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The Shocking Truth About Ergonomic Chairs


headshot Adrian Farrell 

Alexander Technique Teacher with a corporate background

Cynical click-bait headline aside, I’ll cut to the chase, they don’t work. There, I said it.

But let’s look at why that is, there are three main reasons:

1) You’ll think that it’s supposed to take responsibility for you. This is a commonly held view, and it seems the more expensive the chair is, the more likely you will fall into this trap. Harking back to my previous blog, you have to remember that a chair is an inanimate object, it is incapable of “doing” anything, let alone taking responsibility for you. For sure, a good ergonomic chair will provide what we call in the Alexander Technique a “mechanical advantage“, but it wont be providing any guarantees. You need to provide your own guarantees.

2) There’s a strong chance that you will adjust it to your current conception of comfort or habitual use, i.e. to support your current levels of collapse and effectively ingraining them further.

3) This is probably the most pernicious of the three, you’ll bring your old habits to it. Even if the chair is set up perfectly to offer you the greatest mechanical advantage, the habitual way you use yourself will fight against this advantage. Have you ever felt that a well set up ergonomic chair leaves you feeling more tired than a regular chair?


                            Image used with permission Baloo, Rex May

Frankly, a piano stool is as ergonomic as a chair needs to be. You don’t see piano players on stage, or at home, with fancy ergonomic chairs. In fact, I’m sat on a piano stool as I’m writing this! Yes a piano player tends to be more dynamic in their movement, but it’s their mental engagement rather than the physicality you could learn a little something from.

If you redefine sitting as standing on your bottom then you can see why a firm flat surface is all that is required, and I promise to write more on the specifics of sitting in a later blog post.

When you consider the cost of ergonomic chairs, and they don’t come cheap, it seems strange to me to want to spend all that money when an Alexander Technique teacher can teach you to sit well in any chair, freeing you to sit anywhere with ease and poise, for less! But that’s just me. I guess it’s usually employers who are forking out for expensive furniture, but given my points above, if you are an employer, it might be more cost effective to educate your staff rather than the furniture.

I was talking to a client the other day who has back pain issues, and she was telling me a story of how when a friend had offered her a chair and asked which one she’d like. She replied “It’s not the chair, but how you sit in it”. Couldn’t have put it better myself!

Getting slightly away from my above points, have you noticed that schools don’t have ergonomic chairs? Well, this is actually a very sorry state of affairs, because children are not at “work” they’re not covered by Occupational Health and Safety rules. School chairs are frequently designed to slope backwards so that they stack more easily. What’s so bad about this? If the surface you’re sat on slopes backwards, your pelvis will naturally want to tilt back, causing your lower back to round resulting in slouching. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. It’s actually an anti-ergonomic chair! So much so that teachers, who are at work, are advised not to sit on them by Occupational Health and Safety.

Alexander Technique teacher Richard Brennan has started a petition to ban backwards sloping chairs, please sign it if you are concerned about your child’s welfare. With more and more careers being sedentary our kids need all the help they can get before they reach the workplace with all the demands on the body that creates.

“No, what we need to do is not to educate our school furniture, but to educate our children. Give a child the ability to adapt himself within reasonable limits to his environment, and he will not suffer discomfort, nor develop bad physical habits, whatever chair or form you give him to sit upon” – F.M. Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance.

This blog was originally posted here, where I also talk about my personal experience of some well known ergonomic chairs, and surprisingly, find one I actually like!

The Alexander Technique has been clinically proven for back pain via an NHS funded, gold standard randomised trial. It was performed by Southampton University and their results were published in the British Medical Journal.

World wide resource for the Society of Teachers of The Alexander Technique:

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Text neck’ is becoming an ‘epidemic’ and could wreck your spine

(Image Courtesy of Dr. Ken Hansraj M.D.)

From The Washington Post:

The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.

That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone — the way millions do for hours every day, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. The study will appear next month in Surgical Technology International. Over time, researchers say, this poor posture, sometimes called “text neck,” can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery.

“It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”

Can’t grasp the significance of 60 pounds? Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours per day. Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking social media sites. That’s 700 to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines, according to the research. And high-schoolers might be the worst. They could conceivably spend an additional 5,000 hours in this position, Hansraj said.

“The problem is really profound in young people,” he said. “With this excessive stress in the neck, we might start seeing young people needing spine care. I would really like to see parents showing more guidance.”

Medical experts have been warning people for years. Some say for every inch the head tilts forward, the pressure on the spine doubles.

Tom DiAngelis, president of the American Physical Therapy Association‘s Private Practice Section, told CNN last year the effect is similar to bending a finger all the way back and holding it there for about an hour.

“As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore, it gets inflamed,” he said. It can also cause muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve.


(Courtesy of Dr. Ken Hansraj M.D.)

It’s a risk for some 58 percent of American adults who own smartphones.

Michelle Collie, a doctor who heads Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island, told CNN last year she started seeing patients with mobile technology-induced head, neck and back pain some six or seven years ago.

Poor posture can cause other problems as well. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent. It has also been linked to headaches and neurological issues, depression and heart disease.

“While it is nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues, individuals should make an effort to look at their phones with a neutral spine and to avoid spending hours each day hunched over,” according to the research.

Speaking to TODAY, Hansraj gave smartphone users tips to avoid pain:

  • Look down at your device with your eyes. No need to bend your neck.
  • Exercise: Move your head from left to right several times. Use your hands to provide resistance and push your head against them, first forward and then backward. Stand in a doorway with your arms extended and push your chest forward to strengthen “the muscles of good posture,” Hansraj said.

“I love technology. I’m not bashing technology in any way,” Hansraj told The Post. “My message is: Just be cognizant of where your head is in space. Continue to enjoy your smartphones and continue to enjoy this technology — just make sure your head is up.”

imrs-1.phpLindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever

Lost Posture: Why Some Indigenous Cultures May Not Have Back Pain



Interesting article about posture.

It’s accurate in some ways, but misses the causality of the difference in the spines. It says the reason is that they have strong and we have weak abdominals (core strength). 

However, toddlers and young children can hardly do a sit-up, yet they have fantastic use and beautifully elongated spines. 

And millions of Americans are doing crunches and other core strengthening work everyday and  yet their backs are still truncated and hurting. It’s because of HOW we are using ourselves, both during those exercises and (more importantly) the rest of the day.

 Article below. Listen to the NPR story here:


Back pain is a tricky beast. Most Americans will at some point have a problem with their backs. And for an unlucky third, treatments won’t work, and the problem will become chronic.

