I wanted to write a little about the ongoing crucial role of head balance. As we go about our day-to-day lives, head balance isn’t generally something we even think about, just as we don’t generally tend to think about how we use our postural mechanism.
The head weighs around 6 Kilos in weight, it’s that heavy, now just think for a second of that amount of weight balancing on top of your spine and what happens when we perform any activity, it could be writing at a desk or using a computer, speaking or singing, playing an instrument, performing exercise or playing a sport, it really doesn’t matter what the activity is, but what is important is how our head is balanced, is it fixed and stiff, or does it have the ability to go ‘forward and up’ as we lengthen and widen in stature? In other words, we can all think differently about our head balance.
I know my own head balance is very much a work in progress, and has been a exceedingly steep learning curve, having had a very much downward facing head for decades, also having pulled down as I did during a very tough period of my life which highlighted to me how alert I need to be in this respect, how things can so easily go the other way if we are not staying with inhibition and direction. It could be somewhat frustrating at times during lessons not to see improvements in this respect, but I continued persevering with the Work, and placed my trust in my teachers and in what they told me about this very much being a process, the “means whereby'” being ultra important. I have actually come from a place where my head was very much falling down towards my chest, nowadays I’m actually most humbled to be as upright and as tall as I am. This has taken place very gradually, as is the nature of our Work, and this is just as it should be in order to bring about consistency and there lies one of the many glaring differences. I also think it is very important to having compassion towards ourselves for not having known any better, or even having known about the Alexander Technique previously; I very much believe that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Clearly considering our head balance, along with the other directions of the Alexander Technique, is something worthwhile coming back to again and again as we simultaneously think about our height in terms of our stature and poise and also in terms of thinking about encouraging width and expansion throughout our torso. Head balance is not something independent of this, and yet it is the head balance which very often is the culprit when it comes to us developing the unconscious habit of dropping our head, shortening and contracting ourselves in all respects. This need not be so if we bring our thinking ability to considering where our head is heading in space. We are not advocating pushing the head up with any force, but rather bringing our awareness to it, which may feel completely wrong to us at first as our teacher works with us. Indeed may well feel wrong to be standing or sitting at height with a head which is not dropping down towards our torso. Only yesterday I happened to be sitting in a waiting room and observed a young woman peering down at her mobile ‘phone, she was very much being sucked into her ‘phone in a psychophysical respect, everything was being pulled down towards her centre of interest. We are able to restore how we are can retain our interest in whatever it is we are doing without being drawn into by narrowing ourselves, but this is very much a process and we all generally come from such a place, we are certainly not looking for this to change in an instant, but rather gradually, with ongoing awareness and consideration. The balance of the head in my mind, along with the freedom of the neck and length and width the back, is the paramountly important factor in everything that we do, it is that crucial and yet how many of us think about this? Frederick Matthias Alexander too encountered his challenges when it came to head balance, very much so, as described in his second book written for students entitled “The Use of the Self.” He studied patiently and persistently in detail what he himself was doing that was causing him to keep losing his voice and he never wavered in this quest.
I appreciate my head balance nowadays is nothing like what it once was, it has improved hugely and still has time and space to improve. I know that perservering with this is worthwhile, going right back to basics is worthwhile, that as far as I’m concerned the Alexander Technique can only be learned by taking one-to-one lessons with a qualified teacher, also bringing my attention back to my head balance again and again is very worthwhile.
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