Years ago my (Carol) first qigong teacher made the provocative statement that the world would be a different place if everyone’s heads were correctly held, in the proper position.
What did he mean by this? Most of us have the bad habit of letting our heads fall back, with the chin lifted, or forward, in a slouched position. First of all, the average human head is 8 to 12 pounds! That’s a lot of weight to carry around, and we’re too distracted, between work and other stressors, to notice.
This mal-positioning creates a constant blockage, leading to headaches, neck strain, shoulder strain, and worse, nerve impingement leading to numbness and tingling down the arms, to the fingers.
Ready to give it a try? Lift your sternum (the bony area at the center of your chest), tuck your chin in slightly, and lift the crown of the head center skywards, giving a slight tug to the muscles at the back of the neck. At the same time, let your shoulders drop. You are now lifting your head off the spine! Practice: hold it for several seconds at a time, any time, and soon your body will crave the correct position. Some examples of practice are when waiting (for a red light to turn green, for the water to boil, when listening to someone speak, or when you’re on hold), meditating, or during your daily peregrinations when you are called upon to be still for a moment.
A related area to this is inside the mouth, where there are a number of muscles no one ever thinks of. These are: Tensor veli palatini, Levator veli palatini, Palato glossus, Palato pharyngeus, and Musculus uvulae. When you practice lifting your head off the spine, think of softening the muscles of the soft palate. This will create more space to free up the components of the jaw and neck.
Lifting the head off the spine is really a qi gong practice in that the focus is on the bones, allowing the surrounding tissue to lengthen, become stronger, and relax all at once. When you hit the “sweet spot,” you’ll know it, and with practice, will be able to hold the position for longer moments, then periods, of time.
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