Believe it or not, there are a few cultures in the world where back pain hardly exists. One indigenous tribe in central India reported essentially none. And the discs in their backs showedlittle signs of degeneration as people aged.

Many ancient statues, such as this one from Greece, display a J-shaped spine. The statue’s back is nearly flat until the bottom, where it curves so the buttocks are behind the spine.

Courtesy of Esther Gokhale/Gerard Mackworth-Young

An acupuncturist in Palo Alto, Calif., thinks she has figured out why. She has traveled around the world studying cultures with low rates of back pain — how they stand, sit and walk. Now she’s sharing their secrets with back pain sufferers across the U.S.

About two decades ago, Esther Gokhalestarted to struggle with her own back after she had her first child. “I had excruciating pain. I couldn’t sleep at night,” she says. “I was walking around the block every two hours. I was just crippled.”

Gokhale had a herniated disc. Eventually she had surgery to fix it. But a year later, it happened again. “They wanted to do another back surgery. You don’t want to make a habit out of back surgery,” she says.

This time around, Gokhale wanted to find a permanent fix for her back. And she wasn’t convinced Western medicine could do that. So Gokhale started to think outside the box. She had an idea: “Go to populations where they don’t have these huge problems and see what they’re doing.”

EDITOR’S ADD NOTE, Wednesday, June 10:

Esther Gokhale’s Five Tips For Better Posture And Less Back Pain

Try these exercises while you’re working at your desk, sitting at the dinner table or walking around, Esther Gokhale recommends.

1. Do a shoulder roll: Americans tend to scrunch their shoulders forward, so our arms are in front of our bodies. That’s not how people in indigenous cultures carry their arms, Gokhale says. To fix that, gently pull your shoulders up, push them back and then let them drop — like a shoulder roll. Now your arms should dangle by your side, with your thumbs pointing out. “This is the way all your ancestors parked their shoulders,” she says. “This is the natural architecture for our species.”

2. Lengthen your spine: Adding extra length to your spine is easy, Gokhale says. Being careful not to arch your back, take a deep breath in and grow tall. Then maintain that height as you exhale. Repeat: Breathe in, grow even taller and maintain that new height as you exhale. “It takes some effort, but it really strengthens your abdominal muscles,” Gokhale says.

3. Squeeze, squeeze your glute muscles when you walk: In many indigenous cultures, people squeeze their gluteus medius muscles every time they take a step. That’s one reason they have such shapely buttocks muscles that support their lower backs. Gokhale says you can start developing the same type of derrière by tightening the buttocks muscles when you take each step. “The gluteus medius is the one you’re after here. It’s the one high up on your bum,” Gokhale says. “It’s the muscle that keeps you perky, at any age.”

4. Don’t put your chin up: Instead, add length to your neck by taking a lightweight object, like a bean bag or folded washcloth, and balance it on the top of your crown. Try to push your head against the object. “This will lengthen the back of your neck and allow your chin to angle down — not in an exaggerated way, but in a relaxed manner,” Gokhale says.

5. Don’t sit up straight! “That’s just arching your back and getting you into all sorts of trouble,” Gokhale says. Instead do a shoulder roll to open up the chest and take a deep breath to stretch and lengthen the spine.

So Gokhale studied findings from anthropologists, such as Noelle Perez-Christiaens, who analyzed postures of indigenous populations. And she studied physiotherapy methods, such as the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais Method.

And the original post continues…

Then over the next decade, Gokhale went to cultures around the world that live far away from modern life. She went to the mountains in Ecuador, tiny fishing towns in Portugal and remote villages of West Africa.

“I went to villages where every kid under age 4 was crying because they were frightened to see somebody with white skin — they’d never seen a white person before,” she says.

Gokhale took photos and videos of people who walked with water buckets on their heads, collected firewood or sat on the ground weaving, for hours.

“I have a picture in my book of these two women who spend seven to nine hours everyday, bent over, gathering water chestnuts,” Gokhale says. “They’re quite old. But the truth is they don’t have a back pain.”

She tried to figure out what all these different people had in common. The first thing that popped out was the shape of their spines. “They have this regal posture, and it’s very compelling.”

And it’s quite different than American spines.

If you look at an American’s spine from the side, or profile, it’s shaped like the letter S. It curves at the top and then back again at the bottom.

But Gokhale didn’t see those two big curves in people who don’t have back pain. “That S shape is actually not natural,” she says. “It’s a J-shaped spine that you want.”

In fact, if you look at drawings from Leonardo da Vinci — or a Gray’s Anatomy book from 1901 — the spine isn’t shaped like a sharp, curvy S. It’s much flatter, all the way down the back. Then at the bottom, it curves to stick the buttocks out. So the spine looks more like the letter J.

Healthy spines in the Western world: The J-shaped spine is often seen in photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Library of Congress

“The J-shaped spine is what you see in Greek statues. It’s what you see in young children. It’s good design,” Gokhale says.

So Gokhale worked to get her spine into the J shape. And gradually her back pain went away.

Then Gokhale realized she could help others. She developed a set of exercises, wrote a book and set up a studio in downtown Palo Alto.

Now her list of clients is impressive. She’s helped YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Matt Drudge of theDrudge Report. She has given classes at Google, Facebook and companies across the country. In Silicon Valley, she’s known as the “posture guru.”

Each year, doctors in the Bay Area refer hundreds of patients to Gokhale. One of them is Dr. Neeta Jain, an internist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. She puts Gokhale’s method in the same category as Pilates and yoga for back pain. And it doesn’t bother her that the method hasn’t been tested in a clinical trial.

“If people are finding things that are helpful, and it’s not causing any harm, then why do we have to wait for a trial?” Jain asked.

But there’s still a big question looming here: Is Gokhale right? Have people in Western cultures somehow forgotten the right way to stand?

Scientists don’t know yet, says Dr. Praveen Mummaneni, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco’s Spine Center. Nobody has done a study on traditional cultures to see why some have lower rates of back pain, he says. Nobody has even documented the shape of their spines.

“I’d like to go and take X-rays of indigenous populations and compare it to people in the Western world,” Mummaneni says. “I think that would be helpful.”

But there’s a whole bunch of reasons why Americans’ postures — and the shape of their spines — may be different than those of indigenous populations, he says. For starters, Americans tend to be much heavier.

“If you have a lot of fat built up in the belly, that could pull your weight forward,” Mummaneni says. “That could curve the spine. And people who are thinner probably have less curvature” — and thus a spine shaped more like J than than an S.

