Neck pain? Look out!
When it comes to your quality of movement, it helps to take a good long look in the mirror. Those baby blues (or greens, or browns, etc) have a huge role to play in your body's organization & tension. It's no surprise why. When we turn back the clock, it seems that our eyes may be the only reason we're still around.
Where'd you get those eyes? How did this astonishing vision come about anyway? Some scientists guess that our visual dominance may have stemmed from an evolutionary arms race. Our competitors? Snakes.
See in the pre-human primate days, snakes were a big-time threat. They were some of the main predators in among the trees. The ability to discern snake from tree branch would have saved more than a few lives. Superior vision may have been our saving grace. Now the thing is: vision doesn't just tell us about the outside world. It also shifts our body in subtle, but crucial ways.
The Big O
Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about the body's ability to orient. This reflex can (& does) save your life. This automatic response organizes the body around meet a new stimulus. Think: if you hear a loud bang, you quite naturally shift your body to see what caused the noise. This is the orienting response in action.
We're very visual creatures. Because of this, when the eyes want to look at something, the whole body moves to accommodate. Let's explore a subtle variation of this and get a better sense of its role in neck pain.
- Lie comfortably on your back with knees bent around 90 degrees. You may wish to prop the head on a folded towel or small pillow. Our goal here is comfort and release. Bring awareness to where you feel contact with the floor.
- Let the eyes soften. Really allow the eyes to relax. You might imagine the eye sockets as deep pools, with the eyeballs bobbing gently inside.
- After the eyes have released, let them gently open. Begin to look with just the eyes a bit up. This is a subtle movement. Look up and return to neutral 12-15 times.
- Tune in to the subtle contraction of muscles along the back of the neck. These are the extensors, and they play a huge role in posture and neck pain.
- Switch it up and begin to look down, again with just the eyes. Look down and return to neutral 12-15 times. Tune in to subtle contractions along the front of the body. These are your flexors, so often overworked in our society.
- Pause & rest. Bring awareness to areas of the body that feel tension or ease. Notice where you feel contact with the floor. Has it shifted?
Did you get a beginning sense of this orienting response? Is it any clearer how the eyes organize the body? You may wish to explore a bit further if time allows.
Taking It Further
- Lie on your back once again with knees bent. Notice where you feel contact with the ground.
- Gently begin to look around the room, this time allowing your head to follow the gaze. You might make slow, smooth arcs, wide-reaching orbits, or a pattern of your own.
- Return to neutral and take a pause.
- Begin looking around again, this time tuning in to what other parts of the body want to come along for the ride. You may notice movements in the shoulders and ribs, perhaps the arms and the hands. You may even feel involvement in the pelvis and feet. Allow these movements to grow organically.
- Don't be surprised if this movement of the eyes allows you to roll over, arch and flex, bend and twist. The body will find its own organization around the vision.
- Lie comfortably in neutral and check in with your body once again. Has anything shifted? Has that neck found some ease? How about the rest of the body?
Your eyes have a huge role to play in your body's tension. Why? Because your sense of vision is so crucial for survival. Without the ability to see clearly, it becomes very difficult to coordinate movements effectively. Overly tense? Tune in to the eyes. It's a safe guess that the brows are furrowed & the eyes are strained.