The Posture Workbook
by Carolyn Nicholls
Free yourself from back, neck and shoulder pain with the Alexander Technique
D&B Publishing, 2012
I just finished reading this new book by Alexander Technique teacher Carolyn Nicholls. I love her first book, Body, Breath and Being so I was very curious about her new one, especially as it deals with Posture. The importance of having good posture has been gaining more and more press in recent years, and the Alexander Technique has a great track record of having a markedly good effect on the posture of those who study it.
For anyone wanting to improve their posture, this book provides valuable insights as well as practical advice. The first part of the book looks at what posture actually is and its importance in everything we do, and is filled with photographs and images which help illustrate this. Significantly Nicholls takes time to define – and redefine- posture as the dynamic, yet also subtle, way we coordinate our body in everything we do. You may be tempted to skip over the first section and go right to the exercises, but not only is it an interesting read, it contains much important information that will be helpful to you as you move on to the exercises. Scattered throughout this section are various “experiments” you can try out for yourself, as well as many case studies which highlight how different people in many different circumstances have successfully changed their posture to help overcome various difficulties. There’s also a short quiz so you can test out your own understanding of posture! Nicholls introduces the idea that how we think is an integral part of our posture and movement, and is the significant factor in how we can successfully make sustainable improvements.
The second part of the book gives some postural exercises to help you start making changes. How you approach these exercises is critical, and Nicholls gives detailed instructions not only on what to do, but also on what to think – in particular on how to navigate the Alexander Technique process of directing – as an intrinsic part of each exercise. She recommends five specific exercises (“Your postural five-a-day”) that she considers vital to anyone wishing to “improve and maintain their postural health and mobility.” Active Rest (a common Alexander Technique practice of lying down in a semi-supine position while consciously directing your thoughts, also known as Constructive Rest) is understandably the foundation of these five. I enjoyed experimenting with the others, as well as with the variations and additional exercises that are given, all of which I found to be valuable. I particularly like the “right-angled body lengthening!” As an Alexander Technique teacher these have also given me many ideas of new ways to work with my own students, as well as ways they can practice on their own outside of lessons.
I recommend this book not only as a useful companion book for anyone having Alexander Technique lessons, but for anyone interested in changing their posture at the deepest level. There are many ideas for people with no Alexander Technique experience to explore, and exercises which, if approached thoughtfully, will do much to help improve your postural habits.
For further discussion of The Posture Workbook, you can listen to my recent interview with Robert Rickover for his podcast devoted to the Alexander Technique:
If you’ve read the book, or have thoughts on posture and the Alexander Technique, please share them in the comments below.