Day 77 - A Ninja Neck Move and Breath Work for Greater Body/Mind Vitality
I learned a new move, but, as a warning, I think it really does something because when I woke up I walked like a drunk person for a couple of hours. It’s almost noon now and the dizziness has passed, but it was surprising to walk into the mirror when I got out of bed in the morning.
This exercise works with, among other things, your vestibular system, the sensory system behind each ear that coordinates movement with balance and helps give you a sense of where you are in space. (For you adopted people out there, my radar went berserk when I learned about this part of our anatomy. But more on that some other time.)
All of this comes from the book Pressing Reset, Original Strength (I know Alex Castrodale. You told me to read it and I just let it sit there.) which is, essentially, about resetting the body so we can tap into the strength and body integrity we had as babies. By the end of the book, you are doing abdominal breathing and the head exercise I’m going to tell you about and then the rolling and crawling that I haven’t gotten to yet.
The first thing the book teaches is proper tongue placement. The easiest way to see where the most natural, most beneficial, placement of the tongue is to swallow. Chances are good the tip of your tongue will touch the roof of your mouth right behind your front teeth. There. That's the spot. This also encourages you then to breathe through your nose which is why you have a nose, so your glasses don't fall off and so can breathe through it. If you want to understand more about the how’s and the why’s, I suggest you buy the book and read it, otherwise you’re just going to have to take my word for it so I can move on and have this be a post and not a book.
Here we are now at diaphragmatic breathing. Picture an open umbrella under your ribs. That’s your diaphragm. If you lay a baby on his back and watch him breath, you’ll see his belly inflate with each breath. Now take a stressed Silicon Valley executive and lay him on the floor and watch him breath. Chances are good his belly won’t move much, but his chest will rise. This is a dude who needs to learn from babies because he’s stressing his system, his heart, his brain, his neck muscles!, with this shallow chest breathing.
When you breathe, you can imagine that when you inhale, you are pulling the open umbrella up towards your heart so that your ribs spread bilaterally (on both sides). When you exhale, you are taking that muscle and pushing it down towards your lower body, so now it looks like the bottom half of a balloon filled with water.
The diaphragm is a muscle and that’s why breathing like this can feel like exercise at first. Because it is exercise! (I was shocked at how consciously I had to work to breathe like this and how after just a single breath I felt as if I'd stepped into the breathing gym for a whole-day workout, but it was free and I could tell my body liked the extra attention, so I kept at it. When you breathe like this you do all sorts of wonderful things for your body including massaging your internal organs. A massage! What’s not to love about this? You can get a what ends up feeling like a full-body workout just by walking around and breathing!)
So now I can bring you to the exercise that made me dizzy a day later. I did this before I went to bed, so maybe I was dizzy afterwards only I was sleeping and didn’t notice. I carry a lot of stress in my neck—I got into massage almost twenty years ago after learning that I could help people with migraines (me!) by working on neck muscles—and so when I read that this exercise would help with neck tension (along with all over body alignment and strength!) I was in.
Again, if you want a complete explanation for the how’s and why’s, I really recommend this short book that has almost as many typos as my book had when I first released it. Here are the Cliff notes:
Get on your hands and knees (you can also do this seated or standing, but in the book they start on hands and knees—like a baby) and breathe through your nose, focusing on the movement of your diaphragm. It takes some focus, or at least it did for me because I was at a different angle and really not breathing much at all. Try not to have much curve in your spine. Then have your eyes slowly look towards the ceiling with your head following the motion of your eyes and your neck following the motion of your head. So the eyes lead, the head and neck follow. Got it?
Pause at the top and take a breath. Focus. Feel. Then start to look down and have your head and neck follow your eyes until you have reached full range of motion and your neck is flexed and you are looking at your belly. Breathe. Feel.
All those hours you spend with your head forward as you text? As you computer? As you live mentally hours ahead of your body? This addresses that.
Repeat until you feel done. I did about ten. They didn’t give a specific number in the book. Never move to the point of pain.
I know. It’s so basic. But when you go get the book and read about all the things this does to your body and brain, you may freak out and do it all the time just for the benefits you gain.
And then you can roll. And crawl.
See you tomorrow, Baby.
You can listen to the authors of Pressing Reset, Original Strength--Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert--on the podcast Liberated Body. It was the first episode of Liberated Body and it sounds like it might have been the first time these two guys were ever interviewed. Awkwardly sweet. https://www.liberatedbody.com/podcast/original-strength-lbp001/