Alexander Technique Semi Supine Floor Practice

To begin the practice of SS find a quiet place to lie down such as a carpeted surface or yoga mat. Place a book (with a folded towel if you wish) at least 1/2 ” thick or more on the floor lower yourself onto your back so that your head rests on the book. Your head should neither be tossed backward, no pushed forward but be just the right height to allow for support without compression in the neck). If the books are too high, you will feel compression in the front of the neck and the shoulders will not be able to settle into the floor. If the books are too low or missing, your head will be tossed back, causing compression behind the neck or your neck may become over-straightened and lose its natural (bridge-like) curve.  See photos below courtesy of “How You Sit, How You Stand, How You Move” (M.Vineyard)

Bend one leg up at a time so that your knees are pointing to the ceiling, the soles of your feet are against the floor about hip width apart and at a distance of 1 foot or more from your sits bones, so that your spine is not compressed, but has space to lengthen on its own.

If you need more support for your legs you can let your knees fall together, or place your feet further apart from each other. Another option for those with excessive low back tension is to use an ottoman or low table to support the legs. As your back let's go and you become accustomed to this posture your legs will be able to balance on their own.

Next, when you are ready, fold your arms in at the elbows and let your hands rest gently on your torso. They can rest at your hips, your belly, chest, or even at on your collar bones. There are no rules here. Just feel what allows more ease in the arms, neck, shoulders and back. It will be a bit different each day and it will change as we proceed. Notice any tendency to pull your arms in too close to the sides of your torso. Let there be a bit of space under your armpits.  As you let go into gravity let your head be supported by the book and let go of any holding in your neck, shoulders, back and limbs as much as possible. The idea here is to let the weight of your body fall naturally towards the floor or earth. No pushing, nor trying to flatten your back. Just let go and let gravity do the rest.


If you wish. You can see for yourself how heavy your head is and why its so important to lie down daily, or several times a day. While resting and letting go into the floor, attempt to slowly lift your head off of the book--just a bit- less than an inch. Feel what happens to the neck and torso and how much tension quickly builds in your body. Then rest it back on the book and let go again into gravity.


Relax and Breathe Bring your awareness to your breath. Feel it moving in and out of your body. Let go of any trying to do anything with your breath. That will only produce muscular tension. The idea here is to allow the breath to move in and out on its own, so that the body can expand and free itself of any unnecessary holding and make room for the breath.

Thinking and Directing: As you let go into gravity, it may be helpful to think of your the top of your head releasing away from your spine, towards the wall behind you and your tail bone moving in the opposite direction towards the opposite wall. Also think of your elbows as moving away from the sides of your torso, and your knees releasing up towards the ceiling. Remember not to push or try to flatten your spine, which naturally curves away from the floor at the neck and low back. These kinds of thoughts help to redirect our muscles and bones into proper alignment without force, and is part of the Alexander Technique practice that one learns over time. Let the neck, back and shoulders and all the parts of your body that are touching the earth relax and be supported by the floor while you think of your body as lengthening and widening in many directions as described above.


Mindfulness of Body: from time to time let go of any discursive thoughts and bring your awareness back to your body and see if you can sense yourself letting go into of any effort to hold yourself up away from gravity.  Come back to your breath and sense the subtle movement of your body allowing the breath to come in and to flow out.

Feel your feet against the floor. Notice other parts that are touching. Feel the spaces where your body is not touching. You may be aware of spaces under your feet, your hands, under your arms and so on. Think of allowing all of the bones of your hands and feet soften.. You may feel movement in the arms and the shoulders, as your breath comes in and out or your belly and chest.

Maintain a soft awareness of your whole self. Let go of trying to do it right.

Feel yourself being supported by the floor. Let gravity do its work.

Soft effortless awareness on your breathing body.

If your eyes have been closed, slowly open them and let the light and space become included in your body awareness.

Preparing to stand up: As you prepare to end this practice and come into standing, notice what happens in yourbody when you have the thought that you are going to get up. Where do you begin to tense? Let go again and take more time before you begin to move.

To get up, slowly let your eyes look to one side Continue to sense the ground beneath you. Take your time. Let your knees fall to that side and walk yourself up to sitting, letting your head come last, while thinking about how its is poised at the the top of the spine and leads the spine into movement. Think and feel how your spine and head move together, where you gaze with your eyes, the head moves and the spine follows. Come on to all fours, feeling the ground beneath your hands and feet. You can rock back and forth here if you wish, or do some cat and cows letting the eyes lead and the head and body follow as you sense the relationship of your head neck and back.


