Head Leads, Body Follows

Canadian GeeseAre you aware how well animals organize their bodies? If you look at the Canadian geese flying, you see these birds demonstrating perfectly that the head leads and the body follows. Their necks are extended, their beaks leading the way, wings flapping in strong strokes. Looking at cats or dogs moving, it is easy to observe that their head is in perfect alignment with the rest of the body! In a well organized body the head is leading the movement.


We learn much about movement by watching animals. Usually animals are well coordinated and move with ease and grace. This is quite different from humans! We humans are often poorly coordinated. Stress causes imbalances in the body, and humans may move with unnecessary tension.


Many adults hold their head back too far. Neck muscles work hard to keep the head in place. The head is retracted towards the spine. We Alexander teachers call it ‘downward pull’. The head is pulled back and down and the neck is habitually shortened. Consequently, the whole body is compressed which leads to muscular strain and inflexibility.


Both animals and humans are born with natural poise. Balancing the head freely on the spine is essential for a good coordination of the whole body. In four-legged animal it is obvious that the head is the primary organizer of movement: The spine is pulled along behind the head in the horizontal plane. We humans go forward in the horizontal plane and we also need to allow a lengthening of the spine upwards in the vertical plane. This is a more complex task and most adults have lost the ability to perform it well.


If the head is poised on the spine and the tension in the neck is released, you head will naturally move forward and up in relation to your neck. This has a lengthening effect on of the muscles of the back and the whole body. Movement becomes more flexible, lighter and freer. The Alexander Technique teaches you to release the downward pressure of the head on the spine, so you can gradually rediscover natural balance.