Extensive Chair-Sitting Practice

"Chair-sitting is a learned skill, and without the right knowledge we get into pain and trouble." - SH


Chair-Sitting Practice

Many of these ideas can also be used in floor sitting. Prolonged chair sitting as we do it today is so unnatural that such a long A-Z list is necessary. I enjoyed writing this as a counterpoint to the common belief that chair sitting is ridiculously simple – nothing to it.  If you look only at structure and alignment, that is true – what could be more simple than chair sitting? But when you look at movement, a vast amount of information presents itself, as you will see here. Chair sitting could be a lifetime study! Life is movement; good posture, alignment and comfort come out of intelligent movement, not static holding of any kind.

Thinking only structurally while ignoring movement will damage you, long term, since it makes you susceptible to indulgence in damaging short cuts to comfortably erect posture like stiffening the chest to sit up straight, using lumbar supports, getting used to arm rests which disconnect the shoulders from resting on the top ribs, not sitting on the floor when one is able to do so easily, soft sofas and bucket seats.  The skills described here will make chair sitting easy, painless and elegant. Anybody who sits, for any reason, in a chair needs to know this material. Those who meditate long hours in chairs, sitting immobile, are at great risk from “chair damage” unless some of these skills are used.  Once one learns to make “words” with this alphabet A-Z, all this can be done in only a few seconds, in a natural way, intuitively and appropriately in real time. It takes many words to describe simple movements – plus I like to contextualize, philosophize and over-explain, so really this list is much shorter than it appears. The most difficult thing to understand here is Part A – Chin Level; it took me years to be clear on all that, and I am most pleased to be able to offer this information, which I believe has never before seen print. Keeping your chin level is a not as simple as it seems.


  1. Chin Level, so important - too crucial to leave it to chance – get someone experienced to check you. If the chin is too high (even 1/8 inch can cause damage), it means the entire weight of your head is inappropriately compressing down the back of your spine. We want a quiet dignified carriage of the head, as is often seen in native cultures. You can also see it in toddlers who just learned to walk. Their head is so heavy, they Nature ensures that the carriage of their head is optimal. Their eyes do more work than ours do, and their head usually turns only after their eyes turn first. The turning of their head is restful. We jerk our head first, and then look. That is because we have staring eyes, relatively immobile eyeball movement and orient and check-out our environment we jerk the head instead of using the eyes first, then turning the head. We look at the top of the computer monitor and lift our chin instead of using our eyes.  We sacrifice our dignified head carriage to perpetuate our lazy, immobile eyes – from too much TV and computers and reading books. Our eyes stare, are not fully mobile. If by some magic or grace you find a happy young child or well-adjusted adult who has never watched TV, played a video game, used a computer, and has never learned to read – you can get a sense of what is natural for our human eyes. 
    • Habitual chin too high is caused by eyes being too lazy to look up. I’ll explain that in several ways here since even very experienced chiropractors and MDs do not understand that statement at face value. They’ll rather believe that looking down all day at a desk would make one keep the chin too low in standing. That seems more logical at first glance, true. But it is not the case. 
    • Shorter people are particularly vulnerable to chin-too-high. They are always looking up. But for almost everyone else it comes from looking down all day sitting at a desk or playing video games, using a computer. It can also come from reading in bed – the eyes cranked strongly down to read that book propped on your chest. Then, when we stand up and look around, we immediately construct a situation to allow the eyes to continue to be looking down: we lift our chin.  If we kept our chin restfully level, our eyes would be uncomfortably looking up; that is “not permitted” we think. “It feels like a strain, so I don’t want to do that” we might say. So instead we lift our chin to perpetuate downward eyes.  So many people go a lifetime like that; eventually they may get numbness in the fingers, shoulder pain, backaches, and sore neck as chronic conditions. Regular visits to the chiropractor give relief, but not permanent resolution. Chin too high means the entire weight of the head is inappropriately pressing down on the back of the spine.
    • As body language this kind of chin-too-high communicates that the laziness of our eyes is far more important to preserve rather than the integrity of our body organization. It also says that “rather than experience the minor discomfort of mobilizing the eyeballs and experiencing the slight pain of using them with full mobility (not the same as “stretching” them but a very similar process) them, I’d rather keep staring, and instead I will continually, carelessly, stupidly, mindlessly damage the carriage of my head and neck”. Only a little thought would show that like all muscles, the eye muscles can once again be trained to have full mobility. The trick is putting it into practice. It can be bigger job than you think if you’ve had chin-too-high many years. 
    • Similarly, when we look down at work, we drop the head and slump the upper back, instead of letting the eyes do the work of looking down. Years later we may wonder why we have dowager’s hump or stooped posture. Taller persons are particularly susceptible to this. An MD may tell such persons “it is because of fragile bones, calcium loss” and they may even believe it. So they’ll be taking calcium supplements instead of working with the eyeballs! They need to practice mobilizing eyeballs downward while keeping the head and spine erect in a relaxed manner. Let the eyeball mobility preserve the integrity of carriage of the head. If you sit with a folded paper napkin or Kleenix on top of your head – your eyes will start doing more work, as Nature intended. When it falls down, it reminds you to retain elegant head carriage and let the eyes come more alive. Please try this now as you sit reading this.
    • To say it another way: Information overload = looking down too long at a desk, in a chair. Looking down in sitting (even with chin level or a little below level) translates to chin too high in standing - chin too high in standing facilitates and perpetuates downward gazing lazy-to-look-up eyes. The body wants to have the same usage of the eyes in standing that was practiced for so many hours sitting. That means: lift the chin to be able to see distant things with downward gazing eyes (assuming of course those things are not below eye level right in front of us). Otherwise, the eyes would have to do some real work to actually look up. We have to look up and around while standing, not so much while sitting down at the desk. If we still had to look at the desktop in standing, of course, the downward-trending eyes would cause the head to bend down as well. Of course none of this would happen if the eyes were kept supple and mobile. 
    • Please read these paragraphs over until you understand it all fully; few people do (it is sort of counter-intuitive) and it will help you SO much. Not many people understand the part our eyes play in causing neck and back pain. Hopefully these paragraphs will motivate you to use your eyes with more mobility, especially to look up with the chin in (many times a day) keeping the head and neck quiet. And also to often look far to the left or right, letting the head turn after the eyes turn (make that lazy right eye look far left, and that lazy left eye look far to the right – crossing midline like that is helpful to balance your brain). All this is simply a decision you make, and implement. It does not mean you are doing eye exercises, or need to take a class or need permission from your eye doctor. Those can be excuses – as if we need some kind of professional permission to have natural usage of our eyes and break free of the cultural constraints – from the mass hypnosis of staring eyes that seems to be happening. Or we may think we have to wait for the right time to start such an exercise program. It is not an exercise program.  Just do it; it is safe, it is natural, there is no reason we all cannot do this more often. Look around more freely, without fixity of head and neck, but without excessive head turning also. It is how we are meant to be. Check out an infant in a baby carriage; see how much their eyes can move! Note: they are not jerking their head around to see. Their neck is quiet; their eyes do the work.  Imitate them: your neck and back will benefit tremendously. 
    • As you mobilize your eyeballs with more life and interest, there are a few hints that will help the process.  Start off by squeezing your eyelids tightly while you imagine gazing at a distant scene. This takes 10 seconds, max. The eyeballs naturally become more round in shape when we gaze into the distance restfully like during a vacation. Squeezing the eyelids while distant-gazing quickly rounds-out elongated staring eyeballs. Little kids naturally do this as they stretch and “scrunch” their eyes, after too much reading or TV. Watch them, you’ll see it. You may remember doing this yourself. Otherwise during prolonged near vision work the eyes become chronically elongated. That is what the eyeballs do naturally during near vision – they elongate slightly. You can see this as bulging eyeballs in persons who have just spent all day watching TV or at a computer. Unless we begin to correct this elongation from the beginning, this whole process will be fraught with discomfort, blurred vision and stress. You would most likely give it up. When you hit your limit of comfortable mobility, “play” that edge of discomfort; avoid confronting and using will power to force the eyes to move beyond it. Don’t power your way through. That would be counter-productive. Be gentle, but keep expanding your range week by week until you have the same mobility as a young toddler. As you turn your eyes to the left to look, give a little special impetus to the right eye, and likewise to the left eye as you look to the right. Staring eyes do not willingly cross midline, and a little attention is needed to insure that they begin to do so.
    • All it means, basically, is to be curious about your surroundings, above, behind and all around and even inside our head and body – and let your eyes initiate the movement; do not jerk your head first. All this can be done restfully, not with frantic or tense eyes. It is good to do this while working at a desk. The quickest way to improve eyeball mobility is to return to the idea of “internal reference” which we employed in our mother’s womb. Even with eyes closed, you can imagine seeing from the seat of the metaphysical 3rd eye, at the top of the spine between the ears. You can look at your left ear from inside, your right ear; you can look at the back of your forehead or even down your spine. No, you won’t see anything, but somehow there is logic to it. There is no rule that says you cannot use your imagination in this way. I actually have memories of doing this inside the womb.  Be free to look everywhere. The pleasant surprise that comes from a few moments of doing that is greatly increased eyeball mobility, seemingly by magic.
    • The eyeballs of a newborn baby are quite large compared to the rest of the head. That is as large as they get – eyeballs are fully developed structurally at birth, and there is no more growth. They don’t get any larger than that!  As the baby grows up, the skull bones continue to grow, but the eyes stay the same size, the skull bones accommodate and grow “around” the eyeballs. It is quite logical to assume that since Nature gave us at birth fully developed eyeballs; most likely She also mentored us in the womb with the very best functional usage of the eyes. How could it be otherwise?
    • When I woke up to this, I begin to ask “how do babies use their eyes in the womb”?  Can I remember what I did?  And my speculations – whether true or not – have proven to be most valuable for my clients and myself:  Babies “look” inside their head and body and the mothers body and behind them and all around. They don’t know they have two eyes in front of the face. They don’t know it is impossible for the two eyes to look at their right ear from the inside. So they just do it.  Probably they are aware of “one eye” at the top of the spine or neck between the ears and not so much at the point between the eyebrows. They are more aware of the low brain – the medulla between the ears. Babies are low-brain creatures. That means the medulla, wherefrom the two physical eyes proceeded in any case. They are using their “vision sense” as if from there. They can open their eyes and see light coming through mommy’s tummy. They hear sounds. They respond with eyeball movement, but they are very cramped in there. There is NO possible way they could be jerking or moving their head around to see, in utero. Nature was mentoring them to have a quiet – restfully supported in fluid but nearly immobile but not fixed – head and neck, chin in, while using the eyeballs to the maximum. They were curled up in fetal pose. Their chin was held in close to their chest. They often looked up and around – like that! This is why I recommend we often keep our chin in while we mobilize our eyeballs. It is always supremely helpful to reproduce what Nature gave us early in the developmental process of any function.
    • When you start this process, personal transformation is close at hand. How we use our eyes not only strongly influences our body tonus, breathing and emotional state but literally everything about “who we are” is written into how we use our eyes. When we begin to change this for the better, other seemingly unrelated changes can begin to cascade, one on top of the other. In my case I began to reconnect with the dreams and hopes I had as a young child; I thought I had lost touch with those.
    • Some people who do a meditation or prayer practice think they are lifting the eyes to the point between the eyebrows when actually they are downward gazing; they deceive themselves that they are looking up due to chin too high. Actually it is natural for the chin to lift when the eyes lift – we are born with that healthy reflex: where the eyes look the head will follow. But sitting immobile in meditation for hours is a different kind of functional activity than regular daily life. Different rules apply. For starters, the neck must be relaxed and there should not be a sense of fixity about the head carriage that is often seen; we don’t want to hold the chin level with any kind of force. By relaxing the back of the neck, automatically the chin will drop; no effort is needed. With the chin too high, when you open the eyes, of course it looks as if we are looking up; we see the ceiling! But it is only because our chin is so high. It is only an illusion; the eyes themselves are downward gazing, relative to the face itself. If you pray or meditate for long periods every day – it is worth saying again: it’s absolutely crucial that you have a person with an experienced eye tell you whether your chin is actually level, or not. There is a certain look of grace, dignity and power or charm when the chin is precisely level, and the neck relaxed. With the chin even 1/8 inch too high, that look is gone. If the chin is held level by fixity and will, that look is gone. It is quite remarkable. 
    • Otherwise a person may go their entire life with that pernicious habit of chin cocked too high,  that both prevents comfortable sitting, good meditations and prayer, and damages structure. Sadly, I have witnessed this numerous times.  John S. had been meditating twice daily – an hour or more twice a day – for up to 20 or 30 years. “Suddenly” he comes up excruciating neck pain, numbness in the fingers and intractable shoulder pain.  Painkillers are the only refuge. He has used his insurance to the max and gotten professional help; but it is only limited and temporary. He is discouraged and pessimistic about the situation; he may lose his job if he cannot use a keyboard. What I saw was that his admirably dogged determination to meditate regularly was causing his pain, because he was not properly taught or corrected regarding chin level. I knew this about him the moment he came into my office – the way he was holding his head and using his eyes. I already knew he was a meditator. Once I showed him where chin level actually was, he was shocked and astonished. Complete relief happened within a short time.  Immediately he felt a huge difference in his body. In one week all numbness was gone. Such relief! He could have sworn his chin was level all those years. He was thunderstruck that he wasted all those years, thinking he was meditating with “eyes lifted to the point between the eyebrows” when actually he was “semi-sleeping, resting in the subconscious not the superconscious mind, with eyes in downward mode, as usually happens during sleep”. He was also astonished at how difficult it was to look above the horizon with the chin level – I explained it was because of all those years of sitting at a desk looking down at papers or a monitor.
    • Not one of those other professionals asked to see him sit in meditation posture. Nor, most likely, would they have understood what they were looking to see. I’ve heard of monastic communities – where meditation is practiced – and they check each other, and correct each other, to make sure the chin is level. It really is that important. If you don’t live in such a community – then your job is to seek out someone with an experienced eye. If you know such a monk or nun, ask one of them to correct you! Just ask them if they think your chin is really level as you sit in a chair to meditate or pray. Please, don’t trust yourself to think you automatically know what “chin level” means.  “Kinesthetic appreciation is unreliable” as F.M. Alexander once said. We get comfortable, more or less, doing what we are used to doing, whether it is optimal or not.
    • Ask a movement or dance teacher, personal trainer, yoga teacher, coach or movie director, or acting coach – all of these people have well-trained eyes. They are all trained to look deeper at what people are doing than just skin level. You cannot judge “chin level” by the skin folds beneath the chin. You have to look through the skin to what the entire person including their skeleton is doing.  When you ask them, demonstrate various positions of your chin, and see which one they like the best – which one looks best to you? Which is most level, beautiful, restful and easy looking? That’s what you say. Tell them there will be a “magical and powerful look when we get it perfect.” When you find that position, memorize it. It will be slightly uncomfortable to look up from that position, even at the horizon. You’ll feel a deep compulsion to lift your chin so the eyes can once again relax from that effort to look up. Don’t succumb to that. That is how you want to be most of the time, as you sit to work, read or meditate, even to walk or run.
    • Even better would be first to read this entire document, begin to practice these ideas, and then see a person about chin level. You’d be sitting much more functionally.
    • A good practice to correct the chin-too-high tendency in meditation or any kind of prolonged chair sitting: many times during the day, keeping the chin in, look up strongly. Persist in this, even though it feels “illegal” or “difficult” or “I don’t like it”. The true and permanent correction for chin-too-high or too low (stooped posture) comes from strengthening the eyes to look up or down with easy facility. It will never happen just by trying to keep the chin level and spine erect while ignoring the usage of the eyes. You might artificially arrive at some semblance of “chin naturally held level while sitting” but it won’t be real. It won’t be functional. It won’t go deep.  To get the body to fully accept chin level in sitting takes some work, to counterbalance the long hours most of us spend looking down to read, write, or use a computer.
    • Do you go to movies? Sit in the front row or so, keep your chin in and down slightly – the only thing better than this would be to go to a play, sitting in the front row looking up. That way you’d be seeing in three dimensions, as Nature intended. Start going to your local theatre, see plays, instead of so many movies. Your brain will function better, your memory will improve – we are meant to think and visualize and remember in three dimensions, not two. Increasingly, we are becoming a culture of flat brained, two-dimensional, tunnel-visioned people.  If you think you have poor memory or poor visualization skills – ask yourself if you are using three dimensions or only two? 
    • Yes, movies will help eyeball mobility if you sit in the front row. But your eyeballs will not be changing focus, not much, from near to far. It is still the same flat screen with dancing lights. No change in eyeball focus! It is really not a good thing to practice! We do too much of that in front of TV or computers! Once you get out of the movie, be sure, as you continue to expand your visual periphery and curiosity that you also look far and near and then near to far often – while looking left or right and up or down, not just straight ahead. Let your head bobble but don’t jerk it around to see the big screen. Many little kids intuitively love to do this. I started doing this at age 50; now I am 63 and still it is a little difficult the first 5 minutes. But then again I only go to a movie every 3 years. But then my eyes wake up, move quickly, and I walk out of the theatre with eyeballs that can take in much more of my environment, much more lively and active. It feels wonderful: except that they don’t want to focus near to far and back. The older we are, the more tunnel-visioned into the “computer or TV box” we are, the more we want to sit farther back at the movies. You can even see it for yourself; who sits more to the back of the movies, generally speaking? Older folks. Who sits more towards the front? Kids. Of course, people have other agendas for where they sit at the movies, but generally speaking it is easy to see this.
    • Learn how to keep the chin level without tensing the front of the neck. This means let the chin drop with gravity, slowly, easily. This is taught in my workshops. Check my website, mybodycanlearn.com, for a video on this topic.  If you were to get involved in ATM or Awareness Through Movement lessons, eventually all of this would come naturally. Corrections would come effortlessly. You’d often practice looking up while dropping your chin and looking to the right while turning the head to the left – so many variations it would boggle your mind to try to describe it here. Out of all that would come really good function – whether in chair sitting, or meditation posture or keeping your chin level or mobilizing your eyeballs more actively. Your nervous system would automatically gravitate to keep you in optimal posture and optimal function every changing moment. That’s one of many benefits of doing movement lessons on a regular basis for many years. Regular ATM practice would be far better than doing what I describe here; however since most people are not going spend an hour a week for many years doing that, this is certainly the next best thing.
    • If you can understand all this, congratulations – it took me nearly 20 years to put all these pieces together and then begin to understand it. It is such a simple concept: “chin level”. But once you dig beneath the surface, and think functionally and developmentally instead of structurally, there is a lifetime of learning that could happen around that one thing. If you have friends with neck or back pain, tell them about this. It can save them years of suffering and lots of money. So few people know about this issue.  

