Neutral Head and Cervical Placement

neutral spine and head placementThe fifth and final STOTT Pilates Basic Principle is neutral head and cervical placement. Sure, it’s not as fun or glamorous as the other four principles, but if you have postural issues, your head placement is part of the problem. As a reminder, the other Basic Principles are:  breathing, imprint, rib cage placement, and scapula placement. I’ve included the links in case you have missed any of these articles. Please check them out because the Five Basic Principles build upon each other.

Frequently, when I observe people first coming on to their backs to get ready for Pilates, their chins are tilted up. They are looking at the ceiling somewhere and arching their cervical spine. If this happens to be you, you should start off with some head nods to get the muscles along your neck reprogrammed. Plus, you will need to reestablish what it feels like to have your head in neutral. If, however, you have a neutral head position when you lay down, you might think about doing some isometric neck exercises to strengthen your neck muscles.

Head nods

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet in line with your SITs bones. Your collarbones are broad and there in energy as your finger tips reach toward your heels. Inhale.
  2. As you exhale, lengthen the back of your neck, tucking your chin very slightly. It is important to remember that jamming your chin to your chest is not your purpose here. Instead, imagine you are trying to hold an orange between your chin and your chest. You want to keep hold of it, but you don’t want to squeeze juice all over yourself either.
  3. Inhale to return to neutral.
  4. Repeat. I would think that 5-10 reps would be sufficient.

Isometric neck exercise

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet in line with your SITs bones. Your collarbones are broad and there in energy as your finger tips reach toward your heels. make sure your head and cervical spine are in neutral. Inhale.
  2. As you exhale, press the back of your head straight in to your mat. You may also place a folded towel behind your head to have something soft (yet thin) to press against. Do not use a pillow as your head will not be in neutral anymore.
  3. Inhale and release muscular energy.
  4. Repeat. I would think that 5-10 reps would be sufficient.

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Try the isometric neck exercise while you’re sitting up. How does that feel? Let me know below.

Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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