To stand upright;  walk your hands back toward your feet, tucking in your toes as you gently roll up into standing, head comes up last and balances naturally at the top of the spine.  Be careful not to lock your knees or hunch your shoulders. Feel the ground beneath the soles of your feet supporting you. Let you head hang with ease, let you arms relax as you unwind into standing.

Pause here for a moment and recall the imprint of the floor againstyour back, even the back of your head. See if you can let your head balance without tightening your neck. Stand a bit wider than you normally do and see if that helps you let go and not tighten anywhere in your body, especially your neck. Feel your length from head to toe. Up is still along the direction of the spine but that the direction has now changed from horizontal to vertical. Notice any tendency to try to pull yourself up away from the floor in some part of your body. Sense how the ground come up through your legs, up your front and back to the top of your head. You dont have to pull yourself up to stand. Notice if you start to push yourself away from the ground or lock your knees.  Let gravity have some of your weight, let you knees release any locking,   Soften and become buoyant as if your were dangling from a thick rope that had its home in the sky. Widen your stance and let your feet the bones of your feet relax. Let your arms hang naturally at your side and let the bones of your hands relax. Feel your back and front widening. Come back to your breath awareness. Bring your legs under you, and gently shift your weight from one leg to the next, thenand take a few small steps and proceed to walk around easily, pausing occasionally to sense your head, neck and back connected and your two legs supporting your whole spine from the ground, up. Try walking backwards with small steps and see what you notic

Return to this practice for 15-20 each day, as often as you can or need. You will definitely reap the benefits of the practice and see the results. You will notice an improvement in your alignment, breathing, your sense of balance and even a of lightness on your feet as you move about your day.

Please feel free take some time to record your thoughts if you are inspired.

In ease....

c. Katie Back 2016

Posted on December 16, 2016 .

