The Vault

Breathing Like You've Never Seen Before

I rarely allocate time for Facebook... simply because it's too easy to get off track and just float away with gossip and who's doing what. However, every now and then I'm just at the right place to stumble across an important update. 

Jessica Wolf(The Art of Breathing), a long time friend and mentor in the field of breathing recently completed a campaign to produce a fully animated working model of the entire torso. This is a stunning production... no expense spared. Watch a 30 second clip via vimeo below.

To purchase the whole 20 minute final product simply visit Amazon Here

Watching how the ribs expand, the diaphragm flows up and down plus seeing the internal massage of the organs is a surreal experience. Each layer of musculature is gradually added onto the bony foundation so that the viewer can get an idea how it all works in concert. There's even a beautiful rotation of the entire model so that you can watch the underneath view of the diaphragm as it moves! 

There is nothing currently available to match this visual description of breathing and it is with a touch of pride I will admit that an Alexander technique teacher has gone to the trouble of making it possible. If every anatomical teaching module within educational institutions around the world don't purchase this beautiful work for their students, they'd be mad. I will be recommending it as essential for any person wanting to see inside the body of an ideal breather... far from the average human in the western world.

FM Alexander's reputation as the breathing man has been resurrected in immense style and clarity. Congratulations Jessica and thankyou on behalf of the Alexander technique community.

If you teach breathing or would like to know the inside workings of natural breathing, you simply must get your own copy.



Three Great Ideas For Direction 2013

Thankyou for your generous responses... and they're still arriving daily into my inbox. Malcolm's happy... his running article is now liberated, I'm happy... just hearing from so many lovely people does that, but also I've compiled the three best ideas of the lot.

1. Digital Production to Web

Although producing our magazine to digital was knocked back a few years ago in our survey, it seems that the iPad and Kindle has helped simplify (and beautify) the concept of reading on a screen. Within the next two months Direction Journal will be available on a digital platform as well as paper. Don't worry... paper will always be available too.

2. Student Subscriptions (for students enrolled in an Alexander teacher training course)

Available now $49  Simply provide the contact details of your course director at the checkout.

3. Library Subscription Bonus

The new Library Subscription Bonus gives you 75% off your subscription. If you have baulked at paying $97 for 4 magazines delivered to you in the past, then here is a chance to get a very big discount. Once the library signs up, pay only $24 for your subscription. If you would like us to contact them directly, simply send us the librarian contact details.

Plus one reminder... our Affiliate Program

Launched... some time ago, but hardly mentioned since, the affiliate program rewards you for recommending Direction to others. The commissions are generous and are paid on the initial sale plus any other person referred by your initial contact. We also customise a landing page so people who arrive upon your recommendation feel welcome. There are various ways to earn a commission and you are supplied with a special link to distribute wherever you want. Images and banners are also available for your website, blog, facebook page, twitter... you name it.

There are other ideas such as selling advertising space and linking up with societies, but these are a harder option. I haven't yet found a way to achieve either.

In any case, the Direction community is alive and well. I'm sure a little more conversation on these topics will bring further inspiration. And the new issue is back on track!


Running with Malcolm Balk

After much deliberation and certainly no shortage of cajoling from Malcolm Balk I have decided to release the Running article from the forthcoming Active Issue[3.9] prior to publication. Due to my inability to publish the entire issue in the immediate future, Balk asked if I might let one cat out of the bag early. His. 

However, this peek inside the new issue comes with a condition. 

As the entire world will be able to read an article from a journal that only subscribers normally would, I have created a small hurdle to ensure you are seriously interested. Here's hoping I don't upset the subscribers too much.

Below is the first half of the article.

The second half can be obtained after contributing to the following topic:

Name 3 new initiatives Direction Journal could use to generate income.