Americans are also much less active than people in traditional cultures, Mummaneni says. “I think the sedentary lifestyle promotes a lack of muscle tone and a lack of postural stability because the muscles get weak.”

Everyone knows that weak abdominal muscles can cause back pain. In fact, Mummaneni says, stronger muscles might be the secret to Gokhale’s success.

In other words, it’s not that the J-shaped spine is the ideal one — or the healthiest. It’s what goes into making the J-shaped spine that matters: “You have to use muscle strength to get your spine to look like a J shape,” he says.

So Gokhale has somehow figured out a way to teach people to build up their core muscles without them even knowing it. “Yes, I think that’s correct,” Mummaneni says. “You’re not going to be able to go from the S- to the J-shaped spine without having good core muscle strength. And I think that’s key here.”

So indigenous people around the world don’t have a magic bullet for stopping back pain. They’ve just got beefy abdominal muscles, and their lifestyle helps to keep them that way, even as they age.



Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

The Top 5 Myths about “Good Posture” On & Off the Mat – Debunked!

MAY 8, 2015

by Cecile Raynor

 MYTH #1: Good Posture means Chest Out and Shoulders Back

Reality: Good posture is not about getting it right, it is not about positioning your shoulders. This way of approaching posture creates back muscle tension and is not sustainable. In a daily context, by pushing your chest out and pulling your shoulders back, you soon find yourself slouching right back to where you started (unless you are a “chronic holder” which does not serve you either). Good posture is a dynamic and integral part of fluid functioning, not a deliberate holding in place. Look at young children! No effort whatsoever. It is your birthright!

Solution: Instead of letting your mind manipulate your skeleton by engaging your muscles, learn about integrated body use so you can let your innate body wisdom handle your posture for you. You are using your body in an integrated way when all body parts are working in harmony together guided by your innate body intelligence. As a result, you experience your skeletal system strength instead of using unnecessary muscle tension.


Effortless Good Posture

MYTH #2: Exercising Core Muscles promotes Good Posture

Reality: Yes, core muscles are crucial for good posture. Only they are not the muscles you may think. Just like an apple core is the center part of the apple, core muscles are also located deep in your center. Inner muscles and outer muscles must work in harmony but they cannot all be equally engaged at once. When you engage your outer muscles to feel strong, you are automatically disengaging  your core muscles.

Solution: When you challenge your body in whatever position or exercise you chose to; give your core muscles a chance to step up to the plate and strengthen by not tightening your outer muscles. For instance, if you are doing a plank, you stay in your plank all the same. The challenge of it remains, only disengaging the outer muscles allows the core muscles to kick in. The secret here is to keep your skeletal alignment. Then, listen to your whole body. Do not expect the inner muscle work to feel like the outer muscles when engaged. Inner core muscles work deeper, quieter and are felt more as a whole body experience.


Her open hands, smile, and her open upper back suggest she is building Flexible Strength rather than Body Stiffness!

This also means she is allowing her Core Muscles to step up to the plate and strengthen!

She is cooperating with her Whole Body Wisdom.


Her uptight upper back and neck, her held facial expression and tight fists are clearly signs

she is building Stiff Strength in her Outer Muscles & not allowing her Core Muscles to step up to the plate and strengthen!
She is not cooperating with her Whole Body Wisdom.

MYTH #3: Stretching & Strengthening Back Muscles promotes Good Posture

Reality: Stretching and strengthening the back as it is commonly done is working the big outer muscles of the back, the ones you can feel being stretched and exerting effort to strengthen. It may feel good when you do it but “feeling good” and “being good for you” are two different things although they can happen together when in line with your whole body wisdom.

Solution: Discover your postural muscles for effortless and sustainable good posture. These core muscles get increasingly stronger when you let them do their job of supporting you instead of you engaging the big outer muscles to do the job. It is all about developing trust in the wisdom of your body. You don’t need to work so hard like in the plank example given earlier. Work smarter instead by choosing to experience what flexible strength feels like. The fact is that you are still building the same amount of strength. And that is the strength of the cat, not an ounce of stiffness in their body, but they are quite strong when they need to jump or pounce on a moving target.


Power, Accuracy, Grace…. Flexible Strength at work!

MYTH #4: Good Posture is all about Proper Alignment

Reality: The truth is that there is more to good posture than proper alignment. If you are holding yourself in what you think is the right alignment, you are doing just that, “holding yourself”. And the way you are holding yourself is with excess tension. Besides, you are forcefully going again the synergy of your own body so either it is not sustainable or you are building chronic tension.

Solution: Exploring how much holding you are actually doing would be a first step. Then, choose to no longer hold your skeleton with tensed muscles. Connect with your skeletal system, keep its height, and discover its own strength. That will change the synergy of your whole body so you can experience what it is to be bone tall with relaxed muscles!

Her arched back and belly forward suggest holding tension in her back.


His perfect alignment without back arching or shoulders pulled back suggest a released yet dynamic posture.

MYTH #5: Gravity challenges Good Posture

Reality: Not so. Gravity promotes good postural balance when you use yourself as you are designed to. When you lose your skeletal height, you are not balanced above your support efficiently. As a result, gravity claims the heavy weight of the unsupported head forward and down. It also brings the shoulders with it whether you are sitting, standing or walking.

Solution: By learning to be balanced above your support, the need to push up disappears without being replaced by the urge to slouch. Allow your weight to be evenly spread on your feet when standing and learn to find the balancing point of your sit bones when sitting, and voila, anti-gravity action works for you instead of against you, propelling you upwards effortlessly like children do all the time!


When not aligned above support and relaxed, gravity promotes slouching.
When aligned above support and relaxed
, gravity promotes effortless good posture.

Do you want to learn more about this mind/body approach to natural good posture?

Do you want to learn how to reclaim efficient moving for balanced living?

Join my latest FREE 6-part EMAIL SEMINAR:

“How to Unlearn Habits that Create Body Stiffness On and Off the Mat”

(Based on the Alexander Technique Principles and Facts)



Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

Alexander Technique Now Available to Help Dentists

Worldwide research shows that 87% of dentists and up to 96% of dental hygienists suffer chronic pain.

Dr Anikó Ball

Dentist-turned-Alexander Technique Instructor Dr. Anikó Ball is bringing the Alexander Technique to Dentistry.

“I remember Monday mornings, at 10 am treating only my second patient, I was already experiencing burning pain in my left shoulder and stiffness in the lower back. I wondered how on earth I was going to get through the day, let alone the rest of the week.”

Check out her website at:

Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

Google’s Head of HR Endorses the Alexander Technique!




