Friday, May 2, 2008

Relieve Neck Pain with Undulation

Last month at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida, I had the opportunity to see dozens of wild species native to Florida. Every single animal undulated: manatees swimming, a snake reaching for a branch, otters wrestling, turtles paddling. The birds especially caught my eye. I don’t think they have neck pain, because they work out the kinks with their own movement.

When people want to stretch the neck, they usually stretch as fa-a-a-ar as possible, pulling the muscles to maximum elasticity or even beyond. Birds don’t do that. Even when the owls turned their heads to look behind, they kept their movement within a comfortable range. There was no straining.

The herons used their necks in all activity. When taking off or landing, the neck rippled with flight rather than being held stiffly, like most people do. Reaching into the water encompassed the entire body, flowing from foot to leg and through the spine and neck. Try reaching forward. Can you let your neck flow forward and back as you do so? Feel how much more ease you have this way.

Even flapping wings, which is thought of as a mechanical back-and-forth motion, was circular—almost a figure 8. Give it a try. Pump your arm forward and back, like swinging a tennis racket halfway. Feel the tension in your arm and neck. Then swing in an oval shape, letting your elbow move up and down and the motion of your wrist and hand follow the elbow. Let your opposite hip move, too, so your spine can undulate. Notice how much better it feels.

The flamingos’ necks were a constant sea of motion. Every step, gesture, noise sent a wave that traveled out the top of the head. How could they have neck pain with that constant internal massage? Similar to the flamingos, the swans’ necks moved like silk rope, without effort or tension, and then, just as easily and gracefully, straightened like a palm tree reaching for the sky.

Photos by Dope on the Slope blog,

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