 

  1. Pull the Shoulders Back and Slightly Down Diagonally towards the Opposite Hip  Only a gentle tug. If we are slightly leaning forward, this is a nice correction to bring us to fully erect posture – shoulders lined up over the hips. Understood in this way, “pulling the shoulders back” as a matter of postural vigilance, can be a very helpful practice. Do not lift the shoulders up first. That is harmful. We must never do that, except as an occasional exercise. We need to become more mindful about not lifting shoulders unnecessarily –it is body language for stress, disconnect. Shrugging your shoulders means “I give up”. If you think you are slumping, and need to stiffen to sit up straighter – first bring the torso back to vertical by just a brief “pulling shoulders back and down” moment. It is a great habit to remind the shoulders to stay down, grounded, as well. Only then consider other measures – but don’t make stiffening the back and lifting the chest your only choice. There are wiser, more gentle ways to sit up straight, that you will learn here.
  • Why pull the shoulders back diagonally? It is because there is no support for the shoulders going straight down. We are built in a spiral fashion, from the DNA to the cell, to every fiber, muscle, gland and tissue. You can feel this; press your right shoulder down towards your left hip and you will feel support, something solid there. Press your right shoulder straight down, and there is only a black hole – no support. Never think of keeping your shoulders down, especially by pulling them forcefully straight down. It contradicts your own anatomy;  it will never work.

 

  1. Be Able to Sense the Sitting Bones and Tailbone and the Entire Pelvis Floor at any time you wish to do so. Be able to move them. Know exactly how far apart they are and at what angle they are in relation to your sitting surface. Know where sitting bones are in relations to the tailbone. Be able to sense if the tailbone is comfortably uncompressed. You may even have to adjust the tension of clothing in that area, to release the tailbone. The tailbone wants only a feather touch. When the tailbone is free to move the posture is free to be supported starting from the pelvis floor – what Nature intended. We’d be better of wearing looser clothing like the ancients, so the tailbone would not always be touching clothing.  Did you know the brain must do constant work to inhibit the sensation of clothing on skin, of clothing on tailbone? Such inhibition – not sensing skin or body parts – means we do not have the full ability to sense and move that area as Nature intended.  Instead we are literally numbed down. We get body part amnesia. So, most of us make all kinds of other adjustments first when we encounter pain or difficulty in chair sitting or floor sitting. It is as if it is illegal to adjust the foundation in sitting posture. We even “correct” kids when they squirm in a chair, doing exactly that. 
  • We need to be able to mobilize independently the floor of the pelvis, including the tailbone, two sitting bones, the pubic bone and all tissue in between. If I am repetitive on this point it is because we are all so numbed out down there – a lifetime of compressing the tailbone, while thinking it is socially illegal to sense or move that area in sitting! The first step is learning to walk the sitting bones behind. That supports a lumbar arch. But many other types of movements are possible. You can bring one sitting bone more to the left. The tailbone can be moved a little forward and to the left. That area is the foundation of sitting; adjustments there are much more effective than pulling shoulders back, lifting chest, etc. Foundational! We need to get intuitive and comfortable to breathe into that area, to move it, to sense it; this means to think of your pelvis as sacrum and tailbone, hip joints and strong muscles. This is what the pelvis is mostly “about”; unfortunately most of us instead think of the pelvis in other ways, heavily laden with emotional baggage.
  • True, soft chairs or sofas, bucket seats and most desk chairs seem to prevent such movement. But once you mentor yourself to do it, it can be done even then. There is a common misconception: That the Sacro-iliac joints (SI joints - where the spine meets the pelvis) are “fixed” or “unmovable” joints. That myth got into the medical literature because the authors of Grey’s Anatomy, in the 19th century, used elderly men cadavers to evaluate the SI joints. Of course, in elderly men, they are liable to be fixed! But any Sumo Wrestler could show you what tremendous movement possibilities are there. They could not manage all that body weight without continual mini-adjustment of the pelvic floor, –one or two sitting bones moving relative to everything else. SI joints have more movement than we think. 
  • For better posture, please don’t think, as some teach, of an imaginary string tied to the ceiling, pulling the crown of the head up. This ignores the tailbone plus if you lean forward or back, the head and neck move in a disconnected way. There is too much fixity in such ideas. Instead:   think through the top of your head as if a beam of light is coming up from the TAILBONE. The light comes up and out the top of the head, or alternatively up and out the spiritual eye – this will keep the chin level. You can choose either one you like. Stand and walk move and sit that way now and then. It reduces frontal visual orientation and makes you taller. Including the tailbone as freely available to our self-image as we move – that is what we want. The trick is to include the tailbone in your awareness/self-image as we have all compressed and deadened it for many years with soft chairs. That means to be able to sense it whenever you think of it, whether you sit or walk or stand.
  • When you can think of the tailbone and the top of your head at the same instant (the image of a beam of light helps this) that means you can actually sense your spine as one piece, not as disconnected pieces - as is so common. Watch yourself closely, as you do this. Is there even a 1/2 second gap between your awareness of the tailbone and the top of the head or is it exactly simultaneous?  This habit just takes a gentle pressure of will – nothing strenuous, and not all the time! Just occasionally play with the idea of internally locating and sensing – moving from, your tailbone. To "get into" the spine this way has innumerable benefits. For instance: in this information age, we often over-use our eyes, taking all our attention outside of our body, to focus only on what is in front of us – the book, the paper, the computer monitor. We lose our spine and tailbone as our internal center. So, this practice helps to control the visual habit of "going out" too much visually.

 

  1. The Chair Should Be High Enough to insure that the hips are slightly higher than the knees, creating a natural lumbar arch. A regular bed-pillow folded in half lengthwise, a wedge cushion or other customized support works well. Avoid cutting off circulation in the upper legs from chair pressing on leg. The type of chair, the height and how much cushioning depends on one’s body geometry and what you are comfortable with. Likewise, if your hips hurt when sitting cross-legged, you probably need more support under your sitting bones – this also creates a better lumbar arch. However – take care to fold a blanket in such a way as to let the tailbone be suspended (see item “E”).

