10. Let your head turn freely

I want to encourage you to be interested in your movements, not your muscles, and in the way you can act as an integrated person, not with bits of structure in isolation.  So, when I focus on a particular region of the body, or a particular joint or muscle, my intention is to give you some reference points for your experience, physical details which give some body to your explorations of your behaviour.  Here I want to focus on the region at the top of your spine.  You could stand in front of a mirror and place your two index fingers, one each side, on the small rounded lump of bone behind each earlobe.  There are called the mastoid processes.  If you hold your fingers out horizontally then the line between your fingers (roughly) passes through the joint between the top of the uppermost vertebrae and the underside of your skull, the atlanto-occipital joint.  This joint is probably higher than you thought it was: your neck continues up higher, almost to the level of your cheek bones.

If you look from the side at someone else indicating the level of this joint, you will notice that there is more of their head in front of this axis of rotation than there is behind.  Because of this, the tendency of the head , simply thought of as a weight, will be to roll forward.  The muscles at the back of the neck which support the head become of particular interest.  If you run your hand round the side and back of your neck you will be feeling big, powerful muscles which run between the head and the shoulders and chest.  Underneath these are deeper, shorter muscles which connect the head to the top two vertebrae of the spine.  These deeper ones are strong and incredibly sensitive muscles – sensitive to stretch – and they are involved in all the precise subconscious and conscious movements of the head, coordinating with our eye movements and with what we are doing with our feet.  We keep ourselves balanced and responsive thanks to the freedom of these joints and the sensitivity of these muscles.      Picture the beautifully sensitive bearings in which a telescope is mounted, allowing it to be tilted in any direction and to track accurately.  These deep muscles of the back, connecting the head to the top of the spine, themselves connect to the whole multilayered web of muscles and ligaments which go right down the back, along the spine, the structure which allows us to be flexibly upright.  Now, I don’t think it’s possible or desirable to try to ‘feel’, in any sense, or isolate the action of these muscles at the top of the spine.

What I would suggest you do is just try very small ‘yes’ and ‘no’ gestures of the head nodding, and experiment with making the movement as free and simple and as high up as possible.  You can then explore following something such as a line in a pattern on a carpet or curtain, or a bird or aeroplane high in the sky and so not moving quickly across your visual field, or a beetle on the ground.  Explore the combination of freedom and precision in the movement of the head while the rest of you stays still.

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