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The Basic Principles | Head & Neck Placement

Your cervical spine [neck] should hold its natural curve with your head balanced directly above your shoulders when sitting, lying and standing. In some cases, a small pillow should be used when lying on your back to put your head and neck in a comfortable position.

Whenever you lift your head and upper body from the mat, lengthen the back of your neck and nod your head forward without jamming the chin into the chest. There should be enough room to fit your fist between your chin and chest. Once your head is in proper position and your shoulder blades are stabilized (Principle 4), the upper torso can be lifted by contracting the abs and sliding your rib cage toward your pelvis.

When lying on your stomach and lifting the upper torso, pay particular attention to maintaining an even line from the upper back to the neck. Avoid lifting the head too high and crunching up the back of the neck.

HEAD & CERVICAL PLACEMENT
PRINCIPLE EXERCISES

1. Head Nods
Practice doing Head Nods properly before lifting head and shoulders off the mat.
Avoid jamming chin into chest, which results in too much compression of the neck. Click on an image to view image at a larger size.
Click through the steps at the bottom of the pop-up window.
STARTING POSITION
Lying on back, pelvis and spine neutral. Knees bent, feet hip-distance apart on mat. Arms long by sides, palms down.

INHALE lengthen back of neck, leaving head on mat.

EXHALE bring head back to neutral position.



2. Modified Curl Up
Practicing ab curls prepares you to safely do other more challenging abdominal exercises. Avoid jamming chin into chest, which results in too much compression of the neck. Click on an image to view image at a larger size.
Click through the steps at the bottom of the pop-up window.
STARTING POSITION
Lying on back, pelvis and spine neutral.
Knees bent, feet hip-distance apart on mat.
Arms long by sides, palms down.

To prepare, inhale...

EXHALE lengthen back of neck, stabilize shoulder blades, contract abs to slide rib cage toward pelvis and lift head and shoulders off mat. Keep lower back in a neutral position; avoid pressing lower back into mat

INHALE return head and shoulders to mat, then return head and neck to starting position.


3. Modified Breast Stroke Prep
With this exercise, use upper back muscles to lift head and shoulders instead of pressing up with the arms. Keep abs contracted to protect lower spine. Click on an image to view image at a larger size.
Click through the steps at the bottom of the pop-up window.
STARTING POSITION
Lying on stomach, pelvis and spine neutral. Legs straight and together. Elbows bent, hands by shoulders. To prepare inhale...

EXHALE initiate by gently sliding shoulder blades down and reach top of head away from tailbone to begin lifting upper back. Allow rib cage to open and maintain bottom ribs in contact with mat.

INHALE maintain position and breathe into sides of rib cage without losing abdominal contraction.

EXHALE lower upper torso to mat and return to starting position.