Lessons from the Cheetah: What is a free neck?

Many of us walk around with our heads pulled back into our necks, with our neck muscles in a contracted position, rather like a turtle retracting its head. This chronic position is inefficient.

Unnecessary tension is a waste of energy. It can lead to discomfort or pain.  Or limit your range of motion. And it strains your voice. 

In the Alexander Technique, we allow ourselves to have a "free neck." This refers to freedom from excess muscular tension. It also refers to the notion of having a head that is delicately poised at the top of the spine and can therefore move freely in any natural direction effortlessly. 

When we look at the cheetah, it is apparent that its neck is not retracted. While it may have appropriate tension in its neck as it runs, we know that cats have fantastic ability to completely relax the muscles when they are at ease.

It's easy to see that this cheetah is only tensing its neck muscles as is necessary for the specific purpose of pursuing its presumed prey.

We can imagine that when it is done with this feast, its neck muscles will drop off unnecessary tension and its body will remain well-coordinated. 

Thus, we can strive to be like the cheetah!

Special thanks to my mentor Bob Britton who taught me how to think about cheetahs in relation to human movement. 

photo via flickrfavorites