Monday, February 1, 2010

(Updated on 30/8/12)

Dear Friends,

The subject relating to use of pillows has taken an unexpected turn due to my post relating
to 'Balance of the head': . Due to this development I am updating information on this subject. The earlier posts have not been deleted.


Sleeping on ones back
(My post in a discussion group)
Dear All,

This is to bring to your attention that when sleeping on ones back, the profile of the spine is more or less predetermined by the bed and the nature of the support provided to the head by a pillow. If one wishes to experiment with different position of the spine in the sagittal direction, it would be impossible to do so when sleeping on ones back. 

This problem is further aggravated if the hypothesis I have put forward, that the head should be further back (see: than what most posture correction techniques advocate, happens to be correct.

To solve this problem I have now more or less stopped sleeping on my back; sleeping on my sides it is easier to experiment with my spine and to get my head further back. I do not use a pillow (the use of a pillow would be less objectionable if one could always sleep on ones sides).

So far I am very encouraged my experiments. My final goal is that the whole body should oscillate freely and be in balance. This is a better proof of good posture than individual opinions of how the body should be held. 

Sleeping on ones sides does not invalidate the semi-supine Alexander method of posture correction. However if you  find that your posture correction has stagnated you could give my idea a try.

1) It is risky to artificially force the head in any direction.
2) My fear is that the head cannot be held well back unless there is good flexibility in the lower half of the body. My suggestion would be, if you habitually wear shoes and tie belt over you stomach muscles and use elastic in your underclothing etc. it would be better not to attempt to shift your head further back than recommended by AT.
3) When I Google 'posture' a lot of websites pop up. The information contained in these websites is substantially different from the information presented in my websites and  Hence I would request everyone to take the information presented by me with a pinch of salt :-)

It is good to keep in mind: for proper balance of the body, the position of the head is critical. Over a period of time an adult's head will move forward. This has been happening since, I am afraid, humans have been humans. Theoretically speaking any generation of humans could have easily fixed this problem; unfortunately this has not happened so far. 

We owe it to future generations to understand this problem properly and not deliberately ruin the posture of children, which is quite good to start with. It is sobering to realize that the posture of children will be ruined even before age one; mainly because something of the other will be tied over their stomach muscles; something which can easily be avoided.


P.S. In the movie God’s Must be Crazy, you will find a whole tribe of bushmen sleeping on their sides in the open!



Dear Friends,

In my website I have identified the potential postural problems that can arise from the way we dress, the footwear we use and the seating arrangements that we are accustomed to.

Interestingly enough, at this late date (I have been trying to figure out the concept of ‘posture’ for the last 35 years) I am embarrassed to report that I have left out a major item that we ‘civilized’ human beings are accustomed to - the pillow.

Of all the items listed above, I would say, that the pillow is potentially the biggest problem of all. This is because the pillow is capable of causing a very sharp discontinuity of the cervical vertebrae, and that too when we are supposed to be relaxing and recuperating from a hard day.

Before you start to protest, let me once again remind you, my dear readers, that even if the Americans have landed on the moon, there is nothing approaching a science regarding the clothes we wear, our footwear, seating arrangements etc., and yes there is no rationale for the pillows we use.

Should you discard your pillow post haste? To answer this question I refer you once again to the concept of ‘visual space’ in my blog

If in the course of your daily work you are forced to occupy ‘class one’ visual space for long periods of time perhaps there may not be much point in giving up your pillow. Older persons can attempt to use thinner pillows before giving one up entirely. If you are an athlete involved in competitive sports, you should consult your coach. Most sports activities will bias the visual space in a particular direction.

Proper head balance, I am now beginning to suspect, is important for our overall sense of well being. An important sensor that most of us will not be actively aware of is the fluid filled gyroscope in the inner ear which provides us with our sense of balance. See:

Sleeping without a pillow, when you have been using one for a long time, will be deeply uncomfortable to begin with. I attempted sleeping without pillows ten to fifteen years back, but had to give up after a month or so. My body was just not flexible enough to accommodate the change.

You may instinctively prop your head with your arms when you sleep sideways – the body knows best, and it should be left to adjust itself naturally. Where children are concerned, if we find that they are sleeping quite well without pillows, why not enforce this habit?