Lazlo Block, SVP, People Operations at Google,  recommended the Alexander Technique for desk bound back pain in his new book Work Rules.

Laslo Block endorses Alexander Technqiue                                  51mKYHHF4EL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Kudos to my colleague Adrian Farrell for reaching out!







Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

Want A Healthy Brain? Better Avoid These 7 Habits

Posted: Updated:

Why are some people sharp as a tack at 95 years old, while others begin struggling with mental clarity in their 50s?

A lot of it has to do with genetics, but certain lifestyle factors also play an important role in how our brain ages. So while you can’t control your genes, you can take advantage of the latest science and avoid these seven big brain mistakes:

Mistake No. 1: Eating a standard American diet

Foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats and processed foods — i.e., the typical American diet — can wreak havoc on your brain over time. Studies have shown that excess sugar consumption can impair learning and memory, and increase your vulnerability to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Some scientists have even referred to Alzheimer’s as “Type 3 Diabetes,” suggesting that diet may have some role in an individual’s risk for developing the disease.

A Mediterranean-based diet, on the other hand, can help protect the brain from signs of aging and ward off cognitive decline. A recent study showed that following this type of diet — which is a good source of brain-healthy nutrients and includes a lot of fish, healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables — could slash Alzheimer’s risk by up to 50 percent.

Mistake No. 2: Living next to a highway

Living in a smoggy city might be bad news for your brain. According to research published this month in the journal Stroke, exposure to air pollution is linked with premature aging of the brain.

The researchers found that people who lived closer to a major highway had greater markers of pollution in their lungs and blood, which increased their risk for a form of brain damage known as “silent strokes,” or symptomless strokes. Increased pollution volume was also linked to decreased brain volume — a major sign of aging.

Mistake No. 3: Drinking a few evening cocktails

Don Draper’s daily cigarettes and two-martini lunches might seem glamorous on “Mad Men,” but research suggests that they’re a fast track to neurodegeneration.

It should come as no surprise that excessive drinking and cigarette smoking at any stage of life can have a negative effect on the brain, damaging brain tissue and leading to cognitive impairment. Alcoholism can cause or accelerate aging of the brain.

But just a couple of glasses of wine a night could pose a risk to brain health, even though there are some cardiovascular benefits. A 2012 Rutgers University study found that moderate to binge drinking — drinking relatively lightly during the week and then more on the weekends — can decrease adult brain cell production by 40 percent.

“In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory,” one of the study’s authors, Rutgers neuroscience graduate student Megan Anderson, said in a statement.

Mistake No. 4: Giving in to stress

Living a stressful lifestyle may be the worst thing you can do for your health as you age. Chronic stress is known to shorten the length of telomeres, the sequences at the end of DNA strands that help determine how fast (or slow) the cells in our body age. By shortening telomeres, stress can accelerate the onset of age-related health problems.

What about the brain? Well, some research has suggested that high levels of stress hormones can increase an individual’s risk for age-related brain damage.

“Over the course of a lifetime, the effects of chronic stress can accumulate and become a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease,” Howard Fillit, a clinical professor of geriatric medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, wrote in Psychology Today. “Several studies have shown that stress, and particularly one’s individual way of reacting to stress (the propensity to become ‘dis-stressed’ often found in neurotic people for example), increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”

If you’re feeling stressed out, try picking up a meditation practice. Research has shown that meditation is effective in lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisoland protecting the brain from aging.

Mistake No. 5: Getting by on less sleep than you need

There are a number of scary health effects associated with sleep deprivation, from a higher risk of stroke and diabetes to impaired cognitive functioning. Over the years, losing shut-eye can also accelerate brain aging. In a study conducted last year, researchers from Singapore found that the less that older adults slept, the faster their brains aged.

The study’s lead author explained in a statement that among older adults, “sleeping less will increase the rate their brain ages and speed up the decline in their cognitive functions.”

Mistake No. 6: Sitting all day

It’s a well-established fact that sitting for long periods is terrible for your health. A growing body of research has linked a sedentary lifestyle with health risks including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and early death, even among people who get the recommended daily amount of exercise.

And it turns out that sitting is also pretty bad for your brain. Research has linked physical inactivity with cognitive decline. Moreover, weight gain in older adults — which may result from too much sitting — has been linked with shrinkage in brain areas associated with memory.

So when in doubt, move around. Physical activity has been linked with a number of brain health benefits, including improved learning and memory.

Mistake No. 7: Zoning out

Use it or lose it! If you want to keep your brain sharp, keep it engaged. It doesn’t have to be a challenging intellectual task or a brain-training game, either — simply engaging in everyday activities like reading, cooking or having a conversation (as opposed to vegging out in front of the TV or computer) can make a difference.

But mental exercises like crossword puzzles and sudoku can help, too. A 2013 studypublished in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that brain exercises are more effective than drugs in preventing cognitive line.

The bottom line? Doing new and novel things promotes neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons in the brain. So get outside, learn, discover and try something new to keep your brain sharp through the decades.


Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

Soas: The One Muscle That Does Not Need Strengthening

Published by Liz Koch on August 15, 2005 in Articles

Located behind those flab or fab abs is a little known but oh so powerful muscle called your PSOAS (pronounced so-as). The only muscle to connect your spine to your leg, the psoas influences everything from low back pain and anxiety, to full body orgasms and pure pleasure. It is a supple, juicy dynamic muscle.

So why don’t people know about the psoas and why do so few physicians ever mention it?

Subtle to sense, the psoas is not easy to locate and because it is so deep within the human core, it can not easily be palpated (nor is it a good idea to have your psoas manipulated!).

A part of the flee/fight/freeze response, invasive techniques can exacerbate psoas problems. A primal messenger of the central nervous system the psoas is an emotional muscle expressing what is felt deep within the belly core – what is commonly referred to as “gut feelings”.

A tense psoas can disturb digestion, reproductive functioning and create a host of other aliments. Released and vital it fosters feelings of pleasure and comfortable.

Constructive rest is an easy position for releasing tension in your psoas muscle. After work and before your evening meal take 10 – 20 minutes to rest in constructive rest and feel the benefits.

A safe and comfortable position, constructive rest helps to relieve back, pelvic and leg fatigue and tension. Begin by resting on your back. Knees bent and feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Keep the trunk and head parallel with the floor. If not parallel place a folded, flat towel under your head. DO NOT push your lower back to the floor or tuck your pelvis under in an attempt to flatten the spine. For best results keep the arms below the shoulder height letting them rest over the ribcage, to the sides of your body or on your belly. There is nothing to do; constructive rest is a BEING position.

