As you sit reading this blog, take a moment to notice your head! Is it lightly balancing on an easeful neck, or is it pulled forward toward the computer screen, distorting your neck, and most likely your back and the rest of your body too? For most people I would bet on the second option – this is all too common and you see it everywhere in various manifestations.
In my last blog I explored balance as we sit at the computer, and I encouraged you to get to know your “sit bones!” Now we need to look at the other end of the spine – at the head! The sit bones are part of the pelvis which sits at one end of the spine. The head is at the opposite end, in counterbalance, you could say, to the pelvis. If either end is “off-balance,” our whole structure is compromised.
The Alexander Technique is a wonderful method for teaching us to notice and change those habits that bring us “off-balance” and a lot of attention is paid to the relationship of the head to the neck and back as a (if not the) key factor in our overall coordination. It is also the key place where we have habits that don’t serve us well, and learning to manage the head/neck relationship better is vital in learning to be more comfortable at the computer.
So, it’s important to know where the head actually balances on the top of our spine (the atlanto-occipital joint). It is not at the back where we can feel the change from neck to head. It is more central – approximately between the ears and behind the nose.
When introducing this concept to my students, I often use this little exercise to help them explore the balancing point:
- Sitting on your sit bones, put your fingers in your ears and imagine you have a rod going through the middle of your head (a beautiful mind-body image, I know!) and see if you can very gently nod your head forward as if around the “rod” – as if you were very lightly nodding “yes” in agreement with something. This is actually where the head balances on the very top of the spine.
When we lock onto the computer screen, head jutting out, neck tense, we lose this poise and the possibility of movement at this very top-most place – not a good thing for a long-term comfort while we work!
As you look at your screen, does your head pull forward? Instead, expand your awareness to the space around you, notice your sit bones supporting you, and think of allowing your eyes to receive these words so your head can be balanced (not held or pulled forward!) at the top or your spine. Remind yourself that you do not have to hunch down and thrust the head forward to actually see the screen.
The Alexander Technique helps us fine-tune our awareness of ourselves in any activity, giving us choices about what we do and how we do it. So instead of being stuck in a set position while you work at the computer, you can choose not to let your head pull forward. And if and when it does start to pull forward again, you notice and can renew your choice not to lose your head!
Do you know what happens to your head when you use your computer? I challenge you to start noticing when your head pulls toward to the screen. Can you decide not to do that? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.