 

  1. Tailbone Suspended. Use the skills you learned in the workshop. It means using props, adjusting the tension of clothing on skin in that area (even if you do suspend tailbone above the chair the clothing can be pulling so tight that still, the tailbone is immobilized), sitting between chairs so the tailbone is suspended in the crack, sit on the edge of chairs, avoid soft sofas, don’t stuff a blanket under the pelvis while floor sitting unless you first fold the blanket to suspend tailbone (as shown in workshop: making a square folded blanket then diagonally rolling in the back corners) etc.  A rolled up yoga mat, or a yoga brick or even a Swiss ball – we can sit upon these taking care to position the sitting bones in such a way as to keep the tailbone suspended behind, hanging freely down.  For a Swiss ball, that may mean sitting a little more to the back of the ball.
  • If your tailbone is suspended a wonderful, light, expansive and free feeling comes over the entire body. Many of us have never experienced such a thing while sitting. Much of the fatigue and discomfort – long term – from chair sitting comes from an immobile pelvic floor and numbed-out tailbone from many years of abuse and compression.  When you sit on a soft sofa, have you noticed how you want to slump?  It’s natural – it is because it relieves pressure on your tailbone.
  • Some people believe that because their tailbone has been injured, none of this applies to them, since they are “beyond help.”  They will say “14 years ago I fell and landed on my tailbone, so I really cannot sense my tailbone.” That cannot be true. Many muscles attach to the tailbone, whether it has been injured or not. Still it is the bottom of your spine. Still it must be able to be sensed and moved. But it is certainly worth a trip to the MD, Chiropractor or Physical Therapist to determine whether your tailbone is twisted or bent under too far (many of us have fallen on our tailbones). Such professionals have ways to correct that – in certain cases.
  • Do you get tired from driving after a couple hours? If you use a car board (plus some cushioning) with a Tush-Cush® attached to suspend the tailbone (or some other custom arrangement that you choose – it depends on how tall you are – maybe you don’t want the Tush-Cush® and prefer just a little board, with perhaps 1” of foam cushioning attached or use a folded blanket. Such little amount of foam will not compress the tailbone, but it will make it more comfortable. This is what I do), then your sitting bones will have a “rocky bottom” to allow the body to feel supported. Then you can relax. Then shoulders can relax and drop as you use the steering wheel. Yes, your sitting bones may feel uncomfortable for a few weeks, but you will be able to drive for 3-4 or more hours with minimal fatigue. You won’t believe it. You have to experience it to believe it. I know this is true because this is the feedback I get from my clients.
  • Your tailbone knows how to take care of your low back, and your spine, and your neck – and the carriage of your head. Another way to say this: when your spine is not locked down at the bottom, there is an inherent intelligence in our spine and rib cage that allows everything to adjust properly in response to varying postures and movements.  Without freedom for the tailbone, our only alternative is to try to find what is “correct” to minimize discomfort and trouble. This is a dead end. In Chinese medicine, if the top of your neck is in crisis, they work on your tailbone. Why?
  • Movement must flow through the tailbone into the floor of the pelvis, into the sitting bones, hip joints and leg bones. Otherwise problems will arise elsewhere. But what do most of us do? We immobilize the tailbone, we pretend it does not exist (it is “not polite” to even think about that area, you see”) and press on it, and deaden it with soft chairs, tight clothing and shorts. We never sense it, we never move it deliberately. For most of my clients, they cannot even begin to imagine sensing the tailbone at first. Yet, that is our birthright!
  • It is not exactly that the tailbone itself is intelligent. Once you can connect to it (just as you can sense and move and connect to a thumb by thinking of it, instantly) at will, and it is suspended – free to move – there is definite information that comes to the conscious mind, as to how to adjust your butt, your sitting bones, your chair surface, your leg positions, etc to optimize your sitting posture or achieve pain relief or more comfort. All that information is squelched by a tailbone that is fixed. 

 

  1. Relaxed Belly but with enough tension or “muscular readiness” to maintain some postural integrity. There are two tests to see if you are doing this, and at the same time they are the “cure”:  One, can you do abdominal breathing easily, without activating chest breathing?  Place one palm on your chest, the other on your abdomen. Only the lower hand should move. Practice this. Two, can you do tiny, restful little “belly dancing” movements – with coordination of the belly and low back – rocking on the sitting bones and mobilizing floor of the pelvis, wherein the lumbar spine and belly/abdomen and floor of the pelvis are all moving harmoniously in concert? If you can do that, you are not holding too much tension.
  • Some of us have unresolved emotional issues connected to our pelvis – so we don’t allow ourselves to sense it or move it, as if it would not be proper or not allowed. The cure: start thinking of the pelvis as tailbone and sacrum and powerful center of the body where movement is required and allowed and not all that other stuff. Or perhaps you are still completely dependent on lumbar supports. While they are needed for office chairs, they are not needed on flat chairs, once you have learned to implement these ideas. Lumbar supports immobilize not only the tailbone, but also the entire lower spine.  We want to gradually wean ourselves from lumbar supports. Mexican ranch house chairs all have a flat bottom and flat back, with perhaps some minimal cushioning. They are the ideal kind of chair, for many many reasons. I buy mine at Rosarito, Mexico. Take them to your local upholstery shop, and cover them with minimal cushioning.
  • Modern chairs have made all of us “pelvis incompetent”. And it turns out, the best way to heal such pelvic movement-amnesia, guarding and tension, is through movement and sensing that area while moving slowly, easily, facilitated by a flat chair. Learning is context specific – you may be athletic, you may be a dancer and your tailbone may move very nicely. Still, when you sit in a chair, the “tailbone amnesia” habit can be there.  Really – it is crucial that we actually do this work in a chair to restore our spinal integrity in sitting.
  • Occasionally practice abdominal breathing in a chair – it means you soften the belly, and sense the breath pressure even on the floor of the pelvis.  Also you can do belly dancing in a chair, as described. If either of these seems confusing or too difficult, it means you’d benefit from private somatic work or group classes.  

 

  1. Knees at Least Shoulder Width (or else the lumbar arch collapses, and one needs to then have a lumbar support). The wider the knees, the better. For women, of course, this means longer dresses. This is contradictory to modern fashion, yes, but at least we should have the right understanding, unclouded by cultural or sexual prejudices: knees together means no lumbar arch, or tension laden-hip joints if you force yourself to sit up straight with knees together, it can stress hip joints and low back. Knees together in sitting encourage or create a collapsed lumbar arch with a tucked-under tailbone (flexed pelvis), meaning no support for the torso. That is simply because of the way the bones of the legs and pelvis are designed. When you stiffen to sit erect with knees together you use excess effort; this becomes a habit. Then the psoas muscles which flex the hips need to work harder when we need to bend forward. The net result: all these muscles –when excessively activated in this way – compress the lumbar spine and pull the ball of the femur strongly into the hip socket. It is just how the psoas muscles are attached – look at any anatomy book. This is one reason I recommend long dresses for women; it is not so unacceptable to sit with the knees shoulder width. 
  • Do you think that when you stand up out of the chair, such hip-joint compression will disappear? Not at all. For most people, such compression becomes a continual companion, unless they get into somatic work, either privately or group classes or workshops such as I conduct. How do I know this? Because when I see a new client, that is how the hip joints are. This means incredible hip joint compression, even while sleeping, pain, and (I believe) eventual need for joint replacement. And then we blame the poor hip joints! Are you a woman who sits with knees together? Do you want to avoid hip surgery later in life?  Keep you knees shoulder width in chair sitting.
  • Knees together in sitting mean you must be dependent on a lumbar support.  We need to learn a better way of chair sitting: walk the sitting bones behind you, soften your belly, widen your knees, center your breathing and your head, firmly plant your two feet, use a flat chair with hips higher than knees – you won’t need a lumbar support. All this is impossible in a standard office chair.
  • I used to think lumbar supports were ergonomic. But now, from a common-sense somatic point of view, I see a different “truth”: lumbar supports are horrible, they immobilize the pelvis, the belly and abdomen, they prevent breath movement in the lower back, all the breathing movement will happen in the front, giving you a distended belly (or even worse, you’ll be chest breathing, or else you will hold incredible tension 24/7 drawing up the abdomen to prevent big belly), they encourage fixity of lumbar vertebrae and that means progressive compression as the years go by, and it takes away your powerful pelvis – center of your body movement wise and balance-wise. Your digestion will suffer. Your sexual organs will suffer. Circulation in that region will be diminished.   When you become dependent/incompetent in such a way, in the center of your body, and for the foundational part of your spine – the negative emotional and psychic and mental and spiritual repercussions are beyond calculation. Depending on how much your body accepts the idea that the lumbar spine is not competent, must be supported and immobilized – the damage can indeed be incalculable.  Can you even imagine a wild animal going though life with a lumbar spine like that? He’d be dead meat, quick. Lumbar supports are a wonderful way to set ourselves up for low back pain and injury – when a body part becomes immobilized, unresponsive, guarded and compressed, it is very prone to injury. We need to get away from those things.
  • So we keep our knees together, we stiffen to sit up straight, we use lumbar supports, and then we get back problems – and we blame our back. Better to blame ourselves, our chairs, our habits, our lack of somatic education.  Somatic education is the truly permanent cure. The nervous system and brain is mostly about human movement. If you mentor your nervous system (which includes your brain) with lumbar support mentality, you are mentoring yourself – in your very core - to be immobile, unresponsive, dependent, incompetent and unwilling to be independent in any arena – at least it won’t come naturally. To quickly change your brain, to change your life, change how you are using your body while sitting – especially if you sit for many hours each day!  Buy a hard and flat wooden stool and use it at home. Then bring one to work, and start sitting like that for 20 minutes each day. As you get used to it, eventually you can sit like that much longer –without a backrest! And you’ll say, like clients tell me, “It feels so much better than the office chair”. It is like getting out of prison. We are so used to the prison, it is hard to conceive. But it may take you some weeks or some years of somatic work, depending on your issues. Yes, using a wooden stool or other flat-bottomed chair at work will seem strange – but when you know all the facts (keep reading), you’ll want to do it. A couple inches of hard foam or firm cotton batting on top are OK: any upholstery shop can do this.
  • To answer your unspoken question: yes, you will need to lift up the stool and move it around numerous times every time you need to reposition yourself. There are no rollers. At first this will seem like self-abuse, like really hard work. It may take you (like it did me) months to get strong enough wrists to lift the stool easily with one hand only.  It may distract you from your job. Yes, it requires that you stand, bend, grip, lift, and twist your spine, and then sit down again. It’s all good exercise, and much needed while sitting at a desk long hours. It will require that you learn good mechanics for getting up from, and back into, your chair: bending from the hip joints, keeping the sitting bones walked behind you, shifting your weight to your feet before coming up, and letting your butt stick out as you sit down. All this must be done with a relaxed and flowing movement, easy breathing and a supple spine.  It is a wonderful opportunity to practice all these somatic virtues; and it is a healing counterpoint to the fixity, staring eyes, tight belly and over-frontal orientation that usually accompanies sitting in a swivel desk chair. All this is magnificently helpful, functional and can only improve your competence in all arenas.  Years ago, I lamented because I cold no longer find the lightweight wooden stools. Apparently a law was passed to require heavier wood, so it would not break. The stool seemed heavy to lift, at first. But after a few weeks, I got used to it. Now I appreciate the weight; it mentors me into good movement.
  • I too used to think of wooden stools as primitive. But now I understand how movement and postural competency are compromised by “modern” chairs, and facilitated by “primitive” chairs and sitting arrangements. I still use the word primitive but no longer pejoratively – to me it now means smarter, more efficient, more natural, and protective of our natural heritage: independence, good movement, little pain, long life and healthy joints. Look to what our ancestors were doing if you want to see what is efficient and helpful to the body.

