However good it feels to stretch, it is sometimes too much of a bother to clear a space, get out a mat and get down on the floor to stretch. Or maybe you are travelling and your hotel room doesn’t have much floor space. So here is a stretching routine that is all in standing, with almost no equipment – all you need is a chair or something similar for support and something a couple of inches high to rest your foot one, a book would do.
Do you sit/stand like this?
Look at how my chin has poked out as my head thrusts forwards, my back is rounded, my ribs collapsed and my belly poofed out. Attractive, isn’t it? But holding your head and neck in poor alignment isn’t only bad for your vanity. The forward head posture has a whole host of negative ramifications for the health of the body. First of all the head tends to drag the upper spine with it, reducing the space in the torso, leading to reduced lung volume (less oxygen for your body) and a sluggish digestive tract (poor elimination, build up of toxins). It also places a lot of strain on the actual spine, putting your discs and vertebrae at risk of damage and degeneration, and changing the alignment of the neck so that the space required for the arteries that take oxygenated blood to the brain is reduced – definitely not a good thing! Think headaches, poor vision, tiredness…The pull of gravity on the head is also altered– changing the weight of the head from about 5 kilos in proper alignment to up to 19 kilos when the head thrusts forwards. The back of the body struggles to hold up this tremendous weight, so extra connective tissue gets laid down at the top of the back to form a strap, almost like reins, to keep ahold of the head: the classic dowager’s hump. Hmm, seems we’re back to vanity….
To feel the alignment of your neck yourself, try this chicken exercise (not the most elegant exercise!)
Feel how when the head is forwards the lower part of the neck lengthens and slides forwards and the top part of the neck (right under the skull) is shortened. And how when you draw the head back and the chin in, the top of the neck lengthens and the lower part of the neck draws back, lining itself up over a long, tall spine.
If it feels hard to get your head back and your chin in, try a stretch for the top of the neck, which should feel good:
Unfortunately modern life encourages the forward head posture as we spend so much time sitting down and looking intently at screens and books. So not only do we need to learn how to hold ourselves better, we need to learn to be vigilant about regularly asking ourselves where our chins are. One possibility is to write ‘where is my chin?’ on one of those thick rubber bands and wear it on your wrist – every time you look at it you will be reminded to draw your chin back and in and realign your spine. An excellent alternative is to get someone who loves you to buy you an expensive bracelet as a reminder…. A third possibility is to use a regular prompt, such as every time you get a text or an email, as a reminder to check your alignment. If you can add helping your eyes by looking into the distance for a moment or two, so much the better (a post on eyes might be coming soon)
In the meantime I’m still hoping for the bracelet option, as I just realised my chin was sticking out….
Last Christmas I put together a 3 part exercise routine for over the holiday period. I’ve added a 4th section, some side-lying work. Each section is only about 10 minutes, so you could do 1 routine a day or go through all 4 in one go (and then feel smug and virtuous…)
For Part 1 you simply need a mat or a space on a rug or carpet.
For Part 2 you need that same mat or carpet space.
For the side lying work you still only need that small space.
For the final part you need a chair or something similar to lean on, and book or block or something similar about 5-10cms high.