Sunday, September 22, 2013

Is your head well balanced?

Balancing your head is a fine art, one that can help us avoid and relieve neck and back pain.

It requires an accurate mental image of how the head sits on our torso. Releasing tension in the neck muscles is also important. 

Consider a big heavy ball swaying on top of a pole, with guy ropes from underneath for support. The pole is our spine, and the guy ropes are the short and long muscles running through the neck.

Our heads are heavy

For most of us, our head weighs from 4.5kg to 5kg.

… that’s more than two big bags of sugar (lifted carefully) at the supermarket.

Where the head sits

Fairly obviously, the ‘pole’ supporting the head has to be central.

That pole is the spine, which is mostly deep inside our torso and not right at the back as we tend to think. It ascends centrally from the tailbone through the core of our torso, dodges back behind the heart and lungs, and returns to a more forward position up through the neck.

Some activities and thought bubbles
Please try these.

ACTIVITY 1 - Point a finger at an earlobe, and touch it. Now nod your head; that’s where you find the joint between the spine and the head. It’s the atlanto-occipital joint. Please check this in a mirror.


This joint is also much further forward than we expect, as you can see from the second picture.

Most people have an unconscious image that the joint is at the back of the head. Were you one of them?


THOUGHT BUBBLE 1 - Let tension go – allow the weight of the head to release down the body. 

Allow the weight to freely fall – out to the shoulder tips, and down the front and back of the body – down to the pelvis and then to the chair or your legs. The more grounded you are, the more effortlessly you will find an erect posture.

If you experienced a release of tension, then your head is likely to be balancing a little more freely. Now try Thought Bubbles 2 and 3.

THOUGHT BUBBLE 2 - Think of your head as a seedling reaching up to catch the sun, gently leaving behind the rich soft soil that nourishes it.

THOUGHT BUBBLE 3 - Think of a gentle cloud on a long string attached to your forehead and gently leading your head above and to the front of you. Is this what the giraffe is thinking?


Wrapping up
The key to Alexander Technique is stopping what’s wrong – it is often hard to find what’s right. That’s why I’ve used thought bubbles. Please reflect on them – they ask you to use your mental capacity, rather than making muscular movements. This is the starting point to changing away from our habitual patterns of movement. We emphasise ‘non-doing’ rather than ‘doing’ so that you don’t immediately replace one set of inappropriate tensions with another.

Lessons or classes are really worthwhile to get you on the right path. Please ring or email me to discuss options suitable for you.

More information
On the head-spine relationship, see my blogpost Look up and Down with Ease.

Click here for a summary of all blogposts up to February 2013. Look to the right for more recent ones, and the most popular.


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