Head Forwards And Up - Technique For Living

Head Forwards And Up

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Or more accurately head facing forwards and going up. This direction or movement is commonly mistaken (as it was by me) as the head and neck going forwards. Or the head tipping backwards, instead of going up. This largely stems from our startle pattern. We will continue to misdirect ourselves unless we stop first. Also if the neck isn;t free to the degree required the these problems will keep manifesting themselves. The head counts as everything above your eyes and the top of the neck and the base of your skull.

The amount of movement forwards in the head is very minimal.

 A few degrees at most. Anything beyond that and the head and neck go forwards, creating misuse. The head goes forwards and down, the neck shortens and goes forwards, the rips collapse and fix, causing the diaphragm to tighten along with the abdominals and the hips tip back creating pressure on the lower back / lumbar vertebrae. 

There is an overall shortening of the stature and it’s harder to breathe. Tipping the head back causes very similar problems but in slightly different areas. The back of the neck will be gripping harder. The head and neck going forwards will put more pressure on your ribs and breathing. They both cause a loss of tone throughout the body and contribute to shortening and “crows feet” or hypertension on your neck. Because your head weighs about 10 or 11 pounds the heaviest density part of the body, if it’s misdirected tension is ricocheted all throughout the body to compensate.

Stop looking at the floor

The best way to start dealing with this is by spending time in semi supine. Yes it helps to think of your head going up. Thinking of the crown of your head pointing at the sky. But it’s equally important, if not more, to avoid pulling your head down. For example if we pass someone in the street we tend to avoid eye contact by pulling our head down to avoid contact with a stranger. You could just as easily not make eye contact by looking somewhere else without moving your head. Instead we choose to pile pressure down our spine by pulling the head forwards and down. You might say ‘but that is how I look away’ and that would be a grave misuse. You don’t have to move your neck and head to move your eyes. This kind of movement is also the opposite of confidence. It’s shrinking and making yourself less approachable. There are many ways in which we pull the head out of shape. You have to remember a few basic points to help with this.

  • 1
    The head counterbalances the spine. The head faces forwards, the spine in turn goes back. Spine goes back relative to the head in terms of depth.
  • 2
    The weight of the head is roughly 2/3s forward from the top of the neck. If the neck finishes up between the ears behind the eyes, that leaves more weight in the head forwards of the neck than behind it.
  • 3
    Freeing the neck muscles, dropping the shoulders and freeing the collarbone will allow the head to fall forward. 
  • 4
    You need to think up to lengthen the free neck and start to distribute tension more evenly in the rest of the spine.

It’s not just humans who need the head to go forwards and up.

When riding I was told to hold the reins so they gathered up the horses head. If you pull hard on the reins it would really crush the neck of the horse and would be the equivalent of pulling the head down and neck backwards for us, except you would have someone pulling on it! Ouch! Not letting the reins be too loose because that would allow the neck to drop forwards and pull the head back. When a horse has a person sitting on their back they need support to counter this weight. This is a huge responsibility for the rider and plays an important role in the efficiency of the horse's movement and communication. True the horse’s spine is in the horizontal plane, not vertical like ours but the same principles apply.

About the Author Edward Fisher

Hi, I'm Edward Fisher and I believe that everyone can have a life free from back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and many other musculoskeletal pain related conditions. I recovered from slipped discs and sciatica. I spent 10 months being unable to walk. After 3 months of Alexander Technique I was walking again. Now I show others how to do the same thing for themselves.

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