If you want to move your head freely and without unnecessary tension, look with your eyes in that direction first. Simplistic? Let's 'look' at this in a bit of detail, as conscious awareness of this has a number of benefits, as I was showing a number of clients recently.
Many of us suffer from neck tension, stiffness and reduced mobility when it comes to turning our head to look in a particular direction. It is often the case that when we look over our shoulder, or even just to the left or right, we use a lot more tension than necessary. And if we have difficulty in turning our head we will turn our whole body, rather than move our eyes! How strange is this when our eyes are actually designed to move in any direction, yet we fix them in our head?
I often refer to young children as wonderful examples of good poise and balanced movement and the condition of freely moving eyes is no exception. Just watch a 2 year old looking around. They always look around, up and down with their eyes before they turn their head, because if they to move their large, heavy head too far, it could well put them off balance and they'll fall over. Young children are extremely 'agile' with their eyes and move them far more readily than most adults. Yet if I asked you to turn your eyes to the extreme left or right without moving your head, you could probably do so to a reasonable degree. As adults it seems that despite the ability to move our eyes, we do not very much at all.
There are six muscles attached to each eye to make them move up, down and sideways plus another muscle connected to our upper eyelid so this moves automatically when we look up......very handy! The nerves from these muscles pass through our head, passing between some of our neck muscles to enter our spinal cord, on their way to the brain. Interestingly, if we have a habit of stiffening our necks, which most of us do, this puts pressure on the nerves to our eyes (as well as other parts of the body), so they have a stiffening effect on our eye mobility. By freeing our neck from tension we can positively affect the functioning of our eyes but also, if we encourage more eye movement, we can help the freedom in our neck.
The use of our eyes is very closely linked with the movement of our body, understandably when we consider that one main function of our eyes is to see where we're going! There is a strong connection between hand and eye; move one and the other will follow in that direction more easily than without.
As an experiment, sit reasonably upright in a chair and we'll see if your eye movement can help your mobility of your neck. If you have had experience of the Alexander Technique, then this will help you. To prepare, (and this is good to do anytime and frequently through the day anyway) think of your head balancing 'freely' on top of your spine at a point roughly between your ears. This is much higher than most people expect. The top atlas joint is located just slightly lower than the height of your ears and in the middle. Think of your head 'teetering'; it won't fall off. To help you release your neck, allow your head to roll forwards just a few degrees i.e. let your nose drop a few millimetres, now look our straight ahead of you.
You are now going to turn your head to the left, but rather than just doing this, look with your eyes to the tip of your left shoulder but do not turn your head. If you can't quite see your shoulder, just look in that general direction first. Now simply allow your head to turn to follow your eyes.
So you've got the general idea. Now we'll refine it a bit more. When doing this exercise, I really want you to not actively turn your head at all, but just ALLOW your head to follow. It's so easy to use far more effort than required. Think of it being oily smooth. The joints can be so free your head can just 'float' round. If this was not your experience, then we'll do it again. Look with your eyes towards the tip of your left shoulder first, then simply GIVE PERMISSION for your head to follow. When you reach the limit of free movement, don't force yourself to turn any further. Now do the same exercise to the right. Look first at the tip of your right shoulder, then just ALLOW your head to follow. Was this any easier than you normally experience? You might like to practice this periodically to help your neck tension and overall co-ordination.
If you're going to look somewhere or turn in a particular direction, it's very helpful to look with your eyes in that direction first! I know it's rather simplistic, but we often do not!