Deconstructing Down Dog Part 8 of 10 Head and Neck Position
Head and neck position for down dog. I’ve heard some instructors say “let is dangle” I’ve heard other instructors say “tuck your chin to look at your feet” Those are both wrong. Letting your head dangle doesn’t teach your neck how to stabilize the neck against the weight of the head. The other option starts to pull you into a rounded position and they both encourage bad head position which will in turn lead to neck problems, Dowagers hump and then down into the shoulders and down the body. Basically,a train wreck. When you’re upside down the brain and body may be a bit confused as you try to bring your head back to being your ears over your shoulders. Just like in standing but the student may not have practiced proprioception for body position upside down. While a good cue would be ears lined up on the biceps the rest of the pose needs to be setup well for this person. There is no need to look at toes, legs for any length of time. The body follows where the eyes are looking. There’s a nice blank space in between the hands and feet to look. Most people have a forward head posture, rounded shoulders and excessive kyphosis in the thoracic spine. Looking at your feet simply encourages this dysfunctional posture.
I hear many things in classes on how to hold your head in flexion based movements. The most common and the most over used exercise is the crunch. I hear ppl say “make sure there is a fist distance between the chin and chest; keep your eyes on the ceiling” You actually can’t do that. The moment your eyes stay fixated on the ceiling your body must follow where the eyes are looking. You widen the gap between the chin and chest; over activate the suboccipitals and start doing this chicken head/neck movement. This btw is what hurts the neck. When the back of your neck start to do the work of the neck flexors in addition to what they are suppose to be doing you will create pain and dysfunction. It hurts b/c it’s a mechanical disadvantage for the extensors to do the work of the neck flexors. You will also give yourself headaches, more neck tension along with encouraging a forward head posture which the shoulders and the thoracic spine will also have to become more dysfunctional. My classes can probably recite for you now how I cue head and neck position 1. Mouth closed; tongue on the roof of the mouth. This is the physiological rest position of the tongue. 2. The mouth is closed to provide an anchor for these muscles so they can stabilize the cervical spine against the weight of your head. If your mouth is open the intrinsic core neck muscles have no anchor. 3. Eye position is not right above you on the ceiling. It is more forward where the ceiling and the wall meet. Your eyes do not stay glued there. They move down the wall was you crunch up. This allows you maintain the fist distance between the chin and chest. The eyes go back up the wall to that crease as you go lower back down. Why am I cuing a crunch on the down dog post for head and neck position? There are more ppl finding themselves in a flexion based or crunch movement than in down dog. You must learn what this position is for all sorts of position. Most ppl really do not have well developed kinesthetic awareness. They need help and sometimes it’s the instructors that needs help as well learning that as well. We all need help! Pulling your head back; Placing your ears over your shoulders will help you to develop strength for the intrinsic core neck musculature. It’s a lot of work being in down dog