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Frequently Asked Questions.

What women would like men to do.

The off plan for outsmart female fat: inactivity.

Block the estrogen receptor for breast cancer prevention: raloxifene.

Menopause and hormone replacement therapy (hrt): possible side effects of progestogens used in hrt.

The menopause gateway: help is on the way.

Controlling our reproductive destiny: legal principles - t + 1.

Premenstrual syndrome: how to help yourself - diet.

Fwomens problems: when the egg is not fertilized.

Alexander procedures for pregnancy and labour: the monkey.

Getting pregnant: unexpected labor events.

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'There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction.' F.M. Alexander

In Alexander Technique we learn a procedure that has come to be called the 'monkey' in Alexander jargon; if you look at the photograph on page 36 you can easily see why. It is actually a semi-squat, the depth of which can be anywhere between standing upright and going down to a full squat.

The 'monkey' is a very efficient way of using your body. Because the head and knees going forwards counterbalances the bottom going backwards over the heels (creating what Alexander called 'antagonistic muscular action'), a minimum amount of muscular effort is required. This uses less energy and is therefore less tiring, and it also gives a greater degree of flexibility, mobility and elasticity through the body.

In monkey the head/neck/back relationship is working at its best, allowing the body to work in a co-ordinated way, with proper use of all parts of the body. The muscles at the front and back of the torso are allowed to lengthen, giving more freedom of movement in the ribcage and diaphragm, which allows full and proper breathing. In monkey the legs have less tension throughout, and consequently there is more freedom in the joints, as these weight-bearing joints - ankles, knees and hips - are near the midpoint of their movement range. At the top of the back the arms hang freely from the shoulder girdle, functioning as extensions of the muscles in the back.

All the other Alexander procedures are based on the same body mechanics as the monkey and give the same advantages as regards the functioning of the body. A squat is a very deep monkey; a lunge is a monkey with one leg in front of the other; kneeling is a monkey in which your knees and calves form the base for the monkey; all fours is a monkey in which you are supported by all four limbs.

Using 'monkey' in everyday life

The monkey is not a static position; rather, it is a way to use the body that requires the least muscular effort, and in which you have the most flexibility and mobility. Ideally if we used ourselves correctly we would automatically go into some form of monkey for almost all activities in our lives. When we go from sitting to standing or standing to sitting in a correct way we move through the monkey. It should be used for everyday activities such as bending, picking something up, lifting, standing at a work surface, brushing our teeth, etc.; it is also useful as a way to relieve a stiff back if you have been standing for a long time. Monkey has a place in martial arts, and various sports such as golf, tennis, skating, skiing, etc.

In monkey, using the back as a whole and with the primary control working well the conditions are optimum for the most skilful use of our hands, be it for drawing, painting, washing up, writing, playing an instrument, or doing any kind of precise and fine work - or handling a small baby.

Monkey instructions

What you do in preparation for the monkey is vital. Before proceeding, give your directions to let your neck be free, so that the head can go forward and up, in such a way that the back lengthens and widens and the knees are free to go forward and away. During the whole of this procedure you should keep your eyes alert and not let them glaze over or fix vacantly on some point.

Stand with the feet slightly turned out, about shoulder width apart. The weight of the body should be distributed between the front and back of the feet. You may like to check that the weight is falling through the heels as there is a common tendency to lean forwards over the toes.

Initiate the movement into monkey with a slight further release of the head forwards, and tilt forwards from the hip joints, keeping your head, neck and back in one piece. At the same time release your hips, knees and ankle joints to let the knees bend forwards. Allow the back to widen and the arms to hang freely from the shoulder girdle.

It is very important that you never think of bending down when doing a monkey, as this is all too likely to trigger habits of excessive muscular contraction. Unnecessary tightening of the muscles over the hips, knees and ankles will restrict the freedom of movement of these joints.

As you come back to the upright position, keep your weight over the heels, and continue to direct your head forwards and up. Take extra care not to pull your head back and lock the knees as you complete the movement.

Monkey with hands on table

This basic Alexander procedure (right) teaches how to use the arms as an extension of the back, and how to keep the hands and arms free of unwanted tension. This is an extremely useful movement for labour.

Dividing the weight between the hands and the feet helps you to release tightening in the legs and pelvic floor. It is a good way to free the breathing mechanism. You can also try rocking gently backwards and forwards. Take care not to hunch your shoulders, and do not lean heavily on the table.


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