Keep Your Head Up

“Keep Your Head Up!” might sound like a cheery, positive affirmation to help you have a positive outlook, and perhaps a positive affirmation is what you need right now.  However, “Keep Your Head Up!” means exactly that – KEEP YOUR HEAD UP while you train!  All of my clients and all the members of my Boot Camp classes have heard me sound-off like a broken record telling them regularly to “Keep Your Head Up!”

Why Is “Head-Up” So Important?

There are several great reasons to keep our heads up.

1. Fine – let’s begin with the positive affirmation.  Keeping our Head-Up physically can only help keep our attitude up as well.  If we habitually carry our heads in a down position, it won’t be long before our emotions and our attitudes will follow.  Even if we don’t feel upbeat and positive, simply acting and posturing ourselves in an upbeat and positive position will help get us out of any funk.  There – are you happy now?

2. The “Head-Up” position exudes confidence.  Observe people who look confident.  Notice how they carry their head and shoulders – they stand tall, with their head high, their shoulders back and they have a positive demeanor about them.  People who slouch and look at the ground look timid and shy.  If you’re looking for a raise, a promotion, a new business opportunity, a new relationship or just a new, positive outlook, lift your head and carry yourself with confidence.  Be careful not to go too far.  There is a fine line between being confident and being arrogant.  Be confident in who you are!  However, avoid being arrogant about who you think you are.

3. A regular habit of good posture reinforces good and strong posture.  A regular habit of poor posture reinforces poor and weak posture.  Practice what you want to be.  While proper posture incorporates many significant pieces (i.e. – grounded feet, unlocked knees, level hips, elongated spine, drawn-back shoulders), the position of our heads is probably the most crucial element.  There’s the saying – “Wherever the head goes, the body follows!”  The position of our head has a direct and immediate impact on the rest of our body’s positioning.  There is a direct relationship between our head and our hips and every single vertebral joint in between.

It’s a common phenomenon that when I encounter client’s with stiff necks, they also have stiff hips.  Many times, not always, when I stretch their hips, their neck feels looser and they gain greater mobility.

Spinal dynamics is fascinating.  Encompassing approximately 33 vertebrae, the spinal column is a long chain of bones and joints acting as the center support beam in our bodies and the flexible pillar upon which our heads must be properly positioned.

Here’s the long way to properly position our heads: Reach with your fingers directly behind your ears to feel a thick, bony ridge that slopes down behind your ear lobe.  This is part of  the temporal bone.  Slide your fingers down to the bottom of this ridge on both sides of your neck until you come to the top of the muscle called the Sternocleidomastoid.  Keep your fingers on both sides of your neck where the muscle meets the bone and nod your head forward and back.  You are now approximately at the top of your spine.  Can you feel how your head pivots on the transverse axis between your two hands?  Imagine that your head is a ball, the top of your spine is a seal’s nose and the objective is to keep your head balanced on the top of your spine like a ball on a seal’s nose.  Sit or stand up straight while you identify the ideal point of balance.  You will notice that once your head is effortlessly balanced on top of your spine that your face is raised quite a bit higher than you might be accustomed.

Here’s the short way to properly position our heads on top of our spines: Balance a book on top of your head! It’s the old-fashioned technique used in most dance classes when instructors want to teach proper poise and posture.

Holding your head up will seem very awkward at first for a number of reasons.  I’ve observed that most people carry their heads tilted forward by 15-30° or more.  Several factors may contribute to this increasingly common habit.

1. Lack of education:  I don’t exactly recall being taught about proper head-position until I studied biomechanics and therapeutic exercise in college. I was certainly told by my parents and my choir director to sit-up straight and stand-up straight but I was never given specific instructions in my youth about proper head alignment.  Were you?

2.  The Technological Age: Frequent computer usage causes many people to sit for long hours with their heads tilted down to look at the screen.  We also look down frequently at our text messages, MP3 playlists, portable GPS devices and our crushed bumpers on the cars we crash when we’re driving while looking down at our text messages, MP3 playlists and portable GPS devices. I can identify regular computer users in the gym because they workout with their heads jutting forward as if their necks seem permanently stuck.

3.  Attitude:  Other factors that keep the head lowered include lack of confidence and stress.  People who lack confidence typically slouch and look at the ground.  They also have weak handshakes.  I love working with young men who have not yet come out of their shells.  To simply teach them how to exude confidence through their posture  and handshakes causes them to simply feel more confident.  The more we train, the more proper posture becomes a habit and soon, confidence becomes a habit.  Stress also contributes to a lowered head position as if people are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.  In these hard economic times, I’ve seen a lot of heads falling in direct proportion to a person’s 4o1K and or stock portfolio.  There’s no easy pep-talk to a person who has lost a large portion of their amassed fortune.  All I can say – be careful how you vote next time!

That’s all I have to say about posture.

Head’s up!!!

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