Posted on 31 July 2010:

The content below was posted in an Alextech discussion group on 1 July 2010. Since the post partly relates to my not using a pillow while sleeping, I am posting the same here.

The trigger for my post was the following post from another member:

.... I think you were speaking of balance as in balancing of our many systems so they work in harmony but people have interpreted it as just balancing in gravity. For me balance is indeed one of the measures of good 'Use'. Our legs are riddled with tension and our whole system's psychology is affected
by this. .....
Yes, I don't refer to gross balance in gravity. My practice of balance is mostly done in bed, where gravity is neutralized; In this position the body is more sensitive and you can with experience feel out the natural lay of the musculoskeletal system. The direction I give myself is 'let the body be flexible and strong'.

(My posture correction seems to have taken off after I stopped using a pillow. I also got into some trouble about two months back when I sat up in bed one day, and fell back with a bang - with a speed that surprised me - that's how a helicopter must feel when one of its rotors has been shot down. As far as I can figure out it was due to loosening of some critical muscles in the back of the neck and the consequent structural weakness of the body. It took me two days to get over it, taking extra precaution when ever I lay down.)

Caution: in case you plan giving up use of a pillow please read material in



Wed, Feb 02, 2011

The following material was posted in a discussion group on Jan 26, 2011. The use of pillow while sleeping figures in this discussion ....

Xxx wrote:
I suspect both these positions might naturally trigger psycho-physical
de-stressing reflexes and other related activity. I find meditating
cross legged more powerful than sitting on a chair or lying down. ** If there was a better position I would have been taught it!**

I have made sitting cross-legged routine; I am typing this post sitting cross-legged on a stool. But I am puzzled as to why people do not mention the sleeping position (on ones side preferably, but sleeping on ones back without a pillow also has its uses) as one of the best methods of correcting posture. In my case, real correction, that is repositioning of muscles relative to the skeletal system has taken place mainly in the sleeping position. One strategy I have is to oversleep, then I wake up in the middle of the night fully relaxed and allow my body to auto-correct.

This position is also safe, since you are less likely to have an accident in the sleeping position. This brings up the question once again, whether we should or should not use a pillow while sleeping. I am convinced we should not use a pillow.

In fact if you see the head alignment of a child when he is standing erect, (the child should be very young, one who has just started to walk; since I fear postural defects start early in life), you will notice that the head is well back, in fact a tangent to the back will most probably intersect the head; putting it another way, if the tangent represented a bed, you would need a cutout in the bed to allow the head to position itself correctly. 

.... This any way is the theory I am working on presently. When I just checked my head alignment by walking back till my body made first contact with a wall, I realized I have reached the 'Barlow ideal'. but my suspicion is that the head should make contact first.
Just a suggestion: All Alexander teachers undergoing a training course should 'adopt' a child just born and follow his/her progress for the next three years and prepare a report at the end of this time!

(Caution: Posture correction can be risky. Contrary to what many wise guys think it can only be a slow and tortuous affair. Do not attempt to give up your pillow in one shot if you have become used to one, especially if you are an older person. Your final - natural - head position will also be greatly influenced by your lower body flexibility and strength).

I had to respond to the above poste when yyy wrote:


It is worth pointing out, in general, that it is a bad idea to allow yourself to become very tired before taking rest. When we are very tired our performance will drop and our posture will become bad. It is better to take a quick nap (after the nap you can also correct your posture lying down). Probably 'Oversleeping' is not the word I should have used, may be 'Over lying down' will describe the idea better since it is difficult to 'Oversleep'. I have found correcting posture while lying down tiring work, and if it is night I will drift back to sleep. I also use this time profitably to think sharply about any subject I care about - so the extra time lying down is not wasted.

I understand the horror of a woman to the idea of oversleeping, when women all over the world seem to be overworked (hats off to them)! But I see posture in a wider context. Why overwork? Why not share work more equitably? Why not plan better and work more intelligently? Why have a 2000 sq ft house which is difficult to keep in order? Why not a 400 sq ft house, smartly designed, environmentally friendly and easier to keep clean? .... etc.


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