 

  1. Head Not Too Far Forward. This does not apply to everyone; if your head is forward of center, you know it. If not, skip this section.
  • Center of gravity of head ideally should be balanced nicely over the spinal curves, and in line with the hips, not protruded forward. This takes strategy, time and patient practice, if your head has been forward for many years. But, it is correctable. Primarily, we need to walk our sitting bones behind us, and bring our shoulders over our hips, and trust our eyes to see without leaning forward. This can take care immediately of half the problem.
  • The most important correction: keep your lips together as you work, and let your tongue rest on the top of your mouth. You can even curl it up and back as long as you like. Your head does not even want to go forward if you do this. If all this is not possible then you need to look into Myo Functional Therapy (Oral Myology) and the Buteyko Method. With the mouth hanging open, your tongue drops down, with the tongue tip touching the lower front teeth. The tongue will then pull the head forward on top of the spine. This is a primary cause of head forward posture. We don’t want this! Sealing the lips, breathing through the nose – this comes first. If your sinuses are always clogged, there are remedies. Nasal washing, using a yoga neti pot can help. The Buteyko method has a twenty-minute protocol to clear the sinuses – just Google “Sleep Apnoea and Buteyko Method”, you’ll see it. Try it. Be sure to spell apnea as “apnoea”.  That is the European spelling and you get the full story that way. If you use the American spelling “apnea’ you get very little. You’ll need to eat less pasteurized dairy that is non-organic. Many know that dairy clogs the sinuses, but have not investigated whether healthy raw milk or cheese from grass fed cows does not have that effect. Try it for yourself. Also you may have other food allergies that can clog your sinuses.
  • Here in California we have access to raw milk from grass fed cows. In other states you may need to get creative, find a farmer, join a club, etc. I have a friend outside of California who “bought” a cow for a few dollars from a farmer. He “leased” the cow back to the farmer “for the life of the cow”. There was actually a signed contract. So he was then legally entitled to get raw milk from that cow. Raw milk from grass fed, free-range cows is very healthy and safe. Raw milk from feed-lot cows, with manure everywhere, fed grain and antibiotics, BST, hormones, etc – is very dangerous. It must be pasteurized to be more or less safe. To see the science  on this, Google “California SB 201” and watch the youTube videos. Or go to OrganicPastures.com, they have an abundance of information. Pasteurized casein (the protein in dairy) as well, according to the ground-breaking book The China Study, is the main cause of cancer (the studies in the book involved pasteurized dairy. There was no mention about raw milk. It is only my assumption that raw milk casein is safe; I could be wrong of course). This book presents abundant and irrefutable evidence of the strong link between animal protein and cancer – and casein is the #1 culprit. Since reading that book, I no longer eat cheese - unless it is raw and organic. 
  • Who knew that raw milk from grass fed cows had anything to do with correcting head forward posture while sitting at a desk? Life is strange.
  • But don’t try to retract or slide the head backwards – that can never work. There are no joints in the body that slide like that. You’ll just get a stiff, military (no cervical curve) neck that way.  When thinking of body movements – think spiral, rotation and twisting and not flat, straight line. The body is built in a spiral fashion, from the DNA up. The best preventive for head forward is simply to avoid carelessly letting the head drift too far forward, as we sit to eat, work or read. An easy way to do this is to think of a feather brushing up against the chin to inhibit the tendency to thrust it forward, or by sitting with a folded paper napkin on top of the head. Again, this is not the same as using effort to force the head to go back - which is futile, temporary and can be damaging. There are many exercises and strategies to correct head forward posture, but most of these take dedicated time to practice. Few have time for that. What can be done quickly while chair sitting?
  • Here are some ideas.  Counter-rotation of shoulder girdle and head turning is one good way. Here’s how: bring your right shoulder forward as you look to the right. Make your left eye work hard to cross midline. Turn the head as far as you can to the right, comfortably. Sit up taller. Keep shoulders down and chin in.  The first time you do this it feels like cracking ice, like pins and needles – almost like it is impossible to do or is forbidden to do. That just means you really need to learn it. This powerfully brings your head quickly over center. 
  • Another is to connect the eyes to the spine as described in the Vision Practice Handout. Squeeze the eyelids tightly, and imagine your eyes sinking back to the top of the spine – the medulla oblongata. See as if from there, as if you had one eye “from” there and not two eyes.  It is from this region – top of the spine – from which the two eyes were formed, in utero. When our eyes “go forward” from there, and we instead over-identify with the two physical eyeballs, the head also tends to go forward of the torso.  And metaphysical teachings often say that the top of the spine is the seat of the spiritual eye (the center of forehead is just a reflection of this). Another idea: sit with a folded paper napkin on top of the head – to remind yourself to leave your head alone to be quiet and dignified over your torso, not thrust forward. Here is my favorite method: Clasp hands behind your head – or just use one hand (palm behind head) and twist and turn your arms and torso. While the hands are pulling the head forward, the muscles needed to bring the head over center are waking up and working for a change. This is most helpful.
  • You may need computer glasses to avoid thrusting the head forward to see clearly. When you sit erect at the computer, can you see the monitor clearly, and printed matter on your desk? Another tip is to imagine breathing from the back of the head. This will center the breathing and moderate head forward posture. Finally, you can allow little left-right “jiggles” or movements of the head as you use your eyes to look at the monitor or paperwork. That little bit of rotation is a reminder to keep the head over center – a rotating head likes to be relaxed over its centerline of support. If you allow fixity of head and neck, with staring eyes, your head inevitable will drawn forward as you work. The most functional and successful people, in whatever field, stay loose and never rigidly keep body parts tense and fixated.

 

  1. Movement and Breathing and Awareness Equally Available Both in Imagination and Reality – in Any Direction: back, front, up, down, side bending left or right, turning left or right, looking down or up. For just a few moments, breathe as you imagine a second nose at the back of head, base of skull, at nose level. This centers your breathing more to the back; you can sense your spine and skeletal support more easily by doing just one breath of that, if it is done mindfully.
  • Pretend you are a martial artist defending against a sword attack – any direction. Move from the floor of your pelvis, widen your knees, as you strongly twist and bend to defend – move that imaginary shield - against the imaginary sword attack. This will automatically create amazingly elegant and beautiful “Samurai Warrior Posture” in sitting that can even intimidate your friends and teachers. That is a good thing; allow it! Teach your kids this – use a folded newspaper, and start gently (but quickly) attacking them while they sit. Attack from the front, sides, back, from above and below also. Tell them to block your strikes with their forearm or lower leg. They will laugh and scream, while they move from their pelvis, widen their knees, ground their feet, keep their spine supple, and re-acquire a self-image or intuitive awareness of all the space around them, not just in front. All these are postural virtues that are not taught anywhere else.  Too often teachers are used to kids sitting either in poor posture or obedience-laden stiff erect posture, tail tucked under to communicate cowardly obedience. It is true: some kids and even more adults won’t be able to do this easily without mentoring, for whatever reason. Usually it is because of too much TV and computers and cell phone use – staring eyes, fixed head and neck. Or perhaps they are too invested in being “good” which (they think) means obedient postural rigidity.  Or, all this can be done with pure awareness – imagine infinite distance around you in all directions, and practice extending your imagination and awareness out like that.  Once you practice awhile you can just intend to do these things and the body will respond. It takes no time at all and hardly any conscious attention.

 

  1. Quiet, Restful, Dignified Carriage of the Head. Those of us who work all day at a desk using a computer – and kids who do video games or were raised on TV – sadly acquire the habit of head-neck fixity while using the eyes within a narrow range without changing focus. It becomes a lifetime disability, creating staring eyes, collapsed frontal visual field, elongated eyeballs, tunnel-visioned ways or thinking, feeling and acting, and the tendency to jerk the head around to look or listen, instead of first leading with active eyes, and letting the head turn restfully which is the reflex we had when we were born (in the womb: we did use our eyes with full mobility – because newborns have fully mobile eyes, but our head could not turn very much. That is how Nature prepared us). Lazy TV/computer eyes means jerking your head around, all your life. The head is as heavy as a bowling ball – is it any wonder we get neck pain and compression of vertebrae?  Neck compression and back pain and incredibly tight rib cage is a common result. Everything in the body has to tighten up to facilitate such jerky, quick, abusive head movements.  No amount of chiropractic, PT, yoga, or exercise will cure this. It is a learned behavior.
  • We can never break such unconsciously entrenched habits. But we can replace them by learn new ways of seeing, moving and being by taking somatic movement lessons, or we can try to remember how we were before TV, and try to recreate that. That is how I try to do it.  Using will power to try to fix, correct, improve or change such habits results only in fatigue and ultimate failure. Instead we can use the magical tool of pure awareness, without judgment or trying to correct it, and then explore the pattern with many variations (movement lessons do this), and that opens the path to allow us to learn to inhibit it at odd moments whenever we become conscious that you are doing it, and use gentle somatic approaches – including work with the eyes and vision such as I describe in my Vision Routine Handout - to institute contrary but correct natural habits. We can start by practicing turning the head but leading with the eyes, particularly the trailing eye crossing midline. The eye movements should activate some head movement on top of he spine (between the ears) without throwing the weight of the head around like a mini-whiplash. When you turn the head, the eyes should usually lead. The trailing eye should activate the head turning by pulling on the cranial bones. Again, you can actually feel this if you slow down and try it out. This is a temporary minor remedy for head-neck fixity, but not the complete cure. Regular somatic work with a broad focus is essential. 
  • The eyes should be active, mobile to the far end ranges (far more than we think), curious, alive, attractive, and not dead and staring! Dignified carriage of the head implies active eyes with a well-balanced head and quiet neck, but not a fixated head/neck. This is a somatic subtlety that you must understand and embody if you want to get rid of neck pain. You can only acquire this by minimizing TV and non-essential computer time, and by regularly doing some appropriate somatic work.  Most people, including chiropractors and osteopaths (in my experience) do not know this simple physiological fact: the eyeball muscles are about 100 times stronger than they need to be to just move the eyeballs. Why? What was Nature thinking? Did Nature make a mistake? Is it truly possible that the eyeballs have some job to do, moving and tugging on the cranial bones? After all, eyeball muscles do attach to cranial bones. I’ve actually met an osteopath (Dr. Kurliwitz) who worked with an ophthalmologist (A Dr. Solomon in Los Angeles, now deceased). The D.O. could create an accurate glasses prescription just by monitoring the cranial bones while various lens were fitted. The proper lens maximized sphenoid bone motility and mobility. Can you believe that? He did it for me. I saw him do it.  I still wear those glasses – they optimize cranial rhythm and movement. They are very comfortable prism glasses.
  • Yes – there is a way you can deliberately engage those powerful eyeball muscles to help align your cranial bones. I do this all this time; it feels so good. I look powerfully to the left using mindfully and primarily the right eye crossing midline to the left. Right away I feel the right eye tugging on my eyeball socket, helping me to turn the head to the left. I allow that tugging feeling to motivate the head turning. I let the head turn as far as possible. I grow taller, I don’t slump and I twist my shoulder girdle the opposite direction – the right. I look as far behind me as I possible can, while intentionally using mostly the right eye primarily. I let the left eye do whatever it wants to do. I twist and turn my spine; I look up and down, to create some variety of movement.  I keep my eyeballs “cranked” strongly looking behind me – but I think of one eye at the medulla area – top of spine. Not only is this the center of rotation for this movement, it is the place “from” which I can imagine that I am seeing, or using my external eyes. I may be wrong, but to me, all this feels like the most wonderful cranial bone adjustment that it is possible to receive. And its free. It even aligns my spine bringing my head over my center. You can do it yourself, without paying someone $120.00 per hour! Of course you would want to do this in both directions, left as well as right.
  • Can you make small, slow micro-movements of the head on top of the neck? Can you close your eyes and move them around, letting that activate little head movements? Do you feel how you have to relax the head-neck fixity to do that? These kinds of movements are such that the neck (from ear level to shoulder level does not move, not much, but very slightly perhaps in response to the head movement. If the neck is moving more than 1/5th of an inch you are doing a whiplash movement, very harmful. . This only takes about ½ second. Indian side-bobble is good here. Don’t force this movement, it requires no effort, it is like a ball rolling slightly on top of a stick. See Steve privately to be sure you are not doing too much, creating a whiplash movement as most people do who first try it out. You can only learn this movement by relaxing into it, deeply relaxing.  If you are reading while you sit – look at the white spaces between the print. And let your head flow slightly with that eye movement. No head-neck fixity! It is such a deep habit in most people, it is considered normal.  This speeds reading and improves comprehension, while preventing staring. Black print is absence of light – we should not be trying to look directly at print in any event, since there is nothing to see there.
  • Having a dignified carriage of the head also means that when you look down you mobilize your eyes first and let your eyes do most or all of the work of looking down, not the neck and spine bending! Practice this while looking at a cell phone in your lap.

