The New Sun

Dear Mimi:


Of course, some neck tension has purely physiological sources, for example, the way one sleeps or uncustomary physical exercise. In these cases, gently rolling and massaging the neck can be helpful, with special attention to the connecting muscles in the shoulders and back.

But the "constant" tension you refer to indicates you are most likely doing something with your neck muscles HABITUALLY, that is, without your awareness on a daily basis.

It is helpful to know when tension is caused by Habit so that you have a better chance of disrupting unconsciously produced patterns.

When you sense Habitual tension, you should try to identify the circumstances present at the moment. You may be unknowingly tense walking down the street, sitting in the subway, talking to people, on the way to or during your job.

As you may have already experienced, simple physical maneuvering, such a massage, does not very successfully relieve Habitual tension caused by circumstances. This type of tension is actually emotional response not being expressed and, consequently, tightening the muscles. Try the following two-step process to instigate a release:

1. Sit in a chair and tilt your head back so that your face is parallel with the ceiling. Allow the head to be supported by the back of the chair. If the chair back is too low, pile some pillows on a ledge or table, put the chair in front, and rest your head on the pillow.

The idea is to have the neck muscles not working as they do in everyday life, and they can attain this state if the head is supported by outside means. While in this position, gently begin to move the head to one side -- the moment you feel any tightness, tell that specific muscle to "let go," to relax; continue on until you feel you've explored all the muscles on that side. Do the same process as you turn the head in the opposite direction. Do not lift head up; let the neck rest in this non-habitual position. You may not feel any results during the first sitting or even after several, but eventually there will be subtle and, to some degree, unconscious releases in the neck muscles from these gentle commands to let go.

2. The next step is to lift the head up and continue the procedure. In this upright position, there will be many more muscles to assess. Tell any tight areas to "let go" and try to move the specific area you are addressing as you give this command. Moving the specific muscle you are addressing helps "the command to relax" actually take hold, and not remain a well-intentioned mental idea. . Try to do this procedure in public, whenever you become aware of "constant" Habitual tension.

Remember, the neck is a very complicated area, centered between an ever-alert head and strong responsible shoulders, while simultaneously functioning as a kind of magnet for stray emotional reactions. Over a period of time, the two-step intervention procedure described above should help relax this very sensitive and over-worked area.

by Mimi Gina

See previous columns by Mimi:
The Sweet Spot
Maintaining Relaxation Results

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