In this simple position gravity releases the psoas and you’ll feel more at peace with your self and the world.



Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

The Biggest Mistake Dancers Make

Ballroom dancers are always striving to improve their dancing, but in my observations as a teacher there is one mistake commonly made that’s more severe than all the others, and it seems to affect dancers at every level.

Good postureThe human head weighs, on average, between 5 and 11 pounds (though we’ve all known people with heads that, based on their behavior, must weigh considerably more). This is about 8 percent of the weight of an average person. As a result, what dancers do with their head has a significant impact on how the couple moves together.

When we hold our posture in a proper vertical stance, the head is directly aligned over the spine. This creates a central point of balance all the way down the body that allows the weight to be evenly distributed for minimal stress on the spine. The diagram at left shows the gravity line from the top of the head down through the feet.

Anything we do with the head can distort this perfect balance point to pull the body in a direction that we didn’t intend, or it can keep the body from going where we want it to go. Ballroom dancers have a unique challenge in that they need to keep the alignment of the head over the spine while moving continuously in very dynamic shapes. Unfortunately, most dancers find themselves using their head incorrectly, applying forces that affect their dancing in undesirable ways.

Normal head position

Normal NeckThe normal spine (like the example shown here) is not actually straight up and down but curved. At the neck it has a convex curve to the front. A variety of conditions can impact this curve, and because it’s hidden from view, these conditions may go unnoticed for years or even a lifetime. Whiplash injuries, spinal degradation or poor posture can cause this curve to be affected, sometimes straightening or even curving in the opposite direction. But even those with a healthy curve can do things while dancing that undermine their normally great posture. Naturally, any variation from the ideal curve can impact a dancer’s balance as well as the way they move. For example, trying to spin with the head tilted, even a little, is pretty much impossible. Over time, bad habits can lead to back pain and serious spinal conditions. We’re often not even aware of these changes because they happen gradually and because, short of x-rays, we can’t even see it happening.

The most common mistake in dancing

spinal flexionThe most common dance error is using the head incorrectly. When the head is brought forward, it straightens the perfect spinal curve. This has a significant impact on your dancing. First of all, it adds weight to the frontal part of your body, pulling you off balance. It affects your partner. It adds stress to the spine. For every inch the head comes forward, the spine has to deal with an additional 10 pounds of unexpected pressure. And when your head is in front of the spine, even slightly, it robs you of the power to drive forward from the standing leg.

Shown in this x-ray is an image of spinal flexion, or forward movement of the head. You can see how this brings the body’s weight forward, in front of the spine. Obviously, at the moment we do this, the body’s alignment is no longer perfectly balanced. Body weight moving forward affects the way you move, the way your partner feels, and other factors in your dancing.

You might wonder why I’m targeting head position and not just saying that “posture” is the mistake. That’s because poor posture is the result of poor head position, not the cause of it. We need to deal with the underlying problem rather than the symptom.

Beginner dancers

These problems tend to start at the very beginning. When first learning to dance, men and women often look down, though for different reasons.

Men are concerned about stepping on their partner’s feet. They look down to make sure they are keeping their feet clear of their partner.

Women look down to try and guess the man’s movements by watching his feet, taking their lead from what his feet are doing instead of feeling what his body is doing. This can lead to a bad habit that is hard to break.

Higher level dancers

As dancers get more experienced, they usually stop looking down at their feet, but that doesn’t mean they stop looking down.

I see two common problems with intermediate dancers. The first is a tendency to look downwards because of a lack of confidence. Men typically look down because they are too busy thinking about their steps to look confidently ahead. Men might look at their partner just because she’s pretty.

Women will often look at their partner, expecting to find some indication of his lead from the expression in his face or where he is looking, rather than feeling what his body is doing. I understand that women are often challenged because a man learning to dance doesn’t lead clearly. Unfortunately, looking at your partner puts your head in the wrong place, except when done deliberately in a strategic way (such as the man looking at his lady to bring attention to her). If these actions aren’t checked quickly in the learning process, they lead to bad habits.

Typical posture problemsShown here are several common posture positions that affect dancing. You can see how looking down brings the head position forward and destroys a clean postural line.

I even see competitors at the Championship level who are looking at a point about 8–10 feet in front of them, obviously thinking about their technique and their steps rather than enjoying the fact that they’re dancing with a partner in their arms. In some cases, men look down at the floor in front of them to judge floor craft opportunities. Despite the honorable reason to be gazing there, it’s the wrong way to deal with a very real need as a dance lead. You can accomplish the same goal by keeping your head up and using peripheral vision to see the dancers in front of you. It takes practice, but this is the proper way to handle that issue.

For every inch the head comes forward, the spine has to deal with an additional 10 pounds of unexpected pressure.

When the head is angled forward, it also leads to other errors such as moving your body forward from the head rather than moving from the center. If the head is placed one or two inches forward, it adds 10–20 pounds of weight to the front of the body. This will cause the upper body to move before the rest of the body can engage, even if you try very hard to avoid it. In essence, you’re already falling into the step before you begin moving. That ruins your technique.

In steps where the head must turn, such as Promenade Position or the Chasse, the timing of that head turn is just as important as the position of the head. If the head turns too early or too late, it impacts the movement of the couple. And if the head is angled downward or towards the partner, it not only affects the couple’s balance, but looks small as well.

The opposite problem

spinal extensionSome dancers, particularly women, try to avoid this problem by either leaning back or by angling the head upwards so that the curve of the spine is extended. This is just as bad as placing the head forward. Instead of stretching to keep their head aligned with the spine in a beautiful line, women bend their head back, looking up at the ceiling. That pulls the partner off balance, especially in rotational steps.

A common mistake by ladies is to send the head back before their foot is fully extended behind them. This places the weight of the head behind the spine. Even experienced dancers make this mistake in steps like the Contra Check. Even if the lady takes her head back at the same time as her foot, she will pull the man off balance. Instead, she must send the foot first, then the body and finally she can extend the head. When walking backwards, a dancer who moves the head back before the foot is extended will begin to fall into the next step, causing the action to speed up and get out of control as the feet desperately try to keep the body from falling.

Scientific proof that posture matters

A recently published scientific study looked into the male dance moves that women found most attractive. It compared different amounts of leg, upper body and arm movements, using computer-generated video avatars to avoid any sense of favoritism. The researchers came to all kinds of conclusions about how big the leg and body movements should be, but curiously seemed unaware of the head in their study. What fascinated me was how the results related directly to head position. In every case, the dance moves the women found unattractive were made with the avatar’s head slightly forward, looking down or otherwise communicating a lack of confidence.

