Freeing the neck is the first direction in Alexander Technique. It doesn’t matter how much you free your neck if you don’t learn to stop or prevent first. Stopping is your chance to allow bad habits to stop happening. It's something that happens, you don't do it.
The neck comes first
So why do we free the neck and why does it come first? The neck is where many important functions happen, heartbeat, coordination, balance and breathing in particular. Some of our neck muscles and cervical vertebrae surround our reptilian brain where all of this processing goes on. If the neck muscles (sternocleidomastoid and trapezius) are tight around this part of the neck; they can shorten and narrow in all sorts of ways. That distorts our relationship with the head, back and rest of the body creating the majority of the startle patterns we individually carve out for ourselves. The most common being the head pulled back and down, upper back collapsing forwards and downwards and the hips tipping back. This tension adds up and masks where we think the top of the neck is. We end up with 3 places.
Where's the top of the neck?
1) Where’s the top of the neck? You’re immediate reaction to this will tell you where your habitual use is. What part of the body you use as the top of the neck. Put your hand there immediately. HINT if it takes you longer than 2 seconds to find this out you’re doing the next part. Not this part.
2) The conscious perception when we think about it a bit we work out our neck probably finishes where our skull begins.
3) Where it actually is, up between the ears behind the eyes.
Perception creates your body use
Without knowing where the top of the neck starts we will always have a tendency to shorten it. You cannot let go of the shoulder shrug look or trapezius tightening and shortening if you are using your neck as if it ended a the same height as your tongue for example. You won’t be able to give away as much weight in the shoulders because all that tension will carry on in the upper neck.
So how do i free my neck then?
Well if you just free it, you say “I allow my neck to be free”. If you’ve never had lessons before or you’ve just started this won’t have much of an effect, but you do need to ask it and keep asking. Attitude is also important, you have to talk to yourself in a kind, methodical and calm way. Your body will tighten up if you bark orders at it.
Also you might want to try this when lying down in semi supine. It will make it a lot easier to release the neck muscles if you have the head and back supported. Your head is invited to face forwards and go up in this position. This will minimise any tension being made and give you some idea of what you’re looking for when you’re standing. This is probably the best way to stop chicken head. It’s very easy to start looking for the feeling of your neck being free. My suggestion is that you avoid this. The feelings will happen by themselves, you have to trust that if you are going to make any progress.
Send the message, nothing extra
Simply giving yourself time and then allowing the neck to be free is all you need to do here. You send the message and wait to see if there’s an answer from your body. Sometimes, especially at the start we might get nothing , the experiences are as variable as the people that try it. So it might happen very easily, but it might take a bit of patience.
You will know when your body is able to carry out this direction when your neck starts to let go and lengthen without any doing on your part and when your neck starts to breathe or move in sync with you ribs or lower ribs. But remember, don’t look for this, send the message and observe what happens. That will go much further than trying to do anything with your neck.