Fri 25th Sep:
How heavy is your head?
This morning Jane and I were having one of our usual conversations as we often do and go off at a tangent for ages about whatever subject has been on our minds this week and today it was the weight of the head.
We were talking about how important it is to cue neck and head position in our classes and all the visual and verbal cues we use to do this as well as how Pilates has adapted over the years to teach people to work with their own bodies and feel the optimum position for them rather than an aesthetic on how it should look.
Without being all Henry VIII about it,did you know an adult human cadaver head cut off around vertebra C3(chin level), with no hair, weighs somewhere between 4.5 and 5 kg, constituting around 8% of the whole body mass?That's almost the weight of 1 leg.
Holding the head in a good neutral position enables this weight to be supported but
holding your head in a forward posture can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine.For EVERY 1 inch your head moves forward, the relative weight of the head over the body DOUBLES.This can pull the entire spine out of alignment.
Think about this next time your cooking, reading or on your ipad, phone or computer and, using the skills you have learnt in your class, try to adjust your posture to balance and comfortably hold the weight of your head.
We work on improving posture in the classes by exploring movement ie: coming out of the positions we habitually use and by exploring movements finding a more balanced , easy to sustain, without pain or damage to our joints ,posture.
You could move your feet into a position to feel they are in contact with the floor then change your body position so you feel the 7 vertebrae of your neck are in a consistent line with the rest of your spine to the tail bone and your inner corset is supporting you in that position. Change the position of your pelvis, ribs arms , shoulders and neck and the phone too if you need to until you feel the head is balanced.Recognise your own postural habits and learn how to adjust to avoid strain. We practise good sound movement patterns continually in your class and hopefully you feel the benefit of this without always thinking about it consciously in your daily life.
Forward head posture can also result in the loss of vital lung capacity. These breath-related effects are primarily due to the loss of the cervical lordosis which blocks the action of the muscles responsible for helping lift the first rib during inhalation.
I've seen many people's pain and poor posture improve over my 30 years experience by using simple improved positioning and breathing exercises.
The entire gastrointestinal system (particularly the large intestine) may become agitated from forward head posture resulting in sluggish bowel peristaltic function and evacuation.
As you can see poor neck posture can have consequences to our overall health as well as local pain and dysfunction.
When you have read this, try this simple exercise that we often use at the end of a class:
In a good sitting or standing position, look down towards your breastbone, if you had a shirt on, aim for the 3rd button.Take a couple of easy breaths in this position feeling that your neck lengthens from the front, breastbone, chin to forehead and the back, base of neck beyond crown of head and that you're aware of the background support from your corset all the way around your torso. Now relaxing your shoulders, allow a full, easy breath to enter through your nose and as the breath slowly leaves your mouth draw your chin up the front of your neck until the underside of your chin is parallel to the floor, your eye-sockets are in line with your collar bones and your eye-line is focused straight ahead. Take a moment to recognise and store this balanced, supported feeling.
Someone told me the other day that if you're smiling at someone with your eyes as well as you mouth then your neck is in an excellent posture! Try it and let me know the results.