 

  1. Often Do 15 Seconds of Tensing and Relaxing. The modern way of chair sitting is unnatural. None of our ancestors used soft sofas and bucket seats and swivel “ergonomic” chairs – I challenge anyone to contradict this statement. I’d love to see evidence. By “ancestors” I mean before 1750.  Thomas Jefferson, in the “Declaration House” where he drafted the USA Declaration of Independence – sat in a chair that had a hard and flat bottom. That room has been reconstructed. The Quakers made museum-quality chairs that were works of art. Each of them – hard and flat bottom. 
  • Most everyone knows that prolonged bed rest is harmful, for many reasons. Better to be up and about, even if you are still slightly sick! Most any MD, PT or Chiropractor will tell you this.  The medical research now supports this. Why would it be any different for “prolonged chair sitting”? That is especially true for bucket seats – total immobility! And so many people pay large sums for the chairs that immobilize you the most (form fitted). A little somatic wisdom is sorely needed here. Chairs immobilize us just like a bed. But if anything the damage goes deeper, since we are anesthetizing our movement and balance capability (which means most of our brain) even while we are working and attempting to be fully functional. This is like taking sleeping pills while forcing ourselves to stay wide-awake. From the point of view of somatic learning, it is truly imbecilic.   The only movement and awareness that is encouraged is straight ahead, linear, flat.  Floor sitting (if you can do it painlessly, even using pillows is OK) is far healthier; it is tri-dimensional, not flat, and reaching movements to the side easily mobilize the ribs, spine and pelvis. Ones connection to our base of support (the earth) is closer and broader; hence the balance mechanisms in the body and brain can take a rest. This gives us far more efficient mental function, while sitting on the floor. If you were to try it out for a month, you would probably get a sense about this.
  • What is the best antidote to prolonged immobility from chair sitting? It is not enough to do yoga or run after your work is over, and then again practice immobility and staring and fixity of head and neck for 8 hours or more. That is like hitting your head against the wall, and every night, bandaging the wound – it does not solve the problem. You’ll be taking that deadened brain, fixity, frontal orientation and staring eyes into your yoga practice or running, or tennis or whatever. I see this. You’ll just get more clever about perpetuating the dysfunction. We need to confront this issue head-on.  We need to do something in chair sitting while working to moderate the damage in the first place.
  • For starters, there should be some muscle work to be congruent with the sympathetic activation (fight or flight hormones etc) that always goes along with the stress of chair sitting while working at a job – where we must perform up to a certain standard.
  • My suggestion: every 15 minutes or so, do a “mini tune-up” of 15 seconds: little isometrics and stretches that specifically redress the damage from chair sitting and will improve posture, movement and breathing. Close your eyes and sense your body and the space around you in full dimensionality while doing the following exercises: 
    1. Pull the shoulders down strongly and release several times. Then do little reaching forward movement of one arm and then the other but with the shoulders firmly down – as if to grab the mouse, type or reach for an item on your desk. Let your elbow move more       to the side and pretend your elbow is “heavy” so that your shoulder will be given “space” to stay relaxed and fully grounded down. If we keep our elbow too close to the body while reaching, our shoulders will lift. All this would not be an issue if we were working while floor sitting, all of our reaching would be reaching downwards and the shoulders would not be lifting every time we reached with an arm. When we reach and lift the shoulder, it means the shoulder stays lifted all the time while working. This is horrible self-abuse. All this mentors us as to how we should reach at any moment in our life, and has good effect on relaxing the neck, which then no longer has to keep holding the entire weight of the shoulder girdle each time we reach for the mouse.
    2. Suspend entire torso with stiff arms pushing down on the chair (this strengthens the muscles that pull the shoulders down). Suspend the entire torso off the chair, but be sure to keep the shoulders down firmly. This quickly, strongly gives relief to shoulders that are too-long lifted up, with sore neck. This strengthens the muscles that pull shoulders down.
    3. Grab the back of the chair to prevent any movement while you pull strongly (like an isometric static workout) downwards as if to slump more, to bring the head forward more, to do all the “bad” things. By tensing those muscles deliberately, they are fatigued, and become conscious and we can then inhibit them much more easily – posture will improve immediately.
    4. Do the reverse – starting from the worst possible slump, head forward etc, grab the chair legs and without permitting any body movement, pull up and back as if to sit up straight. This strengthens all the “good posture” muscles.
    5. Straighten both arms and bring them to shoulder level, and then slowly swing them as far behind you as you can. It’s like you are preparing to give someone a gigantic hug. If you don’t have room for this at least do it with one arm. This is a classic bicep stretch; we all have biceps that are far too contracted. Practically everything we do in life involves contracting the biceps, particularly sitting at a desk we do that. Please note that the biceps do not stretch just by letting the arms hang fully extended by the sides (because the biceps are attached above the shoulder joint) – to stretch the biceps it is necessary to swing the arms as described.
    6. Clasp the hands behind the head and pull the head forward. This strengthens and wakes up the muscles that bring the head over center. Move your elbows in a circle, twist and side-bend your spine. Then do it with one arm; move your elbow around in the air with the hand behind your head.
    7. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Breathe in such a way that your upper hand does not move, and your bottom hand moves only slightly. We don’t need to do heavy deep breathing while sitting. Relax your abdomen and belly; sense the floor of your pelvis while doing this kind of abdominal breathing. Sense the pressure of your breath even in your low back. If your upper hand is moving – you are chest breathing and that creates a host of troubles. It is body language for stress, it pulls the head forward, and it is inefficient. It should be used only when we are exercising and truly need more air. While doing this keep your chin in and look up and then near and far; let your vision rest at the far point. This will counterbalance all the downward looking while staring at a monitor or papers on your desk. Looking restfully into the distance is body language for stress-relief and relaxation. People go on vacation just to spend a week doing this! Abdominal breathing likewise – the same is true. We tighten our belly due to vanity or stress even while sitting in a chair at work. We think that is the way to be efficient and even athletic. That encourages chest breathing, lifting shoulders, while staring to the close point for hours on end. That’s quite a devilish concoction of self-abuse disguised as a “workday”. Then we complain that our “work is stressful”. Younger people mostly are the ones doing this; they can get away with it for many years due to their youth. But older and wiser folks know better.
    8. Twist the right forearm so the right thumb goes clockwise, but prevent this movement with your other hand grabbing strongly the forearm. Then reverse arms. This will strengthen the outward rotation of the forearms. When we type our hands are constantly inwardly rotated and the outward-rotation muscles are overstretched and lazy. This is a good remedy; Keeping the right arm bent at the elbow 90 degrees, swivel from the shoulder joint and push the forearm out to the right. Repeat on the left side, or do both at once against the inside of your desk chamber, where your legs are. While typing or working at a desk, our arms are inwardly rotated continually. This is a remedy.
    9. Turn the head fully to one side, using the trailing eye to strongly cross midline. Stay there, breathe, look around, and move or squirm in any fashion the spine and ribs and pelvic floor with head turned like that. Turn your shoulder opposite to your head. Then reverse to the other side. Neurologically this is the exact opposite of sitting with fixed eyes and fixated head-neck-shoudlers and pelvis immobile with head/neck straight ahead and is wonderfully refreshing.
    10. Child’s stretch – 4 seconds. Kids do this intuitively. Stretch while lifting your arms to shoulder level, turn your head to the right chin in eyes up and defocused-relaxed, bringing your right shoulder towards your head (counter-rotate head and shoulder). Scrunch the eyelids tightly, eyes closed as you make a tense face, while tensing up the pelvic floor, abdomen and belly. Then reverse to other side. Relax and let everything drop down – pelvis floor, belly, shoulders and breath. Look around with soft and open focus, no staring, wide-angle vision. This is so corrective, so healing.
    11. My favorite – with eyes defocused or in far vision mode, strongly squeeze the eyelids for a slow count of twelve. This reverses eyeball elongation from long near-vision deskwork in a chair. While it is better to incorporate this as part of #10 above, it is worth its own paragraph.
    12. Spinal Twist your spine and turn your head while resisting with your arms. Then go ahead and follow through and actually do a nice twisting of your spine, as far as comfortable.

Once you practice all these for a few months, they will be second nature, and your body will cry out if you forget to do them. When you get a sore neck, you’ll realize that your shoulders have been lifting all day long. You’ll have a resource to go back to, as described in #1 above. Many of them you will incorporate without even thinking about them. That’s because they are all things you would have done naturally as a little child.  It will be like your natural movement-vocabulary that automatically goes along with chair sitting. You’ll feel the logic to these exercises after you practice them for a few weeks. You’ll love what they do for you.  You may need to see me privately to perfect each of these movements, stretches or isometrics.  They will feel SO good.  Eventually you will be able to combine them creatively. 

 

