Step 1: Getting started.
I recommend that you stand relaxed or sit comfortably upright in a chair. Identify where your head joins the top of your neck. This can be done by nodding your head up and down gently.
Step 2: Find the balance point for the muscles at the top of your neck.
Gently turn your head left and right, keeping your head level.
When you feel the tension in the joint, gently move your head the other way. Make smaller and smaller movements, left and right, until you find a ‘balance’ or ‘wobbly’ point somewhere near the middle. This is likely to be off to one side.
Repeat the exercise nodding your head.
Slowly tilt your head all the way down and all the way up without causing pain. As before, slowly make smaller and smaller movements until you find a ‘balance’ or ‘wobbly’ point somewhere near the middle – this is likely to be a lot higher than what you might expect.
Your head should now feel relaxed on top of your neck.
Step 3: Relax the body.
Leave your head in the position you have just found, relax or drop your shoulders, wriggle your body or your hips. This takes about 1-2 seconds. Draw in a deep breath and let it out, then breathe normally.
Step 4: Fine-tune the balance.
Gently move your head left and right, up and down about 5-10 degrees or 2-3 centimetres. This is to find an even more relaxed or balanced position for the top of your neck.
Step 5: The head clearing exercise.
With your head sitting very relaxed on the top of your neck, imagine or visualise your head as a balloon floating up towards the ceiling or you may visualise your head is being drawn up off your neck by a piece of string attached to the top of your skull.
At this time, people often experience a feeling of ‘head rush’. You may feel a bit light-headed – do not be frightened by this, just relax with it until it settles down. At this time, you may also feel your body move or squirm. Allow it to move as it wants and try not to force it.
When all the movement has finished or your head has finished settling, breathe deeply in and out and relax. (Some people are not able to experience this head rush, either because they need further training, treatment or some other factor.)
Step 6: To finish off the exercise.
Repeat Step 4; you re-find where your head sits most comfortably on your neck. You may experience that your body ‘settles’ further.
This is where your head belongs.
If you experience pain or discomfort during this exercise please stop immediately and consult your osteopath.
I recommend that people do this exercise several times a day (Step 5 is optional) until they become quite familiar with where the minimum tension is at the top of the neck.
It is important that people balance their head at their workstation, at the gym, when walking or doing exercise. This exercise can also be integrated into other relaxation or meditation techniques.
This exercise is also recommended for those who suffer with tension headaches since these are usually caused by tightness in the muscles at the top of the neck. It may also help with other forms of headache or shoulder tension.
In developing this exercise, I have drawn from the Cranial Osteopathy and Osteopathic Functional techniques and acknowledge the influence of Alexander technique, Feldenkrais technique and Tai Chi.