How A Nursery Song Inspires Mindful Movement

Photo: Unsplash, Karl Frederickson

When I was a little kid there was a song that we sang in nursery school that makes me think of mindful movement. It went like this: “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes. With your eyes and ears and mouth and nose. Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!”

Because we think A LOT about the head, a lot about the shoulders, a lot about the knees and depending on the person a lot about the toes, it is the perfect song for Alexander Technique Teachers or anyone who practices the Alexander Technique. (If you don’t know about the Alexander Technique it is a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move and live better.)

In fact, we think a lot about the whole body and how it moves through space. And if that isn’t enough we also think about the mind. In fact, we see absolutely no separation between the mind and the body. There is only mind/body unity so when you affect the body you affect the mind and when you affect the mind you affect the body!

I think that most of us don’t have really constructive ways to think about ourselves. Instead, if we think about ourselves at all, we think in very de-constructive, judgemental ways such as “am I too fat, am I too thin, am I too tall, am I too short etc.”

OUCH!This is not constructive thinking! This is not mindful movement.

The way that you think about yourself can change the way that you move, think, and react.

You can improve the way that you move by just thinking about yourself in a new and improved way. This is real mindfulness this is mindful movement.

So let’s learn new and constructive ways to think about yourself and practice mindful movement.

Sign up for my video course here!

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!

  • Heads up! Your head matters! Here is some knowledge. Your head rests on top of your spine but do you know the place where the head articulates with the spine? If you take your index finger and place it on the flap in front of your ears and place your thumb just behind your earlobe you can locate the place of articulation very deep in the skull. This is your atlanto-occipital joint. This is important because the way the head articulates with the spine determines how well you function. So paying attention to this articulation will improve the way that you move.
  • “Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me Happy” sang John Denver and so it should, but the shoulders have so much to bear. How many of you out there have aching shoulders and bad necks? My experience has been that most people misunderstand how the shoulder moves. They think that the point of articulation is closer to the center of the upper chest otherwise known as your pecs. Often this is the case with someone with rounded shoulders. Instead, think of the shoulders’ movement originating much further out. If you take your finger and trace the top of your shoulder all the way to the top of the arm you will come to the juncture of the shoulder and the arm.  This is where the arm moves best. Moving the arm in this way opens up the chest and prevents the sloping forward of the shoulders.
  • Are knees important too? You bet! Bending at your ankles knees and hips is critical for agility and balance. As we age we tend not to move through these joints. Squats and lunges are a great way to reintroduce this mobility. To do a squat stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Think of your head resting on top of the spine and think of letting go of tension in your neck, tongue, and jaw. Now bend at your ankles knees and hips as if you were to sit in a chair in an exaggerated way. Then stand up. Make this easy you do not have to muscle through this for it to be effective. Repeat several times. The better you get the lower you can go but ease into it. To do a lunge stand with your feet shoulder width apart then just step forward with one foot and then return to standing. Again repeat several times.
  • Are you on your toes? Many people walk inefficiently with their toes up in the air. You definitely do this if you find that you are wearing a hole in the top of your socks, slippers or sneakers. When we walk well our weight strikes near the middle part of the heel, crosses the arch of the foot and continues to our big toe. The big toe has two jobs; it helps balance you and it propels you forward. So when you walk think of walking through the big toe. Now don’t overdo this. Allow it to happen. Allow your arms to swing. Think opposite arm to opposite leg!
  • And last but not least. Stop trying- bringing too much effort to any given task tightens and shortens muscles and makes you less agile and flexible. Instead of trying harder to move tell yourself that you are going to allow yourself to perform a task. This is a mindset change. How you think about movement will actually change how you move. Your movement should be light, free and joyful.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below.

Do You Have Painful Posture?

This post may contain affiliate links. Everything I refer to I have created myself and can attest to its quality.

Do you have painful posture?

Or, in other words, is your posture causing you pain?

No, seriously. Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps it is not your back hurting you, but rather you hurting your back?

Perhaps this is you. You go to your doctor and complain of back or neck or even jaw pain. Your doctor says, “Let’s get some imaging to see what is causing the pain.”

You might have an MRI or maybe an x-ray but nothing can be identified as the source of your pain.

Maybe your Dr. will send you off to physical therapy and that might or might not help or maybe your Dr. prescribes some pain medication that just may have undesirable side effects.

Either way, things may improve or not.

But, maybe there is another way to address painful posture!

Very often it is HOW you move that is causing the pain. By learning HOW TO MOVE BETTER, you can greatly reduce or eliminate the pain.

I want you to think about how you move.

I bet it is safe to say that you do not move like you did when you were a child.

Think about how a small child moves; easily and effortlessly. Imagine her in your mind’s eye with her long upright back and her head beautifully poised on top of her spine.

Now, look at yourself in a mirror. Notice how you sit or stand. Observe how your head is in relationship to your spine. Is it poised beautifully on top of your spine?