  1. Shoulders Restfully Grounded, Not Lifted. Check in with this. It never works permanently to force or push the shoulders down using will power (although that is a good exercise to do often provided you pull them diagonally down and back). Shoulders will come right back up in a little while. So, what to do? 
  • The real answer is doing movement lessons at least once a week, where you practice mindful, efficient, inventive and powerfully connected movement – shoulders will be grounded automatically, no effort. That will carry over to the rest of your life. Failing in this, it becomes very complicated; you’ll agree as you read the following list which is far too long.
  • Really, this following list is just my way of pointing out that when we abandon Nature’s ways (sitting on the floor, hard and flat chairs, etc) it can be very complicated-seeming to try to reproduce what Nature would have built into our very bones from early childhood. Yes - it is a long list; but again, we should have been automatically, intuitively incorporating all these ideas in our lifestyle and our bodies since early childhood. External influences took that away from us. What you your doing right now with your arms? Chances are your shoulders are lifted. This would not be the case if you were sitting on the floor. Your table or desk is probably too high, and your chair is too low, most likely.
  • Please just read the list; I don’t expect anyone to do all of those things. Just reading the list will broaden your understanding and will make you “bullet proof” when someone tries to sell you a device or chair or exercise system that will supposedly cure shoulder pain or neck pain. You’ll know the breadth and depth of the problem and won’t be easily seduced into wasting your time with quick fixes. 
  • When you do one natural movement many others follow. All these things can become like one thing; you can do all of them in seconds and your shoulders will stay down without needing to be reminded, relaxed. They’ll stay down as long as you don’t lapse back into the bad habits that cause lifted shoulders. 
  • The Shoulder-Stay-Down List: 
    1. Mindfulness During Odd Moments of the Day. This kind of mindfulness comes from regularly doing movement lessons, where you practice a whole hour being mindful. It carries over to life – it is effortless, and wonderful. The same benefit does not come from exercise. Are your shoulders lifted right now? Are you propping your arms on a table or an armrest? When you sit at a table – do you prop your elbows on the table, supporting the chin – as many do? You are lifting your shoulders; you are reinforcing that habit of lifted shoulders. Every breath you take like that – you are teaching yourself to breathe with lifted shoulders. Until you need to use your arms, keep your elbows by your sides when sitting in front of such a table – only if the table is low enough so as not to lift the shoulders off the torso, should you do that. Sitting with quiet grounded shoulders is powerful body language; it will help you if you are involved in any kind of negotiations. Arrange your keyboard to be low enough so your shoulders are not lifted.
      • When you stand in front of a demonstration table, say. Do you put your hands there while lifting the shoulders, ever so slightly? Don’t do that either. When you eat, do you lift your shoulder each time you reach for food? Stop doing that too. Do you find yourself leaning against something now and then? Chances are you are lifting your shoulder. Begin to notice. Look at what you do during the day that keeps lifting your shoulders. Eat while sitting on the floor or use a lower table. Avoid using armrests; never buy a chair with an armrest, unless you can adjust it so that while resting your arm, the shoulders are fully resting on the torso.
    2. Connect Shoulders to Hips. Our skeleton is built for spiral movement; in walking and reaching, there is (or should be) some contra-lateral or diagonal folding movements of the rib cage. That means – in walking, that as the right shoulder goes forward the right hip goes backwards. In other words, if you stand on your right leg, your left shoulder is more supported than your right!  Instinctively, you will reach up to change a light bulb, using the right arm, as you stand mostly on your left leg. Not your right leg, that won’t work. The top of the femur bone takes a sharp inward curve, as it gets closer to the ball and socket joint. It is easy to feel this – even sitting as you are. If you push with your right hand, the power comes from the left hip, not the right hip. Martial artists know this. Try this: push your right shoulder straight down, as if that is how it is supposed to rest (it is not). There is no support there. Now, try pushing your right shoulder down but also diagonally towards the left hip. Now the shoulder can feel supported. Support for each shoulder comes from the diagonal hip. Since I discovered this – or remembered it from my Feldenkrais Training – I often push my shoulders down, feeling that diagonal connection. The shoulders like it and stay restfully down, much easier than the other way. I even love to stand quietly and shift my weight left or rights, initiating that movement from pressing my shoulders diagonally down and to the left or right. I’d recommend that you learn this and do it as often as you stand. 
      • Our habits of long sitting at a desk or at school, with little turning or twisting, gave us the habit of thinking of the body as “square” and “straight ahead as the best way to be”. So, we have amnesia about spiral movement, and the diagonal construction of our skeleton and muscles. Every bone has a spiral twist - every muscle and hair likewise. All the soft and hard tissue of the body, right down to the DNA is organized in a spiral fashion. Shoulders are part of that arrangement. Your left shoulder does not know where “home” is to rest, if you keep pushing it down as if the support is straight down below the shoulder. The support for the left shoulder comes from the right hip. That implies movement and dynamic readiness, not immobile support – as happens in a too-soft or form-fitted chair. So the body is spiral. Even the air, as it goes through the sinus passages and down the air pipe, is doing a spiral movement. The air from one nostril is spinning around the air from the other nostril, like two intertwined snakes. An experiment was once done using colored smoke in each nostril with a little camera in the windpipe.
    3. Connecting Shoulders to Pelvic Floor: relax the floor of the pelvis. Sense that area, breathe into that area, and “connect” with thoughts of support, movement, good posture, tailbone, sacrum, and bottom of spine, powerful movement. Any other emotions you may have associated with that area, let them begin to diminish from now on, by this practice. It is good to remember (as per the above paragraphs) that the left side of the pelvic floor supports/connects to the right shoulder and vice versa. Sense the skeleton; if you cannot do that, neither can your shoulders, and they will lift up, since they don’t know where the skeleton is located – relaxation cannot happen without support clearly perceived. As a point of reference, the shoulders connect to the skeleton primarily at three locations – at the sterno-clavicular joint, at the top first ribs, and at the upper back, where the scapulae rest. The shoulders rest easily on a soft rib cage, not a rib cage that is held up into stiff “good posture.”
    4. Connecting Shoulders to Feet: Sense your feet and their contact with the floor. Remember the spiral pathway. Right shoulder is grounded through the left foot. In sitting or standing – shifting weight – play with that connection of hip to diagonal shoulder and back. As you sit, make small movements of your head, your arms or your torso – but do them as if your feet pressing on the floor initiate the movement. Reach with your right arm (shoulder down, “heavy” elbow) while pressing harder on the left foot into the floor. Then reverse. Turn your head right, but start the movement by pushing your left foot forward and down, and your right foot back and down (but without moving the feet).  Reverse. If you can transfer even a little of this learning while you sit – at a desk, or to meditate or read, your posture and movement will be superb. Bad posture, breathing and movement always means disconnected body parts moving independently without communication. All this sounds so strange and difficult; in a movement lesson you would “get it” in your body and have it forever, without all these words.
    5. Grounding the Shoulders with the Breath: First, raise both shoulders as you inhale, then let them down as you exhale. Let them find their diagonal support to the opposite hip joint. Do this slowly, deliberately and consciously. Most of us, in fact, do this habitually; but it is unnecessarily to do this every time we inhale. So we make it conscious first by lifting shoulder with the inhalation. Next, keep both shoulders down as you inhale, giving yourself the experience and the reminder to sense the breath pressure in the front and back of the upper chest, which can only happen when we are not slightly lifting up the shoulders as we inhale.
      • Next, raise the right shoulder about one inch while exhaling and let it softly, slowly settle down restfully while inhaling.  This is a corrective reversal of our long habit of slightly raising our shoulders on the inhalation, while letting them back down on the exhalation. Repeat on the left.  If we never deliberately, mindfully give ourselves the experience of shoulders settling downwards easily, how can we expect it to happen automatically? Do this also once both shoulders at the same time. Again, as a shoulder settles downwards, be mindful of the diagonal hip. 
    6. Relaxing Down Lifted Shoulders by Softening the Belly with Movement: Relax the belly (don’t hold it uptight unnecessarily), loosen your belt if you have to do so, say “soft belly”, and this will help the shoulders relax down on the top of the torso. Do a moment of belly dancing on the chair, push the belly out, arch the low back, pull the belly in and round out the low back, and make circles either way. This can take 2 seconds max. If you don’t have the ability to do this – learn it! You are holding yourself way too uptight in that area. Belly dancing classes  - recommended.
    7. Learn to Have Charismatic Elbows. Your hands do things, your shoulders respond – usually by tensing and lifting, anchoring in that way. This is stress-inducing, body language for “disconnect” and creates compression in the neck, as the neck is lifting the entire shoulder girdle. We need to find a way to use our hands to eat, to reach for a mouse or pencil, to type, to reach for and hold a steering wheel – in such a way that we keep our shoulders restfully grounded and connected to spiral movement and to our skeleton. That is body language for power, for a quiet and focused mind, and poised relaxation – charisma in other words. “Charisma is in the elbows,” my mentors told me. Yet it took many years to figure out what was meant: If they “know” what to do, the hand can operate as usual, and the shoulder can stay grounded and connected. You can practice this       anytime you reach with a hand. Be mindful of elbows – think of them as “heavy” to keep the shoulders down, and think of what trajectory the elbows need to describe in space in order for the shoulders not to lift, and stay connected to the diagonal hip, letting the ribs, spine and tailbone all move as the hand moves. The right kind of chair is needed for this: a swivel office chair, a soft sofa will NOT work. . What is described here could take an entire weekend or more of movement lessons, just to give us an idea.
      •  A hint: usually this will involve keeping the elbows farther out from the body. When the elbows are kept tight against the torso, as we use the hands, the tendency is for the shoulder to lift. 
    8. Be Mindful About Your Furniture’s Effect on your Shoulders: If you sit at a desk typing with shoulders even slightly lifted, get a higher chair or lower your desk. Or keep your hands restfully on your lap when they are not being used. This is more clear, simple and even powerful body language that to let the desk or table support the elbows. We should not do that without good reason. Again, if you eat at a table that is too high, with every mouthful, your shoulders will be lifting – unless you are very careful to keep your arms by your sides between every mouthful. That is the old-fashioned proper way, in any event. Don’t rest your elbows or arms on the table, or desk, if that means passively or actively lifted shoulders. Don’t drive a car with your left arm supported by the window frame; it lifts the shoulder. So few people know this, and that includes many very intelligent folks. Again: even lifting the shoulders 1/10 of an inch, the full weight of both arms goes to the neck. Poor neck! Then we blame the neck for being compressed and needing surgery.  This is irresponsible, this is horrible! Lifted shoulders are body language for disconnect, stress, terror – can you imagine what effect this has on your digestion? Better to stand up. Better to sit on the floor and eat. Sitting on the floor – your shoulders don’t lift. Better to squat and eat! 
      • If you sit watching TV on a sofa with armrests too high, while you are relaxing you are training your shoulders to be lifted, your tailbone to not move, your arms and head be totally disconnected, movement-wise, from your powerful center. The same thing happens on your $2000.00 orthopedic-vibrating massage recliner chair. It is not a good thing to practice, especially while being passively entertained! Disconnect the body; disconnect the mind – that is what happens.  One of my early teachers was adamantly opposed to TV watching – he called it “The vampire of the Soul”. If you asked him about what to do about TV watching, he would answer: “where do live? Do you have a hammer? Let’s go now.” So now I imitate him when I write about soft sofas and swivel chairs (which contributes to much of the damage from TV watching): As quick as you can, call the Goodwill – have a truck come tomorrow and get rid of those things. Get them out of your house – including that orthopedic swivel office chair, your recliner, and your too-soft sofas. Get cushions to help you sit on the floor; get a low table for floor eating. Buy wooden benches or flat chairs. As you reach down for the food, you shoulder will be down. Just let the plate rest on the floor, no table needed. Visit Rosarito, Mexico, as I did with my pickup, and buy hand-crafted wooden chairs, all of them have flat bottom and backs. They are Mexican Ranch House chairs. I suspect if you are a rancher doing all that hard work – you would intuitively know that soft chairs would damage your ability to manage the ranch. It is hard for me to even imagine a ranch house with soft, luxurious furniture. Could you go from that to branding cattle, or digging fencepost holes? It would not compute.  Buy some high and medium and low flat wooden stools, immediately. So you can sit at a desks or tables of varying heights and not lift your shoulders. That is what I do.
      • Sitting on the floor to eat – the shoulders will be grounded. Sitting on the floor to use a laptop – the shoulders will be grounded. Just use pillows to get the right position for the laptop. Sitting on the floor to watch TV – the shoulders will not be lifted. Driving a car with a bucket seat – tailbone is compressed, pelvis is immobilized, there is no clear support perceived into the sitting bones, since they are mushed down “comfortably” into the foam. Therefore we grab the steering wheel while lifting our shoulders since the shoulders have no idea where the skeletal support is located – it is a black hole  - no dynamic postural/adjustment movement - no support down there. Measure your car seat, buy a car board, take it to the local upholstery store, attach a little foam cushioning (with a hole for the tailbone, and choose a fabric to match your car interior). Too bad that bench seats are no longer available for cars and they once were.
    9.  Be mindful when you walk and run: The shoulder blades should slide and glide over the back upper rib cage as the arms swing. Almost nobody in this modern world can do this simple thing.  Instead 99 of 100  lock the shoulder blades tight as they walk or run or even while they work at a desk. That kind of tightness goes along with lifted shoulders.  Even with any reaching movement of the arm, the shoulder blade(s) should slide and glide over the ribs in the back. One good way to start to learn this is while walking or running –       without carrying anything which would require locking down the shoulders –  simply allow the shoulder blades  to slide and glide., and also let the clavicles (collar bones) move also (collar bones are part of the shoulder girdle), This will power counter-rotation of hips and pelvis in fast walking or running. Shoulder blades that can flow with movement don’t tend to be lifted.  In other words if we get the shoulder blades moving in a natural way with a natural walk (see my Walking Practice Handout) they automatically stay grounded, no special effort needed. 
      • Shoulder blades that glide and slide encourage a rotation of the upper torso, and that induces a counter-rotation of your pelvis (or hips). And this powers walking or running – it makes one so much more graceful. Running is faster, and easier. Some people will “get” that right away; others will need more time, perhaps years of somatic involvement before they can embody the ideas in this paragraph. It is a bit advanced. Don’t worry if this seems “out of reach” for you now. It will come, if you keep active with somatic learning. It is hard to predict how long it will take for any individual to learn such things. I am still trying to actually do this one without having to deliberately remind myself every time.
    10. Keeping Shoulders Restfully Grounded with Abdominal BreathingAbdominal breathing. Here is how I think about it:  “Am I doing it? Or, is my chest moving too? If my chest is moving, I am stress breathing. Steve, I do not need more stress. Stop it. I do not want chest movement in breathing while sitting at a desk working. Yes, air enters and leaves the lungs while doing any kind of breathing, and the lungs are in the chest, but that does not mean the chest needs to lift up. Put my hand on chest; this calms the tendency to lift the chest. I should feel intrinsic rib movement, but hand should not lift up towards the ceiling even a fraction of an inch. Zero! That requires soft belly. There should be practically zero movement of the chest (taken as a whole) and upper back and shoulders. The slight rib movement happens naturally and this should not be prevented by any kind of holding stiff there, as some professional singers will do – to facilitate abdominal singing voice. (They can have incredibly tight muscles up there for that reason).  I must allow the minimal intrinsic movement of ribs and spine with the breath while abdominal       breathing. That is due to the breath pressure filling the lungs, and not by activation of the chest breathing system. There is a huge difference. That is a back up system to be used only when I really need more air volume. The only time I’d need it while chair sitting: if I were doing a hard workout on a sitting-down weight machine. Only then would there be good reason to do chest breathing. If I cannot do abdominal breathing easily, I am holding both my abdomen and belly, and my pelvic floor way too uptight. For me, the best homework – learn abdominal breathing. Any yoga teacher can help me, talk to them.
      • “Unconscious chest breathing is the primary cause for lifting my shoulders. I know this. I need to stop blaming my poor shoulders; I did that for too many years already! They will always reflexively respond to what my body, mind and emotions are doing. Know that I know this I can no longer pretend (as I did for many years) I am a victim of my own shoulders, as if they have a mind of their own to torment me, by lifting up  – creating neck pain. They are hard-wired to reflexively respond to movement of the arms and body posture - I cannot change that. They are not wired to be directly controlled, like the hands or lips or legs. It is futile. It is body language for futility. Chest breathing tightens the neck muscles (SCM and scalenes) which in turn pulls the head forward of center, which in turn pulls the shoulders up. After some years of that I might get Dowager’s Hump, head forward or hunchback posture. And then I’d want to blame my weak bones, even my MD would encourage that kind of thinking; I don’t want to go there.  I want to stop blaming me body.  The muscles that pull the head back when it is forward, attach to the shoulder blades! Shoulders will always be lifting if the head is forward of center. Even if I could use will power every moment of the day to prevent that, I’d be a psychiatric case. My brain is not built to obsess in such a way thinking it is “correct” or good posture.”
      • Also I remember – from my Feldenkrais Training – that I do not want to ever get stuck in just one way of “correct” breathing. So I may do some reverse abdominal breathing for several breaths: as I exhale expand the belly, letting the inhale follow naturally as it will. This also is abdominal breathing, but with a reversal of belly movement while exhaling; actually it natural, since all mammals when making sounds will expand, not contract their abdomen and belly.”
    11. Correcting Head Forward Posture Will Allow Shoulders to Stay Down: Do something – just one thing from my long list of Head-Forward Correction Strategies in the workshop handout – to bring the head back over the center. I like to roll the tongue up and back strongly, while I imagine and sense and embody that the tongue is pushing the head back, while breathing as if from the back of the head, and at the same time connecting (in my imagination) my eyes to my spine, as described in my Vision Practice handout. I then let the head and eyes rest as if over the spine. I’ll probably counter-rotate my head and neck and eyes for a second or two as well. I can do all that as one thing, under three seconds.
    12. Practice Reaching a Few Times Each Morning With Heavy Elbows, Grounded Shoulders – Reset the “Reaching Software”: Reach forward with your right arm, once or twice, as if to grab a mouse, or to reach for the steering wheel, but with heavy elbows. Thinking heavy elbows will keep the shoulders down, much better than thinking of keeping the shoulders down (remember - shoulders don’t like direct orders). People with chronically lifted shoulders (like I was doing for many years) – whenever they reach forward they slightly lift the shoulder. So they have the software running continually – immediately lift the shoulder whenever the brain even thinks of reaching with either arm. This is not good. Introduce a new software: practice mindfully reaching with downward-heavy elbows and heavy relaxed shoulders just once or twice, but really feel what you are doing, be fully conscious of the movement.  Talk to yourself like this: “keep my shoulder down as I reach. Repeat with the left arm. Each time introduce variations – reach up, or to the sides or rotate the arm while reaching.” Congratulations - you just introduced new software. Without having done that, then no matter what else we do, shoulders will tend to lift. This software needs to be refreshed whenever shoulders start lifting again with reaching. If your desk is too high, you are compelled to lift your shoulders as you type and mouse. Raise your chair or lower your desk. This is crucial. You cannot ignore this if you want to get rid of neck pain.
    13. Calm the Mind and Breath for Grounded Shoulders: Calm, slow the mind, make the breathing light, easy, soft and slow. However you do it, connect to a feeling of calmness and peace. An affirmation may be your best bet. Or a short meditation or prayer. Or, watch the breath for several breath cycles. Say to yourself “now I am inhaling, now I am exhaling” etc. Tie the mind to the breath. Say: “I have all the time I need to inhale, all the time I need to exhale.” Slow it down. And then, allow the breath, allow the body to embody that kind of timelessness, peace and rest.  Great speed, readiness and alertness can come from that – it is not disconnecting or being sleepy.  Or say, “Quick, alert mind, pure awareness is my true nature, relaxed body.” Or, “active eyes, alert mind, quiet neck, quiet body.” Remind yourself that you want to focus, to think powerfully, and to think one thought at a time. This will ground the shoulders. A racing mind will guarantee lifted shoulders. The chest will lift, chest breathing will follow and breathing becomes disordered. Then chest breathing begins. Shoulders will lift. Then we blame the shoulders.  That has been my issue. Don’t blame the poor shoulders. They take already enough abuse from us.
    14. Relax the Hands. Think: soft hands. Gentle gripping. Shoulders will always be tense and maybe lifting up (depending on your habit) if the hands are too tense and always anticipating the next thing to do, never relaxing. We need to sometimes consciously relax our hands, give attention to it. Shoulders respond reflexively to what the hands are doing, or are about to do. The shoulder’s software mostly listens to the hands, and anticipates where they are going, so they will know what to do next. We cannot change that, although we can temporarily override it by relaxing the shoulders down, even while we have tense hands. A moment later, though, the shoulders will come right back up. Think of gripping the mouse more softly. Think of typing more softly. Think of gripping the pen more gently. 
    15. Pull Shoulders Down and Back and Never Up and Back: Finally, when shoulders are restfully down where they belong, it is helpful to practice regularly pulling them restfully back (and down), since now the rib cage comes along for the ride. Sense the floor of the pelvis as you do that, invigorate the spinal “S curve” and let the ribs and head respond as well. Acknowledge that you cannot pull shoulders independently backwards if they are grounded down. And that is as it should be! Pulling shoulders back is more a matter of bringing shoulders and upper torso (both!!) over the hips with good erect alignment. Think: shoulders down and back before pulling shoulders back. Again, lifting shoulders up even 1/8th inch means the neck muscles take the full weight of the shoulders), pulling shoulders back while lifting them up even slightly like that, independently of the ribs, is futile, damaging and has neurotic overtones, it is a form of self-abuse, it does not accomplish what is intended (“better posture”, quite the opposite) and it is often done compulsively, repetitively – with little benefit and much harm – for an entire lifetime, thinking it is “good posture”. Pulling shoulders back while lifting them up creates head forward posture, sore shoulders, tense neck, tight breathing, diminished blood supply to the brain, and more. It is the primary cause of compression of neck vertebrae. Never do it as a habitual or unconscious gesture – but it is perfectly OK to do it as a part of an exercise routine (“shoulder circles” etc) after which you leave the shoulders grounded on the first ribs, where they belong.
    16. Learn Bicep Stretches and Do Them Often. The more often the better; I cannot tell you how important this is, for many reasons.  Our bicep muscles are the tightest and most overused muscles in our arms and shoulders –except for all the muscles that hold up our shoulders if we lift them all the time! Most people are incredibly tight there but don’t know it – and this can cause lifting of shoulders. The biceps do not stretch when the arm is at the side, fully extended, as you may think. Feel the muscle – it is soft. A stretched muscle feels taut – harder. It has to do with the fact that the biceps attach above the shoulder joint, not below. You might Google “bicep stretch” to get a visual. You need to bring your straight arm to shoulder level at your side, and stretch the straight arm behind the body. That is a bicep stretch. I love to grasp a bookcase or doorframe, and walk my body around to create a bicep stretch. It feels so good, soo good, to do this, once you learn it, you will never give it up. You’ll seek out opportunities to do bicep stretches. Any functional exercise routine should include this. Most experienced weight lifters – I see them doing this all the time.
      • When you sleep on your back, lengthen out your arms by your side. Gently tug the hands down to firmly ground the shoulders as you sleep. Don’t bend the elbows and place your hands by your throat. That creates and perpetuates contracture of the bicep muscles. Some elderly folks are never able to fully straighten their arms because of a lifetime of doing this. Your shoulders are also lifting while you sleep with bent elbows, hands by throat! Horrible! Sleeping with lifted shoulders, you are teaching yourself to relax and sleep with passively lifted shoulders. When you wake up, you are going to be lifting your shoulders all day long – why not? You were practicing all night sleeping, breathing and dreaming with lifted shoulders. Just a note: really if you see me privately, or another somatic professional, you would get a wealth of such ideas, but in real time, more quickly, and only what was appropriate for you at the moment and no more, and you’d understand because your teacher would make certain you got it. It is so cumbersome to attempt (as I am doing here) to describe these things in writing.
    17. Use a Rowing Machine, Do Lat pull Downs in the Gym, Use Cable Machines to Do Pulling in Movements. All the “pulling in” movements at the gym are the very best way to bring the head back over your center, if your head is forward. Forward head posture guarantees lifted shoulders. I spent many years trying to correct my severe head-forward posture with limited success; but when I saw a personal trainer and got his help, the improvements were quick, permanent and so easy.
    18. Glue. Take one hand and place it on a desktop, wall, floor, back of chair or door frame. Then stand up and walk around the hand. Keep the hand glued. You are using your full body mass to mobilize your tight shoulder. As we age, shoulders get tighter and often chronically lifted (with painful necks!). This procedure – so simple to remember, just say the word “glue” – has worked wonders for many of my clients. Why pay a professional for deep tissue massage if you can do it yourself for free? As you mobilize the shoulder by twisting and turning your body, be sensitive to first explore the movements that feel the best. Search out such movements and relish them. Stay with them. Out of that will come the ability – effortlessly – to soften and relax the tight painful muscles that cannot endure even a hard poke by a thumb.
    19. Learn Spiral Movement: Especially Counter-Rotation of Hips and Shoulders While Walking and Running and At Other Times. This is where movement lessons will really help you. You cannot get this from reading this handout. I can just give you a hint here. Your whole life would be reconfigured to enjoy the kind of spiral, elegant movement that is our birthright, instead of this dull, boring, straight-ahead movement (and eyes) that I see in everyone. It comes from flat floors, shoes, flat walls, square rooms, reading books, sitting straight ahead in school and at a desk for many hours a day, and staring at a TV, video game or computer monitor. Where is the spiral movement?  Spiral connections, spiral movement, should be part of even our most casual gesture. Our DNA is spiral. Energy moves in spirals. Everything in the body is spiral. Shoulders know how to stay down with that kind of movement. The other kind of movement  - they will tend to always lift. There is no support under the right shoulder on the right side – it is on the left, and that cannot be felt with “straight ahead movement”. If you sit in a chair most of the day, be sure that your yoga or Tai Chi or whatever helps you to embody spiral movement.
    20. Grounding the Shoulders by Relaxing Down Everything Else Instead: Soften the bottom of your feet, relaxing them down into the floor. Let the floor of the pelvis drop down, relaxed. Soften the belly, let it expand and relax and sense the breath pressure globally – down, to the back and sides, up and forward. Slightly slump, dropping down the sternum slightly so that you are not stiffly lifting the chest – which will cause lifted shoulders. Drop the chin down very slightly – or down to chin level position, by relaxing the back of the neck. Let the jaw go a little bit slack, dropping down, but keeping the lips together. Doing all these things will automatically drop the shoulders down with them. It seems that lifting shoulders goes along with lifting all those other body parts too. So we cannot ignore them when we want to reverse the process.


