Yesterday’s post reengaged our body from our feet up to our pelvis. Today, we’ll continue on up to the top of the head.
- Stand up and review yesterday’s progressive reengagment sequence, scanning your body for engagement at your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and pelvis.
- Picture your sacrum, the arrowhead-shaped bone pointing downward at the base of your spine, plugging into a V-shaped notch at the back of your pelvis, between the ilium bones. This crucial junction, the sacro-iliac joint, connects the upper and lower parts of your body.
- Roll and tilt your pelvis as you did in yesterday’s exercise, this time focusing on how your spine follows along with your pelvis. The sacro-iliac (SI) joint actually moves a little bit, but for the purposes of this exercise, picture the relationship between your spine and your pelvis as pretty much fixed.
- Now, arch your back by sticking your butt out and lifting up your chest up so that your sternum faces straight ahead (this will feel familiar if you have ever learned good deadlift form from a personal trainer). Holding this position, bend a little forward and a little backword at the hip, feeling your upper body rotate around your hip joint. This may feel odd at first since many/most of us bend forward and backward by curving the spine.
- Next, let’s feel the contrast between moving with a reinforced back, as in the previous step, versus moving by curving the spine. First, move your shoulders and head forward and back with your back arched and bending only at the hips. Then, let your spine bend as you go forward and back.
One way to think about this difference is to think about how a crane works versus how a fishing pole works. When a crane lifts a load, the cables along the top of its boom are pulled taut, keeping the boom from bending. Similarly, the muscles that run alongside your spine are pulled taut as you arch your back, keeping your back from bending. Contrast this with a fishing pole, which bends toward any stress placed on it. While it can move like a fishing pole, your spine is much better poised for heavy work (or even for just holding your torso, shoulders, and head up) when it’s engaged like a crane.
- With your new “crane back” engaged, move your focus to your rib cage. Tuck your belly button toward your spine and feel your rib cage lift up away from your hips as your abdominal muscles contract. Imagine that your spine can telescope a bit, allowing your rib cage to rise straight up. Take a few deep breaths, letting your rib cage rise and fall with each breath.
- Now picture your shoulders draped over the top of your rib cage. Desk posture pulls your shoulder girdle toward the front, the shoulders slumping and the back arching. To undo this pattern, roll each shoulder up and back a few times, one at a time, leaving the shoulder blades as far back as possible. After you’ve done this with each shoulder, you’ll feel a little slack between your shoulder blades. Pull your shoulder blades together to take up the slack. This will square up your shoulders and put them more on top of your rib cage than in front of it.
- Finish putting your shoulder girdle on top of your rib cage by placing the palm of your dominant hand on your sternum (breast bone) with your thumb under one collar bone and your index finger under the other. Push your collar bones up and back, continuing to pull your shoulder blades together. You’ll feel your shoulder girdle settle over the top of your rib cage.
- Finally, lift up the back of your head, lengthening the back of your neck and letting your chin drop a bit. Feel your head rise up and back. This puts your ears back over your shoulders, where they belong. Another way to feel this sensation is to stand with your back to a wall with your shoulder blades flat against the wall and then push your head back and inch it up along the wall until the back of your neck has lengthened as much as possible.