How your head relates to your spine impacts how well you move. This is really important!

You can learn how to move better.

I have created this free short video course that gives you some helpful tips on how to sit better called Sitting for Success. You can click here to sign up.


Click here to access course!

Why do I start with sitting? Well, sitting is part of how you move. How you sit has a big influence on how you stand, walk or even run.

In fact, the habits that you have developed around your sitting are probably the habits that you also bring to every other way that you move.

Don’t let painful posture ruin your life. Sign up for my free course here.

And while you are at it download my free PDF on 7 Ways to Turn Back the Clock. This helpful guide gives you some important yet simple tips that you can apply to help you move more easily with less muscular stress and pain. You can find the sign up just to the right of this article.

You can also purchase my Amazon bestseller Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.


My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a movement and fitness coach and Alexander Technique teacher. I teach people how to move better and to move more. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves!



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How I can Save You Up To $1495 on an Office Chair!

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This is no joke.

I just GOOGLED “ergonomic office chairs” and found chairs that cost upwards of $1500!

Photo: Unsplash: Florian Klauer

Here is the secret: you don’t need one.

You can find a perfectly good chair at a local store or better yet recycle one from a friend’s garage sale and paint it if you must.

This is what to look for and it may surprise you.

  1. Find a chair like a kitchen or dining room chair.
  2. Make sure that the seat is firm. You do not want a rush seat. If you find that the chair is too firm and uncomfortable you can put a cushion on the chair. You know the ones I am talking about. They have little strings on them so that you can tie them to the chair back. You can find these cushions at hardware stores or home good stores
  3. The seat should be flat. It should not be hollowed out nor should it slope backward. This is very important. Backward sloping chairs make you slouch.
  4. Chair heights vary. The height of the chair should allow your feet to touch the floor. Your whole foot does not need to touch the floor, just some part is enough. If you are very tall find the highest chair possible.
  5. Buy your self a sitting wedge- you will be forever grateful. Your hips like to be higher than your knees. A sitting wedge is higher on one side than the other. You sit on the high side and this raises your hips. You want the wedge to be firm and not too squishy. The height of wedge should be about 3-4”. Here are 2 wedges I like: the first is the Desk Jockey Car Seat but I also like it at my desk. Desk Jockey also makes a really nice lumbar support that I highly recommend   My other absolute favorite wedge is the Gymnic Movin. It is inflatable so you can adjust its firmness. It also moves so it makes your sitting more dynamic. Your body likes to MOVE and the Gymnic Movin’ allows for Dynamic Sitting! However, this wedge is not for everyone. If you have balance issues opt for the Desk Jockey instead. Just click on the pictures and you will be taken to the product. If you want to splurge here is a great adjustable chair. It actually is a chair for cellists but I use it in my studio they also make one for taller people. Just click on the image and it will take you to the site. 
  6. If you must sit on soft furniture place a cushion behind your back to support better sitting. The pillow will prevent you from slouching and will provide a bit of support.

So I have just given you some easy and inexpensive solutions to sitting problems.

Remember small changes can have big impacts. Sign up for my FREE video course Sitting for Success here.

Or you can purchase a longer course 5 Ways to Heal Back Pain here.

Let me know how this works for you- I would love to hear from you!


My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves. You can get my Amazon best-selling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.


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How to Change Your Trajectory

This post may contain affiliate links.

Do you want to hear a surprising truth?   

You don’t have to take a 180-degree turn to make a change in your life. To change all you need to do is move one degree away from where you are right now and you will be on a new trajectory.

This is important. Many people think that change has to be radical like a total make-over, a do-over, a transformation from a cocoon to a butterfly.

It is hard to change radically. Humans like consistency and change needs to be subtle or else it is too overwhelming.

We live in a culture that places enormous value on extremes and because of this often times the complex is heralded and the subtle is overlooked or even dismissed.

For instance, you may think that the only way to get rid of back or neck pain is with strong medicine, a shot of cortisone or surgery. All of these options are extreme.

There are alternative ways that are more subtle and very effective.

Perhaps just changing the way that you sit, stand and walk could lessen or eliminate your pain and change your life for the better.

As an Alexander Technique teacher, this is what I do. In very subtle ways I teach you how to change the way that you move and even the way that you think.

Here is a testimonial from Rosemary who had watched a short video I had made about the importance of releasing unnecessary muscular tension in her body.

I often tell people to think about not clenching their tongue and jaw.

Clenching your tongue and jaw is harmful to the head/neck/spine relationship and this compromises the way that you move and live.

Mary, I just wanted to let you know how much better I am sleeping since watching your video a month ago.

You said to unclench your teeth. I didn’t even know I was doing that until you pointed it out.

Now, as I am dozing off, I tell myself “relax your jaw” and poof off to sleep! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

So, for Rosemary, here was a simple and subtle solution to address a common problem. Releasing the jaw to calm down so as to be able to easily fall asleep.

