By Dyfsunctional at English Wikipedia - Own work (Original caption: “Image created by uploader.”), Public Domain,’ve been told, or you think you should, improve your posture. Maybe you’re experiencing back pain or a stiff neck but there’s nothing physically wrong with your neck or back. Everyone probably knows now that poor posture leads to pain and stiffness. But how do you fix it?

A good place to start is changing the way we think about posture. “Posture” connotes a fixed, held position. It refers not only to the physical way in which we hold ourselves, but also an inflexible attitude or way of thinking. The biggest problem with posture is exactly that: it tends to be fixed and inflexible.

We acquire habits of posture (both the mental and physical kind) throughout our lives without realizing it. When it comes to our bodies (and I’m sure our minds as well!) there is no correct position that our heads, necks and spines should be in. Nowadays it’s fashionable to talk about certain desirable shapes of the spine, but what it boils down to is that the body is not meant to be held in a fixed position or posture. Holding postures, whether consciously or not, compresses the neck, spine, chest and joints. It causes muscles to shorten and creates stiffness and pain.

Instead of trying to improve your posture, try “directing.” Directing is a concept developed by F.M. Alexander to allow ourselves to be and do our activities without unnecessary effort. We can direct our necks to be free, our heads up and away from our torsos, and our shoulders off out to the sides. This creates appropriate muscle tone and aligns head, neck and spine in a healthier relationship that’s flexible and adaptable to your activities.

Directing might seem confusing if you’ve never heard of it before. An Alexander Technique teacher can help you learn to do this with hands-on and verbal guidance.

If you don’t have an Alexander Technique teacher near you, try a Skype lesson over the internet. You can also try it out right now where you’re sitting. Be aware of your sit bones in contact with the chair and think about letting them point downward. Now think about softening your neck so you can let your head release up and away from your sit bones as you let your shoulders release away from your center. It takes time and practice, but try stopping to think about that for a second now and then whatever you’re doing. And if you want, send me an email with questions or comments about your experience.