  1.  Become Friendly With Slumping: Relax into a minor slump, and come out of it without stiffening, using breathing from the back of the head and sense the breathing globally not just frontally, walking sit bones behind, head forward correction, roll the tongue back momentarily letting the tongue push the head back, pull back the shoulders over the hips (keeping shoulders down as you pull back), knees apart, roll the pelvis forward. Once you are sitting erect, you should be able to fully relax without collapsing forward. If not – you need to arrange to have your hips higher than your knees (higher chair, sit on a folded pillow, use a sitting wedge etc) so some body weight is vectored down the legs into the feet, and do more head-forward correction work. The test: when we slump slightly with shoulders over hips, we should not collapse and fall out of the chair! If we build a good foundation, you will stay upright. This seems impossible to most people who have spent their entire life stiffening or collapsing into a lumbar support in order to sit up straight. It can be done!
  • Briefly remind yourself it is OK and permission is given slump momentarily at any time (provided shoulders are over hips) or to hang forward in the chair head between the knees, fully relaxing. When we slump a few moments in sitting, with shoulders over the hips – we refresh the back muscles. Whenever you want to do this it is OK, it means you are letting the back muscles relax. Almost nobody with back pain understands this simple fact. There is nothing wrong with relaxation! When you first sit in a chair go into an exaggerated slump – so you begin by relaxing. Then come out of the slump without stiffening using he ideas given here. We do not want out habit to be: each time we sit we stiffen immediately.  It is interesting to note that Hindus prostrate, Moslems curl on the floor to pray, Japanese bow when greeting people – our culture needs something like this too. It is not an accident those things are culturally embedded. It softens the ego and smoothes out our personal relationships – having available a soft chest, instead of an armored chest. Softening and exaggerating the natural thoracic curve (as in slumping) momentarily like this is body language for humility, softness, and open heartedness. Stiffening the chest is body language for the opposite!

 

  1. Be Able to Roll the Pelvis Forward or Backwards Without Compulsively Stiffening the Entire Back as you learned in the workshop. This is most important. I have never yet seen a person with back pain, who could roll their pelvis or “belly dance in a chair” without stiffening their entire spine and rib cage. Such unconscious fixity means compression, immobility and eventually pain. It is vanishingly rare for me to find a single person (new to somatic work) who does not do this. It sounds simple, but almost nobody can do this without personal mentoring: belly dance with the pelvis and abdomen while you softly remain slightly slumped shoulders over hips. Don’t stiffen to sit straighter!
  • Sense the bottom of your sitting bones. Roll your pelvis forward and back while sensing the changing pressure on the sitting bones. Notice that when you roll the top of the pelvis forward, the front of the sitting bones take pressure. When you roll the top of the pelvis back, the back of the sitting bones take pressure. Can you roll your pelvis as if initiating the movement from the bottom of the sitting bones? When you can do this, your posture and comfort in sitting will greatly improve. 

 

  1. Be With Your Eyes in a Way That Does Not Create Strain. Use some of the ideas in Steve’s Vision Routine Practice, whatever ideas resonate with you. As a minimum: scrunch eyelids to reverse staring/elongation; connect with medulla oblongata and get out of the two eyeballs; think of one eye not two; relax your frontal visual field orientation and instead go to global awareness at least for a moment; and finally let them rest in freedom and movement, naturally. It is never good to think of holding them artificially immobile, especially if you use computers or read a lot. You’ll be perpetuating your old habits of never changing focus, elongation of eyeballs, left brain activation with fixed head and neck, etc. We want to get out of all that. 

 

  1. Affirm that Sitting is Dynamic, Never Static, then Embody That. Another way to say this: there is no proper time to surrender passively to a chair, becoming functionally incompetent. If you are that tired or weak, take a nap. There is always movement: of the breath, of the heartbeat and blood, etc. To balance the body upright in sitting or standing (while being ready to respond to any situation in any direction) is what our brain evolved to do, for billions of years.  Our body is unstable, none of our joints are like stacked bricks, our body is really like a collection of little squishy water balloons (cells) with all the joints designed for movement not stability – that absolutely takes a certain amount of continual work, minor adjustments, by the body. The low brain does this automatically. We do not want to interfere with this by thinking of “correct posture”. Allow permission to make postural adjustments or alter the position of cushions or support at any time while sitting. It is very helpful to replace the concept of correct posture with a sense of “flow” using dynamic, small, continually changing, awake and ready yet restful postural muscles, permission to make minor adjustments appropriately to the moment. Just sit for a moment and feel that happening in your body. Sit apart from the backrest. Imagine this if you cannot feel it. Of course this requires a chair that does not immobilize the pelvis, lumbar spine and ribs! Otherwise we are like a driver who decides to go somewhere without ever turning the steering wheel, because he thought only one way was “correct”. Damage to the body will result.