This is how the Alexander Technique works. An Alexander Technique teacher gives you cues either with verbal instruction or with their hands to

teach you how to release unnecessary muscular tension and to redirect yourself through space.

This excessive muscular tension interferes with the way that you use yourself or in other words the way that you move and even think.

As a result with less clenched muscles, you move more freely, with greater ease and very often with less or no pain.

Why don’t you give it a try!

There are many ways to study and learn with me. I teach privately in Little Compton, RI. Or you can purchase my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here, Or you can sign up for my FREE video course Sitting for Success here

Get in touch! I would love to hear from you! You can send me an email at

Photo: Unsplash, Sean Stratton

What is this sign, What is the Alexander Technique and Why Does it Matter?

Earlier this summer my name was included on Primary Care Partnership’s sign.

See! That’s me on the bottom shingle Mary Derbyshire, M.AmSAT.

It is such an honor to be included on the same sign as these other practitioners! Dr’s Cathleen Hood and Karen Ottenstein have selected a few allied partners to provide alternative methodologies alongside their traditional allopathic practice. It is not unheard of traditional doctors reaching out to acupuncture or massage therapy but it is highly unlikely that there are doctors who would reach out to an Alexander Technique teacher. Most doctors haven’t even heard of the technique and that is a real shame.

For those of you who do not know about the Alexander Technique, it is a mindfulness based practice that teaches you how to move better. Most of us habitually bring way too much muscular tension to our activities. This muscular tension interferes with the way that your body moves.

Often times pain and stiffness and poor coordination result from this excessive tension.

An Alexander Technique teacher teaches you how to prevent this unnecessary tension and as a result, you move more freely. Pain and stiffness are decreased or eliminated. Your balance and coordination improve.

You feel better in your skin!

And because your mind and your body are a unified whole what you do with your body affects the mind. Your thinking improves. Your clarity improves. You feel whole and connected.

I first met Dr.Cathleen Hood a couple of years ago. I will let her tell the story of how we met.

“I first heard about Mary from a patient. The patient’s story is remarkable. At an advanced age, she suffered a fall and fractured her neck, resulting in what the neurosurgeon deemed an unstable situation. He offered a surgical fixation so that slippage would not cause quadriplegia, but the patient declined.

She did not want to be impaired by the side effects of narcotics, so she called her friend Mary, who through the Alexander Technique gave her the tools to control her pain.

She was also regaining range of motion, and it was healing slowly by itself. With no drug side effects, she was mindful not to trip or fall again. I thought I need to meet this person!”

This story is so important for many reasons.

First, the Alexander Technique is not only effective at getting rid of pain but it can also be very effective in controlling pain. In these times of opioid addiction, there is an alternative to drugs and their extremely harmful side effects. For some, The Alexander Technique (AT) can be that alternative and should be taken seriously by the medical community.

Years ago I had an older student who was scoliotic and had severe pain her entire adult life. AT got her out of that pain. Her husband a rheumatologist at Mass General Hospital was so impressed he said that “every Dr. should have access to an AT teacher in his or her practice.” I am thrilled to be the Alexander Technique teacher for Primary Care Partnership!

Secondly, the Alexander Technique teaches you about self -care. A series of lessons will teach you the tools to be mindful of how you move. I love it when students return for their second lesson and remark that they are so much more aware of how they are moving.

Self- care is health care and self -awareness plays a part. How can you change and improve if you do not recognize what you are doing in the first place?

Thirdly embracing the Alexander Technique represents a paradigm shift. It says “Use” matters. What do I mean by “Use?” (Use is pronounced as loose) Use is the way that you use your body and your mind. How you sit, how you stand, how you walk, how you run, how you think it all matters to your health and well being! A LOT! And here is the thing- only you can change your use. I can help you or another Alexander Technique teacher can help you, but your use will only change and improve if you attend to it.

What do you think? Are you ready to change for the better? Click here to schedule an appointment 

Click here to purchase my Amazon best-selling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence 

Feel free to email me with any questions!

Free Yourself From Pain!

       Be Sure To Watch The Video!


Are you in pain?     

Have you ever thought that it is HOW you do things that may bring about your pain and stiffness?

Perhaps it is the WAY that you move that is the problem. We live in a go-go and get-it-done world. We have been taught to try harder, to bear down and get the job done. Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Maybe that needs to change. Maybe there is a better way.

In this short video, Carolyn shares what she has learned from working with me.

You too can learn a different way to move, a different way to exercise, a different way to be! Imagine being free from pain, free from struggle, and free from feeling never enough.



Sign up for my video course here!

In my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence I challenge the fitness culture of “no pain, no gain.” I explore the preconceived ideas of what it means to get older. Through my instructional videos, I offer solutions to improving agility and balance.Yes, you read that right! A book with videos that you can access with your smartphone, iPad, or computer! You can learn a new way of being and bring more agility, balance, confidence and ultimately joy in your life. You can get your copy here.


My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below.