 7:59am