Perhaps you have seen a photo that suggests that the zombie apocalypse is upon us already. Teens, walking home from school, head down, thumb scrolling on the small screen…
It’s been suggested that a head forward posture affects our optimum functioning: decreased thinking, immune function, metabolism, breath capacity and sluggish bowel movements are but some of the possible side effects.
It is more common than I have been willing to acknowledge, but society teaches us this posture. Hunched at a computer. 1000 crunches to earn washboard abs. Relaxing on the couch at the end of a long day. These habits encourage a standardization of form: front body short, back body long.
Anatomically, this is what I’ve observed:
Should the core become superficially developed (Pectoralis Major, Rectus Abdominus), the abdomen (belly) descends the rib cage, reducing space for the internal organs (Heart, Lungs, Liver). Chest breaths mean more muscles used to breath and less oxygen circulates, which encourages a tighter chest (Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Coracobracialis for the assist). Our front body, in this contracted state, invites the shoulder to rise and roll inwards, through the contraction of subscapularis, prime mover of medial, or internal shoulder rotation.
Across the neck, a V shaped muscle (Sternocliedomastoid) pulls the cervical (C1-C7) spine forward and extends the head, creating tension or stress. Our sub-occipital muscles (where head and neck meet), which assist proprioception, or awareness of oneself in space, become deranged in this position. Their shortening impedes the vertebral artery, affecting the amount of blood traveling to the brain.
Levator scapula does what it describes, elevating the shoulder blade (scapula). It hangs off the side of the neck and may produce changes in the cervical spine that commonly localize in the upper mid back and neck. A weakness in Serratus Anterior (Ribs 1-7 to Scapula) permits the scapula to wing away from the ribcage. This is supported by the action of subscapularis and that circles us back to the chest tightness we mentioned. Repeat ad nauseum… And all of this without even mentioning jaw tension.
We could look at this as a positive feedback loop. It’s not positive as in good for us. It just feeds upon itself. Which makes it hard to know where to intervene. My suggestion is we begin teaching our youths. On anatomy. On awareness. On patterns. On…
Some things that can be done about this…
• Drink more water! Be more hydrated. The body is the most capable recycling system. Trust in it’s ability to keep you balanced. Water is the prelude to our organism.
• Get two tennis balls and rest in some form of Savasana with the balls propping up where the head and neck meet. The intention is relax the sub-occipitals to support change.
• The practice of Jalandhara Bandha. A slight depression of the chin towards the throat, activates muscles attached to the hyoid bone. This will invite the sub occipitals to relax through the principle of reciprocal inhibition. On the subtle level, the throat chakra will be aroused, encouraging discernment in communication. Engage mid to low shoulder blade muscles to descend the Scapula. Apana vayu may also be focused on, to retain vital energy. Best practice is seek a teacher worthy of the term.
• Ask for help. We rarely are touched enough. Getting a massage is a multi faceted solution to much of what we face in the daily. Know what your intention is, and seek support in an educated fashion.
For those of us often seated in front of a computer, ensure that the monitor is eye level. This helps to neutralize the spine and reduce tension. Research Ergonomics to learn more tools.
My small caveat reminds that each individual expresses traits in their own fashion. Generalizations are meant to paint with broad strokes, so do take what resonates and leave the rest. Bless.