December 18, 2017
In these days of heads looking down at devices perhaps more often than not, I find myself frequently giving this particular “homework” self-care.. It’s a short movement sequence that counters device postures– bringing your upper body into healthy and relaxed alignment. The head lifts into natural horizontal on the neck, the neck comes into line with the rest of spine below it, and shoulders drop down and back into relaxation, widening the upper chest.
When you do this, postural improvement provides more space for your heart, lungs, and thymus, so circulation and function improve, breathing is fuller. Additional benefit comes as 4th and 5th chakras (heart and throat/expression energy centers, respectively) also enjoy more space. You may find that 6th (third eye), 7th (crown) and 3rd (solar plexus/moving out into the external world) also shift for the better.
I learned this exercise in a workshop in the 1970s for women learning to maintain our integrity while expressing and receiving anger. The leader, Rosemary Christoph—for whom I named the exercise–learned it from a friend who sang opera, who had learned it from her voice teacher. So it’s seen a number of contexts.
How will you use it to support you on your path?
Rosemary’s Exercise: There are five steps or positions done in a certain order that make up the whole. It’s best done standing, but sitting is okay too. Take a couple seconds for each position; it’s not about racing through it, but smooth movement with awareness. Remember to stay within your range of motion and comfort. If you feel discomfort, modify your position while keeping the gist of the directions.
Beginning benchmark: Tune into your head/neck/shoulders/chest, especially in terms of tensions and ease, as well as breathing, and mood/sense of joy in life.
1. Curl your head and neck down by leading with your chin, so that your chin is tucked and your nose points to the floor. Note: This is not a reaching with your head, but a rolling down, like a just-emerged fiddlehead fern.
2. Roll your shoulders forward and rotate your arms (that are hanging by your side) inward.
3. Keeping your shoulders and arms as they are, bend your head back so your nose is pointing to the ceiling.
4. While you maintain your head in this extended position and your arms rotated in, bring your shoulders up toward your ears.
5. This step is a two-fer: Roll your shoulders back and down to neutral (your arms will naturally de-rotate back to neutral), and at the same time, allow your head to drop forward/down toward neutral. You don’t need to use extra muscles to bring your head down, it will naturally drop to where it wants to be now—which may surprise you as being farther back and more horizontal than you’re used to.
Reassess: Take time to sense and feel any postural shifts, breathing, overall tension, and mood. After a breath or two, repeat the 5 steps a couple more times.
When you feel positive results, you’re bound to remember to do Rosemary’s Exercise a few times daily. It’s a great way to refresh yourself, both body and spirit. Let me know how it goes for you. And if you want more help with your posture, be sure to be in touch.