Write your answers in the comments section below this post, make sure you include your email address so that I can send you the rest of the article. Or, if you don't want your email made public contact me here.




by Paul Cook 

A revolution is underway in running. Passionate debate fueled by clever marketing and injured runners looking for answers has this billion-dollar industry in turmoil. Malcolm Balk is unflustered. As a running teacher who focuses on the coordination of the whole human form, shoes rate low in his process of getting runners back on the track and enjoying the game more. In this article we bring the current scientific examination of shoe design, load and impact studies into a discussion on the art of running and ask the question: does cold, hard science really have the answer for injury prevention in runners?

From Hip to Knee

For two years Sally endured hip pain in her running. No amount of physiotherapy or weight-bearing exercise changed her situation. Eventually a scan solved the riddle destroying the prior diagnosis of a “torn hip”. A stress fracture in the head of her femur was found to be the culprit sidelining her immediately. But there was no mystery or necessity for this outcome according to Malcolm Balk a running and Alexander technique teacher in Montreal. 

Completing five marathons before 30 and sporting the usual annual injury count, Balk knows the runner’s habit well. It wasn’t until looking back after ten years injury-free that he realized his Alexander training had influenced his mentality indirectly and saved him from the plight of millions of runners. Reportedly 37-56% of runners suffer an injury annually [1] and everything from taping joints to orthotics and expensive shoes are prescribed as the solution. In Sally’s case, being advised to tape a knee that was “bothering her” by a physiotherapist allowed her to continue running, but it seems logical to blame this advice as a contributing factor to the hip injury. According to Balk, runners get signals from their body early, but most often they ignore the signs until a major injury stops them completely. Sally’s story is no different as Balk recounts,

She said, “Well, you know, it’s funny.  Just before I got injured, my knee was bothering me.”  This is not a high-level athlete, but she’s a competitive person.  She’s in management and she’s driven a bit, and she said, “So, what I did was I taped my knee before every practice.  Even some physios showed me how to tape it.”  I said, “Well, did that change the way that you run a little bit?”  She said, “Well, I didn’t really notice.”  But she says all of a sudden, out of the blue, boom!  “I’ve got this hip pain.”  I said, “Well, there’s the example.  You had the knowledge.  You just didn’t act on it.”  

When Sally and other recreational runners visit a physiotherapist with pain, why would they question the advice to support their joints so that they can continue doing what they love? Drawing on his years of running experience and training as an Alexander teacher, Balk approaches these problems from a different angle.

Running at Any Cost


Listening to your body and becoming sensitive to the signs is not something new to an Alexander teacher. For runners wanting to “get back on the track” as soon as possible sold on the technology of shoe design that allegedly supports various forms of foot structure and running technique, there’s little surprise that injuries are the single most discussed topic amongst recreational runners.

In one sentence Balk sums up the mindset needed for longevity, “If you listen to the whispers, you may not have to hear the screams.” He posits that runners can achieve their goals 99% of the time if they run without pain. He’s not talking about the pain that every person has felt in the first few minutes of a workout that is your body adjusting to the exertion, he means the “injury-type pain”, the nagging discomfort that doesn’t go away that every runner knows. As he explains,

There other kinds of pain that are just persistent. They’re like a steady “listen to me, listen to me, listen to me” and a lot of time, runners ignore those. All of a sudden, boom!  Now, you’ve got Achilles tendinitis and you’re out. Now, you’ve got plantar fasciitis and you’re out.  Now, you’ve got a stress fracture and you’re gone.  

The single most important factor a runner needs to consider is that when they’re not training, they’re getting worse and according to Balk,

…if you backed off you might have been able to not go over that tipping point. So, even if you train a little less hard, but you’re more persistent and consistent with it…actually you’ll get there sooner than the person who has to keep taking time out because of injury.

Another client with a niggling groin injury that he had noticed for six weeks looked to Balk for direction. At 61, his normal routine was to run at a heart rate of 140. Balk suggested he reduce this and see what difference it made. The results were telling, 

I said, “Okay, you’re going to run 70% of your heart rate or less.” Anyway, we ran 18 kilometers, including some accelerations in the last 15 minutes.  And he came and he said, “I didn’t have one problem today with my groin and I think it’s because I didn’t go out as fast as I usually do.”

