In February (2013), I once again had the opportunity to study with Irene Dowd. She is such a legend in the world of anatomy and movement and I always jump on every opportunity to learn from her. This was a 3 hr. workshop on the neck, giving us simple, yet effective strategies for everyone (with and without equipment) to be done throughout the day, sitting at your desk to create ease in your neck and shoulders.
How we socially interact with our face, the way we listen (does one ear hear better than the other? If so you are more likely to present that ear and move your neck and head off-center) how we look, taste and chew is influenced by the way we move our necks.
Learning by doing:
First we located the cervical vertebrae, palpating them and looking at their movement possibilities. We teamed up and observed our partners range of motion in a “yes” and “no” motion. The atlanto-occipital joint = yes, has about 15-20 degrees of flexion and extension combined. The atlanto-axial joint =no has about 35-40 degrees of rotation on each side. Combining flexion/ extension and rotation is a whole different ballgame. We observed the lack of symmetry and imbalances in ourselves and were prompted to write down our scores to compare them, after we did the mini-movement sequences Irene has developed. What a surprise, all of us had either evened out imbalances or increased range of motion.
Posterior atlantoöccipital membrane and atlantoaxial ligament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The muscles of the neck work synergistically with our eyes. You can test this by putting your hands at the back of your neck, right underneath the skull at either side of your cervical spine with slight pressure. Look straight ahead and then to the left, without moving your head and then to the right. It is very subtle, but you can feel the muscles activating and preparing to move your head. You might have to try this a couple of times before you first feel it. This means, where your eyes go during exercise, your neck wants to rotate your head to. So be aware where you look when you rotate your spine. If your eyes stay straight, your brain is not able to tell your body to move and the range of motion you experience in your rotation is much smaller or might feel constricted.The same goes for flexion (Ab-curl, “crunch”) look at the ceiling first and start the movement with your eyes, wandering across the ceiling to the wall in front of you, to your knees (they may be in the tabletop position or feet on the floor) and experience an easier, possibly increased flexion in your thoracic spine and more ease (or work in the front neck, which is desired in cervical flexion) in performing the 100’s.
Muscles of the neck. Anterior view. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you know
that we have more muscles in the back of the neck than in the front? The posterior (in the back) muscles support our head as we reach our faces forward (palpate by putting your hands on the neck and move your head forward). Too much reaching forward (by listening, looking, eating, talking) will fatigue those muscles and one might even feel pain. Also, our brain being in the back of our skull is much heavier than the front of our face, needs to be balanced out.
The muscles on the side and in the front are less numerous and are very important for balancing our head. They are usually underdeveloped, especially sitting at a desk all day doing computer work (I can feel my posterior muscles screaming at me already). Tilting your head backwards gives ease to the posterior muscles and allows them to relax for a while.
Another blog post with exercises will follow
Pushing the head forward resisting gently with your hand pressing against your forehead will activate the anterior neck muscles and put them to work.
Let’s leave it here for now, although there are many more interesting facts, if you have any questions about the micro-movement series, release techniques and strengthening exercises, contact me! Just remember less is more when it comes to awakening muscles that are not quite working as they should, listen to your body, if it feels wrong, don’t do it and be aware of your range of motion. The way you sit and carry your head throughout the day is so important, how you talk, chew and look at your iPad (reading with it sitting on your laps for a long period of time might possibly be less desirable after you read this post).
Irene’s workshop schedule can be found here:http://www.nohopilates.com/workshops.htm