We are drawn to confident looking people because that look speaks of strength and victory. We feel safe around them. When the head is tilted even the tiniest amount forward, we instinctively evaluate this as a lack of confidence. A head that is aligned with the spine conveys a look of confidence. It will make you look better, and keeps you properly balanced at all times.

Head position exercises

contra checkThis photo shows a Throwaway Oversway. Notice how the man has great posture, with his head aligned over the spine and not forward. Notice how the woman, though her head is back, has the leg extended well past her head position so that she remains perfectly balanced. Her head is also aligned with the spine. The center of the couple is joined properly in the space that represents the center of gravity for the couple. There are some things wrong with this Oversway (amount of rotation, for example, is incorrect), but those problems aren’t relevant to the discussion of head position.

How is your head position when you dance? Where are you looking? Do you find yourself looking down or a few feet in front of you? Or might you be overcorrecting by bending your head back?

If you’re a lead, try to use your peripheral vision to judge floor craft issues while looking up and past the other dancers on the floor. As a performer, you should constantly be aware of your spine and the angle of your head in relation to your spine. As you move, your spine will adjust. Some steps will cause the spine to be slightly tilted away from your partner. In that case, your head should also be tilted to maintain that clean line from the top of your head through your spine. But when doing so your feet need to be behind you so that you are balanced properly.

At other times, the head should be looking straight ahead. A good rule of thumb is to look at a point slightly above the head of a person standing on the edge of the floor, but this will depend, in part on your height and the step you are making at the moment. Only in very rare cases should the head be tilted downwards, and even then it is still aligned strategically with the spine.

Practice holding your partner in dance hold and swaying left and right to see how it affects your head position. Using a mirror often helps. Practice swinging forward and back to see how your head needs to be positioned to stay aligned with the spine. Most of all, practice compressing vertically and moving from the standing leg so that your head and upper body are not moving before the center.

Author’s Note: The first version of this article referred to the last image as a Contra Check because it looked at first glance as if the lady’s right foot is back and the rotation is not nearly enough for a Throwaway Oversway. The step is in fact a Throwaway Oversway as her left foot, not her right, is behind her.


Original Blog:


Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

The Guardian: How 2 Minutes of Mindfulness Can Calm a Class and Boost Attainment

Buddhists have practised mindfulness for more than 2,000 years, but the technique of focusing on the present moment has long been dismissed by scientists as new age mumbo jumbo. Now, though, the West is finally waking up to the benefits of Eastern meditation and schools are discovering a daily dose of silent reflection can not only calm a classroom but may improve academic performance.

In recent years, medical science has discovered the extent to which mindfulness can help treat a range of mental conditions, from stress to depression. While most studies have focused on adults, new research shows mindfulness can improve the mental, emotional, social and physical health and wellbeing of young people. Incredibly, neuroscientists have found that long-term practice alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that teachers are becoming increasingly interested in the potential benefits of mindfulness for students.

Caroline Woods teaches year one and two at The Dharma primary school in Brighton and starts her class every day with a few minutes of silent mindfulness practice. She says getting the children to sit still and in silence isn’t the struggle you might imagine. Students actually look forward to a time when all they have to do is stop, be calm and listen.

Although teaching at the school is based on Buddhist values, Woods insists the practice is not about religion or philosophy, it’s about gaining control of your negative thoughts and emotions. These skills not only help young people cope with academic stress, but also enable them to deal better with the pains of growing up and day-to-day pressures of life outside the school gates.

“The whole process of mindfulness has the knock-on effect of making people more receptive and open,” Woods explains. “What we are trying to do is help them become more aware of themselves in a non-judgemental way. By the time the students leave in year six, they have an emotional intelligence and a set of skills that really equip them to cope with everyday life.”

While the most common form of mindfulness practice involves sitting and following the breath, it can be adapted to focus on eating, listening to music or walking. The key is to find a technique which appeals most to the students.

According to Katherine Weare, emeritus professor at the universities of Exeterand Southampton‘s mood disorder centre, one of the most useful ways of practising mindfulness is to take a very short pause in the middle of whatever you’re doing. This can be done at school by inviting students to stop what they are doing, close their eyes and recognise what is happening in their mind and body right now. Then focus on the breath and really feel a sense of contact with the floor. It can take just two minutes, but once done, students are often ready to carry on in a much calmer way.

Weare, who is working with staff from the University of Exeter and elsewhere in the UK to develop mindfulness in schools, describes the practice as “the WD40 of education”, helping students find the focus needed to achieve their academic goals. The evidence, she says, is that kids’ tests improve as a result and children who can sit and breathe for a few minutes before they start an exam will do better compared with those who don’t.

Any mindfulness programme in school must, however, start with the teachers. Former teacher Claire Kelly is operations director for the Mindfulness in Schools project which offers training and resources for teachers. She says it is vital the teacher embodies the practice if the students are to follow suit.

“If you are not living the mindfulness principles yourself, the kids will know, they will be very cynical and you will probably put them off,” she says. “Likewise, if you teach them a lovely mindfulness lesson and then go out and kick the photocopier in the corridor, they will notice.”

Making sure the school leadership is on board is also essential. If they are supporting you, you’re halfway there.

Kelly warns, however, not to expect immediate results. In her experience the impact of mindfulness varies from student to student and it is difficult to know whether the practice is really sinking in. Some of the students will immediately get it, though, and she advises starting a lunchtime club for those who are really keen. And while others in the class often appear to be daydreaming and some may even fall asleep, that doesn’t mean that they will never use the techniques.

“There was a year group I was teaching and only a third of them at the time looked like they were really engaging with the practice,” she remembers. “But then about three years later, I had a phone call from an external invigilator who asked me to come down to the exam hall immediately. When I went down there I was surprised to see the same students doing a meditation practice in preparation for the paper they were about to sit.

“You are giving them a toolkit. Whether they use those skills is up to them, but the chances are they will draw on them at some stage.”

Go to the article here:



Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

7 Ways to Regain/Boost Your Acting Power

By Brett Hershey

We’ve all experienced it. An actor appears on screen, takes the stage or struts into the audition room and instantly commands attention.

How did he do that?

As an Alexander Technique instructor, I’m keenly interested in what fuels an actor’s power and what drains it. Why are some actors cast in alpha roles and others as beta characters (or not at all)? Is power something we are born with or can it be cultivated?

We sense people’s power immediately. Like animals, we are highly perceptive motion detectors. Our brains are programmed to evaluate another’s power and they do it in a blink of an eye. This happens in all our daily interactions, but it’s especially poignant in auditioning and performing. In fact, casting directors have told me that eighty percent of casting is done from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you start your audition.