But for people who don’t have the ears to listen so-to-speak, what do they do? Perhaps they drop into their physio for the bad news or some advice. Perhaps they pay a visit to their local shoe shop, hoping that some new technology under the hoof might help. It is here that the story becomes even more complicated, not to mention clouded by marketing and recent passion for the natural running argument. Otherwise known as barefoot running, the past five years has seen many questions being asked of the billion dollar shoe industry—their science and perhaps their negligence of the human foot.

Proving the Unproveable

Biomechanical science has been funded with an open cheque-book by shoe manufacturers over the past few decades in an effort to understand the dynamics of gait, and therefore gain an advantage in the marketplace. A randomized control trial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in June 2010, co-authored by Nike’s head of biomechanical research, Gordon Valiant, uncovered the fallacy of much information in the shoe industry. Apart from the unforgiving conclusion to the study that stated “prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious”, [2] the general advice from lead author Michael Ryan was, 

If a salesperson says you need robust motion-control shoes, ask to try on a few pairs of neutral or stability shoes, too. Go outside and run around the block in each pair. If you feel any pain or discomfort, that’s your first veto. Hand back those shoes. Try several more pairs. There really are only a few pairs that will fit and feel right for any individual runner. My best advice is, turn on your sensors and listen to your body, not to what the salespeople might tell you. [3]

Best selling author of Born to Run—harbinger of the barefoot movement—Chris McDougall makes no secret of his disrespect for the shoe manufacturing machine and his July 2010 blog post entitled, “Breaking news from Nike: We’ve been talking a lot of crap, and selling it”[4] twists the knife a bit further.

Putting conspiracy theories aside for the sake of science, there is a revolution afoot and within an industry that generates such huge dollar sums it seems that the motivation to get to the truth is being fueled by a passionate band of runners that are helping to redesign the humble shoe. While the majority of our past as humans was spent unshod, in the past century our appetite for devices that “interface” between foot and ground continues to grow.

Despite the investment being made by the shoe industry, one biomechanical scientist says that the entire paradigm is faulty. Benno M. Nigg has been employed by many large shoe manufacturers in his 40-year career but it’s his recent self-published book Biomechanics of Sport Shoes that blows all the myth and marketing apart. Wherever the runner lands—heel or forefoot, wears inserts or specially prescribed shoes for their particular gait pattern or runs barefoot there are no correlations to injury.  [5] According to Nigg the assumption that padding is beneficial between feet and earth for runners is simply that, an assumption.
Without evidence that higher impact forces cause greater injury rates, studies such as those published by the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2009 of eight experienced barefoot runners appear aimless. Their findings that “compared to the standard shod condition when running barefoot, the athletes landed in more plantarflexion at the ankle. This caused reduced impact forces and changes in stride kinematics.” [6]

Will this hot new debate kill the standard sport shoe? Pete Larson, industry writer probably puts it best,

Your body evolved to run long distances, and it evolved to do so barefoot. The realist in me knows that most people will likely never run barefoot, so if that's not your thing, look for as little shoe as you can handle and still run comfortably. Your body will let you know if it's happy, be mindful and listen. [7]

Nike while sitting on the cutting edge, curiously, are drawing blood from their very own health claims. For now, the rush is on to be the better progenitor of foot health solutions and there is little more than anecdotal evidence to support even the latest fad of running with a thin layer of Kevlar under your feet. The best advice resides in a borrowed coinage; if the shoe fits wear it.

From rocker soles to Vibram Five Fingers[R] runners are now faced with an even more diverse choice at the shoe store if 10 brands and 25 derivative pairs of conventional runners wasn’t enough already. So where does the confusion leave a runner who notices that their body just isn’t performing the way they want it to on the track?

