Why you don’t need to balance a book on your head to improve posture

Why you don’t need to balance a book on your head to improve posture


We’ve all seen those old films of women walking around with books on their heads. Back in the day, this was seen as a way of learning good poise and posture, and some people still believe that doing this will help them to improve theirs. However, this is not a foolproof method, and there are now more effective means of achieving good posture.

Why did people think that walking around with a book on their head was a good idea?

When learning about good etiquette, women used to balance a book on their head because it was believed that it elongated the neck, made the eyes face forward and straightened the back. However, if you assume this position you may find that the book falls off anyway, or that some people are capable of keeping the book on their head without doing all of these things. As such, there are better ways of trying to improve posture.

If you actually try to walk around with a book on your head you will most likely add more tension in your body – not the result that is useful and certainly not good posture!

Posture is dynamic and changeable, we need to be ready to respond to what happens around us.

Tips to achieve good posture

Think about your own head, imagine it on top of your spine. This imaging activity of locating your head in space is a super simple way to activate your good posture muscles (the fancy description would be your anti gravity reflexes). The balance of your head on your spine influences your TOTAL co-ordination.

Please note a very important part of the instruction it was to THINK about your head, you don’t actually need to do anything.  Thinking spatially about your body in an accurate anatomical way helps you tap into your wonderful natural co –ordination and poise.

Photo: C. Pizzuti
Photo: C. Pizzuti

Once you have imagined where your head is – on top!  Next is to allow small movements of your head, because posture is dynamic and it is a good idea to allow everything to move than needs to move.
These are just some of the simple posture-improving exercises you can do in the office and at home, without the need to balance a book on your head.

Working with a experienced teacher is the ideal to help you with Alexander Technique principles, however your curiosity and interest are incredibly important to learning new thinking and movement habits.

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