I’ve had directors/producers send me actors whom they want to cast for a powerful role – such as president, queen or mob boss – but the actor seems too weak or diminished. He or she couldn’t project power.

Some might prescribe a trip to the gym, but true power is not derived from sprouting gargantuan muscles. How is power cultivated? How is your acting power? Are you maximizing your genetic range or is there some room for improvement?

Here are 7 ways to boost your power:


1) Balance Your Head on Top of Your Spine.

Your head weighs 12-14 lbs. There is nothing that ‘holds’ the head up. It is designed to be poised on top of the spine. If you’re head is out of balance, then you are off your center, and that is perceived as WEAK.

And FYI the top of your spine is not in your neck. In fact, there is no neck joint. Your spine meets your skull inside your head. Put your finger in your ears. That is where your atlantic-occipital joint is located. Live from way up there.

True power is generated by exquisite coordination of oneself – mainly, having an excellent relationship between head and spine, and moving from this central organizing principle. Think of the way Brad Pitt moved in Fight Club.

And power is demonstrated by not compromising this ‘good use,’ no matter what activity we are performing (watch Tich Nat Hahn ties his shoes) or who comes our way (a queen’s poise is unaffected by their subjects or surroundings).

EXERCISE: Look in the mirror or at your photos and notice the poise of your head. Are you jutting it out? Tucking your chin forward? See if you can release it slightly forward and up. To feel this ‘release’ sensation, roll down with knees bent in a standing position and let your head dangle toward the floor.


2) Stop Nodding, Fidgeting and Wiggling.

To quote Cool Hand Luke, “Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand.” This is often so true with acting. Ever notice how still powerful characters can be?

Think of Vital in the Godfather. People came to see him. They moved around him. The squirmed and fidgets in their seat as they waited for him to make his decisions. Yet, he did very little. He often just listened.

And incessant nodding is a clear sign of weakness. It’s not just agreeing with someone. It’s sending off the signal: Do you like me? Are we okay? Is everything okay? Ironically, if we don’t nod when we listen, we actually can hear more because we are doing less and therefore more receptive to input.

EXERCISE: Notice how much nodding, fidgeting, and wiggling you are doing in your life and in your scene work. Try reducing it or eliminating it and see how it affects the power dynamic of your interactions.


3) Use The Biggest Levers in Your Body.

Put your hands above your hips and feel around the back to your spine. Notice that there is no joint there! I call this the fictitious, pernicious waist joint. Did a fashion designer come up with this? Bending from your waist is like using the emergency brake on your car every time you want to slow down or stop – awkward, clunky and eventually you’ll blow it out.

Instead, use the biggest levers of your body, the HIP JOINTS. To find those, put your hands on your glutes (i.e. your butt). Now feel under to where the legs attach to the pelvis. These are the most powerful – yet often underutilized – joints in the body.

When changing altitude, use these joints along with the knees and ankles. To increase your power, think squat and lunge, even when picking up your phone, purse or keys.

EXERCISE: Try picking up your keys off a low coffee table with your legs straight. Then try leaving your head, neck and back alone and just fold through the ankles, knees and hip joints. You can put a hand on the back of your neck to minimize the tension there and transfer it to your legs.


4) Walk into Auditions Contralaterally.

The weakest form of human locomotion is walking homo-laterally, that is same arm, same leg. This immediately signals that something’s wrong, which could be a good choice for a creepy predator on CSI, but it doesn’t projects power.

Humans are designed to walk contra-laterally, or opposite arm, opposite leg. However, it’s not just opposite arm, but opposite torso. In fact, the arms are just along for the ride. This easy spiral movement through the torso is hallmark of good coordination, health and confidence.

Due to fear, most actors walk into auditions with their torsos frozen. It immediately (and subconsciously) turns off casting directors. Instead, let your torso move with each step and notice how it changes your confidence as well as your performance.

EXERCISE: First try walking homo-laterally. Then try walking contra-laterally, but with the torso stiff or frozen. Now try walking with exaggerated movement through the torso, and let the arms swing freely, along for the ride. What happens?


5) Allow Your Breathing Mechanism to Work.

Nothing zaps energy more than holding your breath. And yet interfering with the natural breathing mechanism by sucking air in or forcing air out, also diminishes your power.

The secret is to let your body breath. Sounds simple, but it can be challenging. Some suggestions:

Soften the eyes. Let the world come into your eyes rather than you looking out at it.

Unlock the jaw. Remember that your jaw is double jointed – it releases out and down.

Release your knees. Locking any joint can create a domino effect, locking other joints and stiffening the body.

Stop sucking in your stomach. It doesn’t make you look better and it cuts off the breath as well as constricts all your vital organs.

EXERCISE: Sit comfortable or lay on the floor with a book under your head and knees bent. After an exhale, set an intention not to consciously inhale. Instead, wait until your body brings in the air. After it does, then wait for your body to exhale. See how long you can let your body breathe you, instead of you breathing your body.


6) Make Strong Physical Choices, Even for Weak Characters or Moments

A common complaint I hear from the other side of the camera is that actors tend to make weak choices. There are, of course, situations in which playing with the lack of power is effective. However, actors too often lapse into powerlessness, by collapsing or constricting themselves. This can easily close us off the actor, and prevent the audience from coming on the journey with them.


Excess tension and collapse are perhaps an actor’s greatest threats. They cause performers not only to lose their power, but to lose each other, to lose the moment as well as their audience. And when actors do ‘try’ to be powerful, they ‘reach’ to generate the emotion and/or ‘push’ it through the congestion, coming across as muted, inauthentic or even melodramatic.


These actors tend not to get cast. Take note of the posture and movement quality of the actors who make it to the screen, especially in the lead roles. There are exceptions, but most have good to excellent use. It’s rather Darwinian – selection of the fittest or those that are in the best psycho-physical shape.


EXERCISE: Recall a sad story from your life. Tell it to a class, video camera or a friend. Tell it the first time, collapsing and constricting into yourself (slouching, hunching, tensing, etc.). Now tell it again, and stay up and available to your audience. Fight against the urge to ‘go down.’ Compare the footage and/or check in with the audience to learn how the two approaches came across.


7) Practice Good Posture in Your Life

I find that if actors are using themselves well in their lives, they can play both powerful characters and weak characters. Actors with poor posture have a hard time rising to the challenge of alpha stature. It’s much easier to shrink yourself down than to suddenly bolster your strength.