Linking Practice with Life: The Power of Pausing


   As some of you know, I was on a personal retreat the month of January.  I took this time to deepen my own connection to my body and mind, through the practice of meditation, Alexander Technique based movement explorations, walks in nature, reading, writing and drawing.  I am so grateful to have had this time alone to self reflect and to digest the fullness of this life with all of its wonders and complexities, which include great joy and great sorrow.  I am excited to share with my students, through our work together, some of the insights I have gained from my own practice and study.  But what have I honestly gained, and what has been the purpose of this retreat time?  What is the point of mindfulness based practices, if they do not serve change us for the better? It may be that the difference lies in our intention.  Is our intention in taking time away to check in or to check out?
    If I gain something by slowing down, taking a break from the busyness of my life, but then loose this sense of calm and well being as I re-enter the larger world that includes work, family, community, and the ongoing upheavals and events of the world, then really my retreat has been more of a time of checking out and disconnecting from my heart and mind,  rather than one of checking in.  But, what if I do I experience a shift -- this feeling of letting go of some of the attitudes and ways of being that have kept me spinning in a cycle of "dis-Ease" or "dis-Contentment",  how do I keep practicing outside of retreat?
     This question is one posed regularly by my students:  How do I link my practice to my life?  But, I believe there is an even deeper question that comes from such work on oneself; How do I keep my heart and mind open and not start shutting down when life presents its challenges? 
    The answers becomes stored within the treasure box of the self-awareness that is created during time spent observing one's thoughts, without distraction, be it sitting in stillness on a meditation cushion, in nature upon a rock,  or in a movement practice such as the Alexander Technique.  I know from my own practice that when I relax enough to experience the energy of my mind and learn to make space for myself to feel what I feel, my body naturally relaxes.  When I stop fighting the energy of my thoughts that include many emotions and sensations, my body relaxes and begins to come into alignment, naturally. This experience is truly a wonderful thing.
    When my mind and body are relaxed, my heart naturally opens, and "softens".  In this place of ease, there is so much possibility for growth to happen. Instead of resisting or rejecting my experiences, I move into a place of wonderment;  my attitude becomes one of "let's see what will happen", rather than one of my personal agenda that contains a lot of hope and fear of "what will happen...".   This is not a lazy, giving-up, "who cares" kind of attitude.  Instead, it is one that comes from of great sense of being centered and aligned--a relaxed readiness, poised for anything that "can" happen and "will" happen. I kinesthetically feel this as a powerful realignment of the bones and muscles in my body.
    I cannot and do not separate my practice of meditation and my practice of the Alexander Technique.  They are both practices of aligning the body and mind.  Both are practices that teach us to notice how powerful our thoughts are and how our thinking effects how we feel and how we function. Both practices ask us to wake up, to pay more attention, to notice the subtle energy of our thoughts and how our thoughts determine how we act, how we behave, how we interact with our world. When we are tight in our mind, it will show up as a tightness in our body. An inflexible mind will result in an inflexible body.  I like to tell my students that what we want to aim for is a lengthened state of being, rather than one of contraction. Length before strength. But so often we only want strength. We push ourselves in so many ways,  rarely questioning what is going on in our minds and the effect it is having on our bodies.
    So what to do? How do we integrate the sense of spaciousness and well-being that we often experience while practicing meditation or in a session of the Alexander Technique ? How?  By learning to practice what I call, “Pausing and Checking in”. In "pausing", I mean to literally stop doing whatever it is we are engaged in, if just for a moment, but long enough to create a little gap in our thinking.  Then, "checking in"--meaning, taking a look inside and asking, "what is going on in my mind at this very moment? What is going on in my body this very moment? Am I breathing? Am I relaxed or tight? Am I thinking a negative thought about someone or something?". 
   When we pause like this, we are really practicing--linking our outer experience with our inner experience,  while engaged in the activities of our lives. In those moments we are training ourselves to become more self-aware. When our self awareness grows, we begin to own our experience and with ownership comes the power to choose how we respond.  I dare to suggest here, that the response that doesn't produce a negative effect on our well-being or another's, but allows us to relax, if just for a moment, is always the best response.   Isn't this the point of practicing any body-mind discipline?
    It may be that as a result of this last retreat, I am beginning to understand a bit more about myself and my habits. How astonishing it is that even after years of study and practice, I still fall prey to my habits of pushing myself in trying to get things done, or an attitude of “getting it over with” so I can get to the fun things, resisting the hard messy stuff of my life. But, one is never "done" so to speak, there is always more to do, so that kind of attitude causes an ongoing sense of tension, sometimes very subtle, but enough to keep me disturbed, rather than relaxed and joyful. Still, something seems to be working.
   Through my efforts and my longing to "wake up" to the fullness of life, rather than remain in the habit of shutting down or checking out, so to speak, I am beginning to see that something in me is changing, some part of my practice is working. I am beginning to relax and enjoy my life. Not take it all so seriously, especially when I fail, so that I fall into some state of despair, but rather to see the potential in myself to be in a sane relationship with other people and with what so often appears as a very confusing world. How wonderful is that!
     So hear are a few words of wisdom. But please, don't just take my word, test it for yourself and see if it isn't true:
No matter where you are and what you are doing, you can practice the art of pausing and checking in. Not just a teeny, tiny pause, but a pause long enough to cause you to come back to your body for a moment, to feel what you are feeling and to notice what your are thinking. If you do nothing but notice that you are breathing and standing on this earth and that in this very moment you do not have to do or change anything about yourself or something or someone, you will training yourself to relax. In learning the habit of relaxing completely in our minds and thus in our bodies, we gradually become free of the habit of thinking that there is always a problem that needs to be solved, that something needs fixing. We can learn to approach everything we do and everyone we meet with an attitude of patience, compassion, curiosity, and understanding.

    When we learn to connect to the space and the ease within our body and our mind,  we become what is referred to in Buddhism as "empty".  In this "empty" space, we might experience in the core of our being the sense that we are fundamentally okay. That rather than feeling so overwhelmed by our lives that we need to contract, instead we find that there is more and more room to expand and include more of its richness.  In time, through the practice of carrying our more quiet or solitary practices into the "practice of living"  we discover that it is much more natural to allow every experience we encounter to touch us. That as human beings we are blessed with the ability to become self aware.  That we have the ability to take hold of life and the great opportunity it is providing to us to wake up and connect deeply with one another.  Then whatever we encounter on this path of LIFE with all of its whirlpool of experience, doesn't throw us off balance,  because we have become as vast as the sky in body and mind, and whatever weather comes our way, it is just fine.

With so much love,


Posted on February 12, 2016 .