The Balk Ease Solution

Balk talks in terms of ease. It seems the world’s most respected biomedical scientist agrees. Nigg’s reply to questions about his suggested new paradigms are succinct, “There is no study that documents that impact forces are the reason for short and/or long term injuries/problems.” On the efficacy of shoe and orthotic technology he is even more direct, “we know that the running program and the time for recovery are much more important.”[8]

If particular shoe prescriptions have no effect on pain or injury prevention outcomes then Balk is not only in the sweet spot of providing an answer and immune from the shoe debate. He’s also able to avoid all manner of controversy that rages within the barefoot revolution and therefore stands to capitalize. His teaching stands on the foundation of decades of injury-free running and a hefty contribution from two-time Olympic coach, Nicholas Romanov, the inventor of Pose Method. He recalls his first introduction,


The second half of this article can be obtained with a subscription to Direction or with your help. See instructions above. 



Update on New Active Issue [3.9]

The articles for the new Active issue on topics; Tennis, Running, Swimming, Pilates and Golf will be worth the wait. 

"A Direction Journal stays in print for many years" I was once reminded. Years of use for students and Alexander teachers alike. When I set out interviewing the most knowledgeable Alexander teachers in their respective fields my excitement grew quickly. Let's change the conversation in the sporting world to include knowledge that Alexander teachers have been using to enhance performance for many decades! 

Results are what the end-driven sporting fraternity want. Let's not waste time explaining how the Alexander technique works... a topic that bogs even the best versed teachers down in words that are misinterpreted by the receiver.

"Let me show you" is the reply that's needed when faced with the invitation "what's Alexander technique got to do with my golf swing?"

The articles in this new issue empower Alexander teachers to reach those who want help but don't know where to look. 

An extract or two will appear here over the coming weeks to prove there is actually an Active issue written and awaiting layout and print. Thanks for waiting. PC





Gelb Rides the Wave...Again

Just a quick announcement to share Michael Gelb's new book "BRAIN POWER: Improve Your Mind as You Age". It debuts today.

He produced a series of Leonardo Da Vinci inspired books during one of the greatest book/movie/hysteria movements of all time when the popular Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code took the world by storm. Perfect timing.

Now with Baby Boomers becoming more aware of how retirement affects the mind and with the new attention to neuroplasticity capturing so much attention he's done it again.


Click Here to Order

"This book presents the most essential, practical, research-validated information on how to improve your mind as you get older. 

It includes a section entitled "Balance and Poise: The Missing Links in Healthy Aging"  featuring a strong endorsement  and description of the Alexander Technique."



"A blueprint to optimize your brain and improve the rest of your life." Daniel G. Amen, MD, author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

"You will find, on every page, useful and intriguing knowledge, resources, practices, exercises, and technologies to unleash your brain power and improve your mind as you age. Buy it, read it, live it!" Tony Buzan, author of Use Both Sides of Your Brain

"This book offers an excellent collection of tools to improve your mind and life. I hope everyone will read this wonderful resource, which can help us all to not just survive but thrive." Bernie Siegel, MD, author of 365 Prescriptions for the Soul and A Book of Miracles


Click here to purchase the 248 page paperback at Amazon for only $9.95!!


Affiliate Program Introduced

Most changes at Direction seem to be driven by necessity these days.

I was interviewed by Luke Ford, a recent graduate Alexander teacher in USA and mentioned to him that I would be happy to create a link to the Direction website that calculated traffic from his very busy website.

An "Affiliate" is like a commissioned sales person. Whatever sales that generate from click-throughs from Luke's website I pay a 20% commission. It's an idea that I've wanted to set up for quite a while but just haven't made the time to do so. Also, offering a commission has been criticized in the past as people think that rather than pay someone else 20%, it's better to just reduce prices this same amount for everyone.

But in the new world of social validation, recognizing people for their time spent recommending your products is common practice...perhaps more ethical nowadays than ever before. Due to the large modern social networks which react quickly to non-authentic conversation, a trusted and true comment on the value or benefit of a product/service is worth so much more.

So the good news is that anyone can become a Direction Affiliate! Simply click on the link at the left of the page and apply. You don't have to own a website... but an email address is mandatory. I've created a bunch of different ways you can recommend Direction Journal, from logos to simple text links.