In regards to nature vs. nurture, we are not all created equally. Each of us is given a genetic range of psycho-physical power. We can’t change our height or bone-structure (non-surgically), for example. Yet, we can strive to maximize the range of psycho-physical power that we are given.


EXERCISE: Practice Constructive Rest every day by lay on your back for 10-15 minutes on the (carpeted) floor. Place a book under your head (to bring it level with the spine) and bend your knees with feet on the ground. Don’t do anything. See how much tension and stress you can UNDO by releasing into gravity.


Brett Hershey is a full-time, AMSAT certified Alexander Technique (AT) Instructor and Consultant in the Los Angeles area. He is highly effective at improving posture, eliminating pain and increasing performance quality of entertainment professionals – actors, directors, producers, supermodels, stand-up comedians, dancers, etc. as well as students from all walks of life.


Constructive, Restorative Rest

“Relaxation is too often mistaken for inertia. This is a false conception, and has given rise, in those who do not comprehend its real nature, to the habit of doing things in a semi-lifeless, easy way. Relaxation does not mean acting in a relaxed, lazy manner. It means rest after effort, perfect rest after perfect effort. It implies more than this, for it means conscious transfer of energy from one part of the being to another, with unaffected ease and grace, after an active tension of body or of brain. True relaxation means resigning the body to the law of gravity, the mind to nature, and the entire energy to deep, rhythmic breathing. Complete relaxation of voluntary muscles at once transfers energy to involuntary parts, so that, strictly speaking, there can be no conscious relaxation, except in voluntary muscles and brain. But this is quite sufficient. This transfer of energy produces the requisite equilibrium for renewing physical strength. ”

– The early feminist Genevieve Stebbins from her book Delsarte System of Expression

via Mark Jones – Thanks, Mark!



Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at

Health Experts Recommend Standing Up At Desk, Leaving Office, Never Coming Back

NEWS IN BRIEFHealthFitnessLifestyleISSUE 51•05Feb 6, 2015

ROCHESTER, MN—In an effort to help working individuals improve their fitness and well-being, experts at the Mayo Clinic issued a new set of health guidelines Thursday recommending that Americans stand up at their desk, leave their office, and never return. “Many Americans spend a minimum of eight hours per day sitting in an office, but we observed significant physical and mental health benefits in subjects after just one instance of standing up, walking out the door, and never coming back to their place of work again,” said researcher Claudine Sparks, who explained that those who implemented the practice in their lives reported an improvement in mood and reduced stress that lasted for the remainder of the day, and which appeared to persist even into subsequent weeks. “We encourage Americans to experiment with stretching their legs by strolling across their office and leaving all their responsibilities behind forever just one time to see how much better they feel. People tend to become more productive, motivated, and happy almost immediately. We found that you can also really get the blood flowing by pairing this activity with hurling your staff ID across the parking lot.” Sparks added that Americans could maximize positive effects by using their lunch break to walk until nothing looks familiar anymore and your old life is a distant memory.

The Shocking Truth About Ergonomic Chairs

by Adrian Farrell


Cynical click-bait headline aside, I’ll cut to the chase, they don’t work. There, I said it.

But let’s look at why that is, there are 3 main reasons:

1. You will think that it’s supposed to take responsibility for you.  This is a commonly held view, and it seems the more expensive the chair is, the more likely you will fall into this trap.  Harking back to my first ever blog, you have to remember that a chair is an inanimate object, it is incapable of “doing” anything, let alone taking responsibility for you. For sure, a good ergonomic chair will provide what we call in the Alexander Technique a “mechanical advantage”, but it wont be providing any guarantees.

2. There’s a strong chance that you will adjust it to your current conception of comfort or habitual use, i.e. to support your current levels of collapse and effectively ingraining them further.

3. This is probably the most pernicious of the three, you’ll bring your old habits to it. Even if the chair is set up perfectly to offer you the greatest mechanical advantage, the habitual way you use yourself will fight against this advantage. Have you ever felt that a well set up ergonomic chair leaves you feeling more tired than a regular chair?


It may seem a little unfair to single out one particular chair , but I do so partly from my personal experience and partly because it coincidently exhibits a point I’ve made a few times previously.  They’re also extremely common, certainly across the Square Mile (London’s financial district) where I worked for many years as an IT consultant for a number of investment banks.  For  me, the “Aeron” style chair fails simply because the surface on which you sit is  unstable. To repeat my mantra, “if you can stand on it, you can sit on it“, this is clearly not a surface on which you could stably stand, being a stretchy woven fabric. It’s like trying to stand on a trampoline, it provides little more support for your sit bones than a sofa.  Maybe it’s my narrow definition of what sitting is, standing on your sit bones, but I found that the Aeron strongly encourages a collapse into the back rest. That might be fine for resting/reclining, but aren’t these supposed to be work chairs? As a reminder, the roots of your arms are in your back, you don’t want to loose that support when you are typing away at your keyboard, it invariably leads to tense shoulders and potential repetitive strain injury.

For the sake of fairness I’ll mention another ergonomic chair that I’ve had plenty of experience with in the past. Kneel on chairs do encourage an alignment of the spine, but they leave you somewhat immobile, and freedom to move is an essential aspect of using yourself well. I find that after a few minutes I feel locked in place and rigid, and that always leads to tension and feels more tiring in the long run than sitting on a simple flat surface. I also found it reduced the blood flow through my legs, causing discomfort.

Although it should be obvious by now that any flat surface will suffice for standing on your bottom (yes I will keep hammering home my definition of sitting), there is actually one style of ergonomic chair that I do quite like.  Under the assumption that you are not expecting it to take responsibility for you, I find saddle chairs to be very comfortable, and ironically, it’s not a surface you can stand on easily!  It looks like there’s an exception to every rule, but the sit bones are still well supported.

When you consider the cost of ergonomic chairs, and they don’t come cheap, it is far better value, and cheaper than many ergonomic chairs, to learn to how to use a simple chair, freeing you to sit anywhere with ease and poise.

No, what we need to do is not to educate our school furniture, but to educate our children. Give a child the ability to adapt himself within reasonable limits to his environment, and he will not suffer discomfort, nor develop bad physical habits, whatever chair or form you give him to sit upon” – F.M. Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance.

Speaking at UCLA Stress Less Week


January 27
Tuesday – 12-1pm
Pauley Pavilion Club 

Speaker Brett Hershey,

Alexander Technique Certified Instructor

Learn to keep your backs strong, healthy and injury free through the Alexander Technique. Learn how to sit, stand and move with ease and freedom while unlearning various maladaptive physical habits.

Free Stress Bears!