A common question people ask is:
Which way is my head supposed to be going when I’m doing the Somatic Movements and why is it different when I’m sitting or standing?
Here is the simple answer: when flexing and extending the spine, there are two possible head patterns.
First head pattern – stress reflexes
Human beings stand upright in gravity and walk forward in life. We are always looking towards the horizon. This helps our balance and maintains our vestibular system; it is what we do as the only species uniquely designed to stand on two legs and move toward what we want in life.
As we move forward in life we also respond to stress in very predictable ways: we draw inward, hunching our shoulders and tightening our abdominals (red light), or arch our back and tighten our shoulders when in a rush (green light), or compensate on one side when injured (trauma). Because our head and neck are connected to the rest of our spine, they respond to whatever the center is doing all the while still looking at the horizon so we can see where we’re going
When we do certain somatic movements (for example arch and flatten), we are re-creating and de-creating the stress reflexes so that we can come out of them at will. When we hunch inward, our neck arches, and the chin goes forward. When we arch our back, our chin comes down and our neck is long.
Second head pattern – spinal movements
In other somatic movements such as the back lift or the curl, we are interested in full flexion and extension of the spine. We want to be able to fully extend our back and look upward when looking at the night sky, and fully round our spine and look downward when looking at a seashell on the beach.
So there are two different head patterns: one of full extension, and full flexion (the pelvis and head going in opposite directions), and one in which we re-create the reflexes as if we were standing and moving forward towards life (the pelvis and head going in the same direction).
Both head patterns can be practiced during a floor practice but can be most easily explored during a seated or standing practice.
Watch this video and let us know if it helps you allow your neck and head to “go along for the ride” as you do your daily practice and experiment with doing the movements seated too.