One simple strategy is to put our logo on your website. Another is to mention Direction Journal to people you know via email or a blog post or facebook(to name a few). If people click on your unique link we can then record any purchases they make at our website for up to 12 months! Each month we pay out a minimum of $50AUD via Paypal or you can use the credit to purchase Direction products for yourself.

If you find a way to bring the Direction Journal back catalogue into a library, then 20% of that sale amounts to almost $200. Public Libraries are obligated to pay double the list price of our magazines for copyright clearance (allowing them to reproduce unlimited photocopies of articles and multiple loans etc.). As a student teacher, this could be a good way to supplement your school fees...and publicize Alexander technique at the same time.

I'll make other suggestions as time passes... but for now the top priority for me is to complete the Active Issue (3.9)... something that I've been striving to do since July. The plan is to ship it for Christmas to subscribers. We have an amazing Tennis article, Running, Golf, revolutionary Pilates information, Swimming and Skiing covered. So many physical pursuits in the Alexander world and the potential for so many more.

Look forward to your comments below.




Congress Update

Back in Australia after a great trip to Lugano... the most expensive city in Europe! The experience at congresses is something like a theme park... so many workshops and presentations plus hundreds of friends and colleagues all eager to share and learn. In case you haven't had time to look, I posted a few photos and videos at the facebook page ( I also had full intentions of writing a few summaries here during the week but there was hardly time to eat let alone write.

The program put together by Jamie, Bob and Irmel was packed. The most common complaint I heard was "how am I supposed to choose which workshop... there are so many great options!" Even though the numbers were down on last congress, it seemed like there was just the right amount of people attending. Many motivating and inspiring stories of success from teachers in the field and much science and progress supporting the work that we already know works. Rachel Zahn's presentation was probably the highlight for me and I'll dig back through my notes to give you a summary in a day or two. Kevan Martin also brought everyone through an emotional journey via Elisabeth Walker's life story.

Stay with me... I'll bring you some more news soon.



Subscription Offer Extended... a bit 

Due to feedback that this is all too rushed (and complicated)... I've extended the offer a few more days until July 31st. After this time I'm off to Lugano. Please watch this new video below for a better explanation of the offer and more info on the bonus resources you get inside new Direction Journals.

And I've worked out how to flip a video so that things I hold in front of the camera can be read! duh

cheers Paul



Subscription Offer for Next 7 Days

In my very first foray into video on the web... I celebrate with an offer to subscribe that I've never made before. Plus, if you're not aware of my personal story of pain that led me to the Alexander Technique I share some of that here too...

Watch and enjoy as I tie my tongue in knots in a couple of places. Hopefully you understand my Australian accent! If not, let me know by posting a message below the screen.




Currency Change Update

For the last 6 months we've been researching a better way to accept credit card payments. The two different systems that we've offered since 2008 are Paypal (with credit card option) and Clickbank (credit card with paypal option). Both of these options were set up to keep our operational currency in US Dollars.

However... Clickbank is cumbersome for us to sell products through and doesn't allow multiple items to be purchased! For example, if you want a subscription but also some of the back issues at the same time, this cannot be done. And Paypal is good for some, but not for others...

So, we've decided to plug in a standard merchant system from our local bank (St George) here in Australia from now on. Unfortunately, this now forces us to bill in Australian dollars. It is kinda coincidental that the Australian dollar is doing well on the international market right now...but that's something that we have to wear when the rates go back the other way eventually!

The prices have not changed, they are simply in AUD instead of USD. On the "Subscribe" page above there is a free currency converter so that you can input YOUR CURRENCY against the Australian dollar before you subscribe. That way you can make a note of the amount that will be charged to your credit card (give or take a few cents depending on our bank).

If you would like to post a cheque instead of using credit cards etc, we now accept cheques in $USD, $AUD, EURO and GBP Sterling. Simply print off the subscription form and send it with your cheque.

But... be sure to calculate the exchange rate before you post please.

Cheques no longer accepted due to high bank fees.