Looking down without getting a crick in your neck
The other day a woman coming for Alexander Technique classes remarked that everything we do at home and at work involves looking down. And she showed me how she has to look down at everything, from the phone on her desk to the dishes in the sink. As she did this, she pushed her head forward and down, straining her neck as it took on all the weight of her head. She also held her head in a fixed position, bending from the base of her neck to look down.
As I wrote about in my last blog on sitting comfortably with a guitar or at the computer, the things we look at are very powerful attention-grabbers. We tend to respond to attention-grabbers by pushing our heads forward… and compressing our necks.
The tricky thing is that we don’t usually notice when we do this. Habit is such that what we do, even if it’s not in line with the way our bodies are designed, feels normal to us. That is, until our neck, shoulders and back start to ache or spasm.
I’m on all kinds of mailing lists for different manual techniques just to keep up on what they offer, and it’s all about giving the client relief from this pain and that crick. What they don’t talk about is how people coordinate their Selves.
We’ve all heard that we ought to bend our knees to pick things up, but I think of that as “following the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law.” Following the law at all is a good thing, of course! But what I mean is that better than just bending our knees is coordinating the head and spine in a way that keeps ease in the neck and the spine lengthening.
So when you want to look down, first of all… Pause! Pause to notice what you are doing. Even if it’s just a fraction of a second. Are you pushing your head forward and bending your spine at the base of your neck? Instead of doing that, remind your self that you have other joints made for bending: in addition to knees, you have hips and a head-neck joint (up there where your head rests on top of your spine). Allow these joints to release into a bend so that your spine continues to lengthen instead of scrunching.
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what’s harmful and what’s helpful.
If you’d like to learn more, you can subscribe to my newsletter, read past articles here, join the Mind-Body Freedom & Balance with Alexander Technique group in Facebook to read occasional tips and ask questions, or write me at email@example.com to take an online constructive rest mini-lesson or a full online lesson. I’ll also be offering classes and workshops again next year when I get back to Montana. (I’ll be back for a couple weeks at Christmas and then May through September.)
If you have any questions or issues you’d like me to write about, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post something in the Facebook group! I look forward to hearing from you!