Friday, February 12, 2016

Hold your head high

The old idiom 'hold your head high' means to be confident or unashamed (Oxford English Dictionary). If we are stressed, tired or grumpy, the head drops or is held rigid. Over time, spine mobility decreases, shoulders and ribs tighten, and breathing is shallow.

Now, imagine your head as a spinning object, balancing freely above your neck (read more in the second article).

If our head pivots at the right joint - the atlanto-occipital joint - we can truly hold our head high without effort - by doing less. Then we're not 'holding' the head in place, but allowing it to float as though drawn up by a passing cloud.

Where is this critical joint? Just below the ear lobes as shown in the image. Is that higher than you expected? Most people also expect the joint to be at the back of the neck - but notice how much room is required for the muscles and ligaments that run up the spine to the head. Test this point by nodding, using a mirror if convenient.

Now check the image and picture again your head balancing freely on the spine.
What to know more? Try these posts - Is your head well balanced? and Look up and down with ease - at the computer and elsewhere. See also my post about using the mobile phone

My head as a spinning ball 
W is a nurse who has recently started having lessons with me. She is especially enthusiastic as she has chronic posture and pain issues. Alexander Technique is a wonderful new pathway of self-education for her. Here is her observation.

"Yesterday in my first lesson, your dumbbell illustration of the weight of our head is awakening for me. It’s as if our head is balanced on the tip of spine like balancing a spinning basketball on a finger (an act I tried to do many times in my childhood), except this basketball is not filled with air but heavy mercury."

Using AT when helping others 
Nurses have a hard job. Just look at how the nurse in the image is twisting around bed and patient.

Nurse W has already found Alexander Technique can help her in awkward situations.
"Just now at work, thinking your tip of lead with head, I tried to gently pull at patient's head instead of shoulder to guide her standing up, it seems much easier for my back and her as well."

More nurse W observations 

"No wonder it’s easy to put strain on the spine when tilted head is out of alignment.  Your dumbbell really made it easy for me to be conscious of my head lurching habit."
In the lesson, I had asked her to compare the weight of her head to the weight of a 3kg dumbbell - the head is much heavier!
"I readjusted the height of my piano stool today, it seems a bit lighter when I played this morning."

“think more, do less” may also be applicable at workplace in workload management."

"I’m sure the ongoing actual benefit [of AT lessons] is incalculable in dollars."