How to Do the Alexander Technique’s “Constructive Rest” — Dan Cayer

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On my Alexander Technique training course, you’d often see trainees laying on the floor with a book under their head as if charging themselves from an unseen outlet on the ground. “Constructive rest” as it’s called, is a regular part of my week and my health toolkit. I’m sharing it today because this practice can calm a jangled nervous system.

It’s drawn from the repertoire of the Alexander Technique because it also stimulates our natural postural system. Normally gravity works in a direction down your spine. Here though, gravity has a spreading effect, like a pat of butter melting, so that over time your neck, spine, and limbs can lengthen and your shoulders can relax. Especially important is to allow your neck to be unsupported while your head is supported by the books (unless this is medically contraindicated). The height of the book should be such that your forehead is roughly parallel to the floor.

If you have lower back, knee, or hip issues, then try this variation: put your lower legs up on a flat surface, like a chair or couch, so there’s no effort involved to hold them up.

If you can spare it (and you probably can if you’re honest with yourself) try doing this for about 10–15 minutes a couple times a week. Sometimes if I’m pressed for time, I make phone calls while lying on the floor. For over a decade, I’ve turned to constructive rest when I’m stressed out, in pain, or just wanting to give my body some attention.

Let me know how it goes in the Comments section below and if you have any specific questions. This practice can be endlessly modified for different bodies and needs.

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Originally published at on November 24, 2020.

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