 

  1. Sense and Adjust Yourself First From Your Pelvic Floor – usually we ignore that area and make adjustments everywhere else. In other words, squirm like a little kid who sits in a chair for the first time. What would you think of an engineer who fiddled with the superstructure of a bridge, when the foundation was really the problem?  In chair sitting this is crucial. It is not an option.  It is not so important for floor sitting, where our base of support is so much bigger, and we are closer to the ground.

 

  1. Test Your Foundation: Fully relax – what happens? Do you collapse forward? If so, use a different chair (usually a little higher) or a sitting wedge, or your head may be so far forward, and your posture so slumped, that you need more time to correct that (using methods you learned today). Be sure your knees are more than shoulder width apart, and that at least some body weight is vectoring down into your feet. The two feet are two of the three legs of the chair-sitting tripod: chair, two feet. Or you might try sitting on the very edge of the chair, this will roll your pelvis to create a lumbar arch to support sitting posture. Many people love to do this – me included. Or, see a somatic professional like a Feldenkrais teacher or Alexander teacher privately. If you feel these ideas don’t help, or you don’t understand, then movement lessons (Awareness Through Movement ATMs) are a good idea on a regular basis. You’ll make quick progress that way, all these ideas get written into your very bones and they’ll all come naturally, spontaneously.

 

  1. Be Able to Move Your Spine Independently Like a Snake. Be sure your tailbone is suspended. Wiggle the spine any way you like – side shift, arch, curl, twist, lengthen, collapse, spiral diagonally up or down, side bend or combinations. Sitting with a supple spine means we are not holding it stiff, as most people do, often for a lifetime! Contrary to how most people move today, the spine is not meant to be a rigid anchor or center around which the arms and legs move. No, the spine and ribs should allow movement to flow freely through them in a million different ways. Each moment is different. You won’t end up with one of the many spinal compression medical conditions if you truly understand this point. Kids intuitively understand this idea; but we adults correct them and force them to sit rigidly erect “like an adult” not knowing the damage we do. A supple spine cannot be compressed. The two things are contradictory.  If your spine is not supple – contrary to popular opinion, yoga stretching is not the complete cure, although if I were you I’d never give up my yoga. To quickly acquire a really supple spine you’d need to arrange your sitting posture, and acquire the necessary skills so that you don’t need to keep stiffening your back all day while you sit. Collapsing passively into a lumbar support is even worse; no, it does not make the spine stiff, but it makes the spine incompetent. It then has no movement strategies or intelligence to meet the demands of daily life, so it has no choice but to stiffen to protect itself.  After all, you have mentored your lumbar spine to be stupid and immobile for eight hours a day for many years! It has had to do nothing but be passively supported. And you thought it was ergonomic? So if you stiffen to sit, or regularly use a lumbar support, you will continually recreate a rigid spine no matter what kind of yoga you do, or how often you do it. You’ll wear yourself out, and you won’t make good progress in yoga. It makes no sense. Only when you liberate your back muscles from the inappropriate job of constantly maintaining erect sitting posture (or even worse: passively surrendering to a lumbar support) is there a possibility of having a truly supple spine.

 

  1. Have “Sitting Props” Handy. In Nature, we’d sit against a tree with a knot, or on a rock or on sand, or straddle a fallen tree. Or, we’d sit on a tree stump that is at a funny angle. Our body would become adaptable, like a child’s. The younger the child, the easier they can sleep on any surface, with the body shaped any-which-way. It’s the same with using sitting props. We want to become more like that baby, and props can help us. The idea that we should only sleep on our backs and not move is for rigid old adults with sleep apnea and many abdominal surgeries. Some ideas to get you started: use a folded towel under one buttock, then the other. There is no correct. Use a small ball under the perineum. Use a tennis ball under one hamstring muscle. Take a 12” by 12” square piece of plywood, wrap a blanket around it with extra folds underneath. Put it on a chair, the extra folds can elevate the back of the board – you have a custom made sitting wedge. Use a rolled towel or blanket lengthwise along the spine, against the back of the chair (everyone’s favorite). Use a rolled sweater diagonally along the torso (the torso is built to fold diagonal. We are built for contralateral movement) Use an odd piece of foam anywhere you like, against your back, under one buttock, under one hamstring. While using props, there is a limited time for each item: when you feel the first hint of discomfort, or feeling that “I have had enough” take it out. After some time introduce another prop. When you get good at this, you can begin to intuitively know what to do to erase pain at will. Like any art, with practice you can get good at it. Supposing you have a little hip pain – put a folded towel under the opposite hip, pain goes away; you’ll somehow just know that will happen. Just get started and experiment.

 

  1. Rock forward and backwards from your hip joints and not by bending at your waist level (belt level). First of all – do you know where your hip joints are located? We are talking about the ball and socket joint, where the leg meets the pelvis. Put your index finger on the spot. Where is your finger? It should be exactly halfway from the outside of the body to the midline, along the crease of the leg as you sit, where the leg bends to meet the torso. Once you know where the hip joints are located, it is much easier to move while engaging them fully. Keep your fingertips there as you try out this movement. Do it now. Keep your back straight, bend only at the hip joints. I’ve taught this movement to seniors, and for many of them it was the first time in their entire lives they experienced such a movement! 
  • Rocking forward and back from the hip joints will preserve your low back. This movement should be available at any moment while sitting. It is the best way to lean forward towards your desk. We are not meant to always bend at the waist. It overworks the low back. Just as bending a wire until it gets hot and breaks, always bending our backs at waist level (where the belt is located) – not using the hip joints – will eventually cause back trouble down there. Turning, bending, looking up, looking down – all these movements in chair sitting should involve the hip joints and floor of the pelvis (they go together). Most people in chair sitting only move from the waist and above, everything below that is off-limits to sense, feel or move and is glued solidly to the too-soft or bucket-formed chair bottom. This is unnatural. This is disconnected. This causes back pain. This communicates powerlessness. It is not human. It is passive, weak and cowardly looking movement.  It is ugly movement, if you have eyes to see. (OK so I do exaggerate slightly but it’s how I make a point!)  Yet this is what is considered normal for millions of people who use desk chairs. And people wonder why there is an epidemic of work-related back pain in this country.

 

  1. Reach up high very quickly with both hands at once while looking up and cocking head up (as if you are being pulled up into the sky) and then bring arms down, hug yourself and slump – keeping shoulders over hips; stay in the slump for several breath cycles, relaxing the back fully. Relax the back of the neck, keeping the chin to the chest. Do this three times.  This is only for when you are home, alone. At work it would look quite absurd. You are going to love this movement. This is wonderfully refreshing, almost magical in how it makes one feel. It lifts the mood. It relaxes the back. It gives the back-of-the-neck muscles a little break, much appreciated! It will soften the rib cage, letting the shoulders rest more easily. Reach up with both arms at once and look up – the movement is up, not back, and as you bring your arms straight up quickly, keep your elbows in, midline of the body. Arch the head back as you look straight up. Again don’t bend back at the waist, don’t let the low ribs thrust forward; any backwards bending happens at the level of the sternum. As the arms come down, hug yourself, rock one shoulder up and the other shoulder down (do this rhythmically many times), and move left and right and up and down, twist and turn. Let all these movements come from your rib cage, not from your low back! This may take some mentoring, and patience to learn it. Of everything in this list, this one item gives the best relief, the best mood lift, the best lymphatic circulation, the best refreshment and improvement of circulation. It is a neurological reversal of what we usually do in chair sitting: slow movement, downward gazing, and downward arms. Here we do a very fast, almost joyful upward (almost prayerful) movement, with upward gazing.

 

  1. Sense Your Muscles Hanging On Your Skeleton. If you cannot sense this, then imagine it. Eventually you will feel it. The more you get involved with somatic learning, the quicker it will happen. When you can do this, sitting will be so much more relaxed and pleasant. Good movement and posture will happen naturally then. 

 

  1. Sense Your Support. Surrender to Your Support. Take time to be with this – at least several breath cycles.  This means the feet, the buttocks and floor of the pelvis, and the back against the chair. When support is clearly acknowledged, relaxation is greatly facilitated. Breathing becomes calmer.

 

  1. Be Ready to Get Up and Cook Dinner, or Clean House, or Wash the Car or Run or Fight or Dance at Any Moment, and in Any Direction While Still Staying Fully Relaxed. But do not be hyper, or tense or stressed because of that. This connects us to primal centers in our low brain that knows how to survive, that knows how to respond and be ready to confront any situation, at any moment. This means personal power and competency.  When we passively surrender too much and get overly-attached and tunnel-visioned about what we are doing – in Nature, that would mean death. For starters that means you are going to need to sense and be able to move from your pelvis floor. Imagine being ready to push off starting from there, using the feet. Modern civilization has protected us from needing to be ready in this way; but our bodies and minds suffer because of it: too much fixity, poor movement, hypnotically surrendering to the TV, laziness, diminished capacity both physically and mentally. This does not mean you have to actually get up and dance or fight or wash the car. Just be ready in the back of your mind to do what might be needed  – like a Samurai warrior would be, sitting down in a chair in unfriendly territory. It is possible to be fully relaxed and fully ready, both at the same time. It seems like a very advanced state of body organization but it is really our birthright.

 

  1. Summary Check – Putting it all together. These seven steps are the way to be vigilant about erect posture while sitting at a desk or while meditating. Vigilance is good! Sitting fully erect is very good. Vigilance to sit erect does not mean stiffening nor does it require strain and tensing; by now you know it involves skill, not just tensing the back and lifting the chest! So it will take a bit of time to learn this, but soon you will be embodying all of these in just a few seconds, and people will begin complimenting you on your wonderful posture. Each of these can be done in seconds, or fractions of a second. The whole thing – 10 seconds. Eventually – 5 seconds. Copy this, refer to this when sitting; it has the essentials.


  1. Organize your sitting posture starting from your feet – firmly planted. Sense, imagine and embody that any movement you do with the head or arms or hands can begin or be fully connected to the planted feet! Pull each shoulder down and diagonally back, bringing hips over shoulders – then relax; chin level, imaginary feather brushing up against chin. Knees shoulder width, feet planted squarely, feet relaxed, abdomen and belly relaxed – calm, abdominal breathing. Chest is not lifting to breathe. Sense breath pressure bottom of pelvis, groin. Connect body movement to feet. Imagine a folded paper towel or Kleenex on top of your head – this ensures good carriage of the head. Work at home like that – for real.
  2. Sense breath pressure all directions. Imagine breathing from a nose at the back of your head – take 2 breaths that way. Feel the breath go more towards the spine. Imagine moving with equal ease in any direction. Imagine defending yourself from an imaginary sword attack. Move or imagine moving from floor of pelvis. Feel infinite space in all directions around you. Allow your body to respond to that.
  3. Walk the sitting bones behind; roll the top of the pelvis forward, (or use a sitting wedge in the beginning to assist this) while softly slumping – meaning without tensing the entire back. This is key.
  4. Wide-angle vision, soft and open focus. Sense your spine, starting with the top of spine (= Spiritual Eye) between the ears as you use your eyes. Keep your chin level; scrunch your de-focused eyes to reduce elongation, counter-rotate head and shoulder girdle to correct head forward posture. Let the head bobble with eye movement – no head/neck fixity! Read the white bands under the black print; do not focus on black print.
  5. Systematic relaxation – however you like to do that. This comes last, after establishing a good sitting foundation using sensible strategies; otherwise it is futile and even neurotic to try to relax in sitting - while stiffening the chest and tensing the back to sit upright. YouTube has good videos on systematic body part relaxation. Choose one you like.  Include relaxing the hands, while letting the shoulders softly settle downwards on the top of the torso.
  6. Imagine you are a martial artist defending yourself – any direction. Move from your pelvic floor! Wake that area up. Sense your tailbone! Is the tailbone suspended? Reach with your right arm – heavy elbow, shoulder fully grounded. Reach with your left arm – heavy elbow, shoulder fully grounded. If you are alone, reach up and look up, then hug yourself bringing chin to chest, and move shoulders in arcs, circles, twisting etc. Look up strongly with the eyes as you do this, to counter the long time we sit looking down.
  7. Final re-check: chin level, mobile eyeballs, feet squarely planted, hips higher than knees, check in with the floor of the pelvis – adjust that area, tailbone suspended, movement and posture connected to feet, abdominal breathing, shoulders over hips, spine is supple and soft, every joint in the body can do easy small and slow movement  - balance is so elegant that nothing is fixed and tense.


© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin  www.mybodycanlearn.com