Why you don’t need to balance a book on your head to improve posture

Image from page 86 of "Personal hygiene and home nursing : a practical text for girls and women for home and school use" (1919) by Internet Archive Book Images licensed under Creative commons 7

We’ve all seen those old films of women walking around with books on their heads. Back in the day, this was seen as a way of learning good poise and posture, and some people still believe that doing this will help them to improve theirs. However, this is not a foolproof method, and there are now more effective means of achieving good posture.

Why did people think that walking around with a book on their head was a good idea?

When learning about good etiquette, women used to balance a book on their head because it was believed that it elongated the neck, made the eyes face forward and straightened the back. However, if you assume this position you may find that the book falls off anyway, or that some people are capable of keeping the book on their head without doing all of these things. As such, there are better ways of trying to improve posture.


If you actually try to walk around with a book on your head you will most likely add more tension in your body – not the result that is useful and certainly not good posture!


Posture is dynamic and changeable, we need to be ready to respond to what happens around us.

Tips to achieve good posture …

Think about your own head, imagine it on top of your spine. This imaging activity of locating your head in space is a super simple way to activate your good posture muscles (the fancy description would be your anti gravity reflexes). The balance of your head on your spine influences your TOTAL co-ordination.

Please note a very important part of the instruction it was to THINK about your head, you don’t actually need to do anything.  Thinking spatially about your body in an accurate anatomical way helps you tap into your wonderful natural co –ordination and poise.

Photo: C. Pizzuti
Photo: C. Pizzuti


Once you have imagined where your head is – on top!  Next is to allow small movements of your head, because posture is dynamic and it is a good idea to allow everything to move than needs to move.
These are just some of the simple posture-improving exercises you can do in the office and at home, without the need to balance a book on your head.


Working with a experienced teacher is the ideal to help you with Alexander Technique principles, however your curiosity and interest are incredibly important to learning new thinking and movement habits.






About Kathy Driscoll

I want to share information, insights and a few stories about Alexander Technique with you. I’ve used Alexander Technique in some extreme circumstances including the birth of my twins and when I had appendicitis!  I also use Alexander Technique for everyday activities as well.

I have been involved with Alexander Technique for more than 25 years.  I meet Greg Holdaway (Director of Sydney Alexander Technique) just as he was transitioning from a professional career as a dancer into Bill Brenner’s  Alexander Technique teacher training program in Sydney.

Greg now has been teaching for decades, he remains passionate and totally focused on positive results for those he works with, which now include his own teacher training program.


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