Feedback from the Field: head and neck alignment

Jul 18, 2007

In a previous issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review, we asked: When teaching your Pilates students proper head and cervical spine placement, what is the most common mistake and how do you help correct it? Here’s what you had to say.

“The most common mistake I see is that the student tilts the chin down too much, taking the natural curve out of the spine. We are designed to have curves in the spine and letting the back of the neck remain in its natural curve is what I like to have students notice. To do this without force is my ultimate goal. Tips or cues to maintain a natural curve in the neck and the rest of the spine include, but are not limited to: ‘release the chin,’ ‘feel the back of the head on the reformer or mat’ and ‘let the neck free up.’”

-- Kimberly Kresge

“I find that participants or clients will retract the jaw and shorten the space between the chin and chest during supine exercises. I recommend several alternatives:
* Many people do not have the core strength to hold the head up with neck long. I recommend these people keep their head down with the neck long by cuing ‘gaze toward the body.’
* Preparation is everything when finding the best position for the head. I cue ‘inhale and nod the head forward, exhale and float the nose toward the sternum.’
* I have the client visualize a soft peach between the chin and chest.
* I have stopped using ‘chin to chest’ as a movement cue and have begun cuing ‘nose to sternum’ instead.”

-- Susan Heath, Hot Springs, Arkansas

“The most common mistake I have seen is that the chin is resting on the chest. I have new students practice a slight nod of the head and go back to neutral before raising their heads. Then I cue them to do that slight nod as they raise their head, shoulders and arms off the mat.”

-- Jocelyn Daley, Ormond Beach, Florida

“Mistake: Overemphasized cervical flexion, jamming the chin into the chest, creating tension and compression in the front of the neck. Correction: Usually a student has abdominal weakness and is compensating by using the neck to lift the torso. First, I suggest interlacing the hands behind the neck, relaxing the head into the hands and extending the elbows out wide. This adds more abdominal resistance but releases the neck if the weight of the head is completely in the hands.

“In the beginning we practice head nods. In prone, cervical flexion should come from lengthening the back of the neck away from the shoulders and flexing at the first two vertebrae. The key are the cues. If I say ‘tuck’ your chin, the student will jam the chin into the chest. If I say ‘nod’ your head the tension is a little less. My favorite is requesting the student to ‘bow’ his head, this is when I see graceful movement.”

-- Kimberly Richardson

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