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Mindful : June 2014
The final practice in this series concerns the head itself. F.M . Alexander—the developer of the Alexander Technique— obser ved that in all ver tebrates there is a dynamic, ever-chang- ing relationship between the head, neck, and back. Some people inter fere with this basic relationship by using the wrong muscles (recruited from the spine, shoulder blades, and collarbone) to adjust the posi- tion of the head, resulting in issues with breathing, moving, speaking, and other difficulties. The key to working with the position of the head (both in mediation and daily life) is to star t with the sense of spaciousness, relaxation, and delicacy you’ve achieved from releasing the eyes and face. Just releasing these areas should already produce a sense of spaciousness. Aggressive jerking and adjustments will not deliver the results we seek. In working with the head, we are going for a state of dynamic receptivity, not rigidity. The easiest way to describe what we are going for is the sense that the skull and head are softly floating on top of the spine. Here are three ways to encourage this: 1 Whenever you remember, con- sciously release the tendency to “hold” the head. Release it and let it micro-adjust and softly settle on top of the spine. Also, bring more gen- eral awareness to the atlanto- occipital joint—the place where head meets the spine. 2 Lightly shift your attention to a place roughly in the center of your head (a few inches back into your skull from your eyes). I call this place “the cockpit.” You will know you’ve found it because there is an unmistak- able sense of neutral witness- ing associated with it. When you find this neutral feeling, simply allow your head to re- adjust around the feeling. If I’ve been working on the computer in an unconscious posture for a while and I find this place of attention, my head usually does a few small turns followed by a subtle “lifting” movement in the entire skull. 3 The final and most commonly taught way of arriving at the floating feeling is to actually visualize a force lifting your head upward. For example, you can imagine a string pullling the upper palate of your mouth upward (encouraging a subtle lengthening in your neck and head). The downside of this technique is that it can become too much of a conscious act of doing something, meaning there is a danger of adding yet another layer of ar tificial compensation on top of the patterns we are looking to decondition. We’re going for subtle re-calibrations here. Awareness and attention are our primar y tools. ● Position the Head and Neck 3 in practice insight 76 mindful June 2014