Heads can weight 10-15Ibs and puts a lot of strain on our neck, especially if we tend to poke our neck forward e.g. towards the computer screen.
Muscle spindle density (source of tension feedback which tells our brain of muscular tightness or release) is high in the deep muscles of the neck. These spindles spend years sending out signals that the neck muscles are overworking which become ignored by our brains, so the signals no longer register. The ignorance continues until damage begins to happen when the signals increase in volume causing discomfort.
This is where an Alexander Technique teacher can help. By receiving hands-on help in freeing the neck, we gradually begin to know the difference between a tight and a free neck and we can enjoy the benefits of a free neck more often and for longer periods of time.
Think of your head as being loosely poised on top of your neck. See the task of the large muscles down the back of the neck as being, not to hold the head on, but to stop the head falling forward. The tension can be released just before the point at which the head will tilt too far forward.
Neck and back are best thought of as a single dynamic unit which is always gently seeking to lengthen. Imagine a sense of rising from your crown, experienced as a slight tilt forwards of the head on top of the neck.
You don’t try to do any lengthening of your spine; you just imagine it and train yourself to incorporate that into your ongoing self-perception. This in turn gradually trains the relevant muscles to bring about what at first you are just visualizing, in a healthy and flexible manner, whereas a deliberately ‘done’ extension would itself be applying tension.
- Sit down and place the palm of one of your hands on the back of your neck.
- Stand up while keeping your hand in place. Pay attention to what your hand is telling you is happening with your neck muscles. There’ll be a degree of activity in your neck out of all proportion to what needs to happen in order for the head to be supported. You may perceive that this neck activity pulls your head backwards and down.
- Try this going from standing to sitting.
- Stop pulling your head backwards and down. Rather allow it to go forwards and up. You could move from sitting to standing, or standing to sitting, in stages, with a hand in place on the back of your neck, noticing at what point in the movement unnecessary tension starts to creep in. You could notice, too, whether this coincides with a tendency to lose your balance, stop breathing, raising your shoulders and hollow your back, tightening the stomach, groin and thighs.
- Let your neck muscles free up and your head rotate slightly forward and up.
- Slightly and slowly lower the tip of your nose while the crown of your head moves up.
- Let your sitting bones release into the seat in opposition to your head moving up.
- Reduce your neck tension again.
- Let your head rotate forward and go up.
Resource: Society of Teacher of the Alexander Technique (http://alexandertechnique.co.uk)