We have had an overview of the whole body, and looked at the rudiments of the life story the body as a whole tells. Now, we begin a part by part, zone by zone exploration.
You’ll likely see that you have an intuitive sense about what a particular posture “could” mean. Many of the meanings are contained in body related clichés and expressions, like “I have to get this off of my chest,” or “I’m having trouble stomaching this.”
Let’s begin from the top, and work down.
Head, jaw and neck
The head has three major positions, which I’ll describe as neutral, forehead out, and jaw out.
We all tilt our heads at some point. In Bodywork, we want to discover the normal resting position of the head (or any other part we talk about.)
In other words, what position is the part usually in?
Neutral Head Position is straight and almost level; perhaps “up” 1 or 2 degrees.
The neutral position leans a smidgen in the direction of self confidence without arrogance.
There is a clear balance and fluidity to the head—the head seems to be lightly attached to the neck, and moves freely in all directions.
In the section on “body tilt,” above, we talked about the head being thrust forward by the body — sort of a head bashing, full speed head position. This tilt starts at the lower body — the whole body is tilted forward.
Forehead out, on the other hand, is a function of the neck alone. The chin is tucked in, forcing the forehead out. The rest of the body might be neutral.
This is a position of inferiority or shame. To look at someone in front of you from this position, you have to roll your eyes up, which is a pleading expression.
As you try this position, you almost feel your lip want to quiver involuntarily.
It’s the position of someone who does not value him/herself. It also can express extreme shyness and the wish not to occupy too much space.
We often describe people in this posture as being “downcast” — meaning sad, depressed, forlorn. This expression comes from the lowered position of the eyes when we tip our head down.
Jaw Out — I’m flashing on Dudley Do-right — with the huge jaw pointing forward. The neck is again responsible for this position, pulling back and causing the head to tip upward. The person seems to be pointing with their chin. To see a person standing in front of them, they have to “look down” on them.
This is a position of arrogance, and self-righteousness. Others are seen as inferior or as being in need of help. This person is willing to “take it on the chin” — to mix it up, to fight for their right to be arrogant and superior.
We describe people as “looking down their nose” at someone — again, this is about the eye position, but the position is the result of the tip of the head.
If there is a “tilt” to the left or right, it likely is not “fixed.” The person may have a proclivity to “tilt” the head, (and this is worth noticing in passing, as left/right tilts are indicative of chi balance/imbalance)
but proclivity differs from rigidity.
A normal neck allows for the easy movement of the head.
A tight neck… restricted movement.
A tight neck also might be said to be “obstructing the free flow of energy from the body.” This means a decided lack of knowledge or understanding re. what the body is feeling.
The mirror of the Soul. Well, maybe.
Neutral eyes are simply open. If you squint or go wide-eyed, notice how many muscles you have to use to maintain it. Neutral happens without effort.
It’s important to be aware of the “look” of the area around the eyes. Look for relaxed skin, and lightness to the eye lids.
Wide eyes — the person looks like Bambi. I describe the look as “a deer caught in the headlights of an onrushing truck.”
Such eyes let too much in, and the person is overwhelmed. Wide-eyed wonder applies here.
This person has seen herself get run over before, and simply can’t believe it’s about to happen again. But it always turns out that way.
The eyes, then, are constantly locked wide open, vulnerable. Hypnotized.
Squinty eyes are non-trusting eyes.
If the way one lives one’s life could be pictured as entering through the eyes, having the eyes partially closed indicates great caution—the person fears letting too much in.
Such a person is painfully aware of past attacks; has let people in in the past, and is now very, very afraid.
Neutral jaw — the jaw is loose, and the teeth are not clenched. There is side-to-side flexibility (you can easily “rock” the jaw from side to side.) The is a discernible softness to the jaw line.
The neutral jaw is easily opened, and massaging the jaw points (marked in purple on the picture) is only a little painful.
Another way to check the jaw status is to slide your fingers along the edge of the jaw (marked in lime) — the thumbs along the bottom edge and the index finger along the edge. Again, there should be little or no pain.
Rigid Jaw — many people have been taught “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” What this really meant was, “Don’t say things I don’t want you to say.” So, most of us learned to stifle comments by “biting back our words.”
We also learned to tighten the jaw to repress our feelings and our passions. (My favourite illustration is the couple having sex, but being quiet so as not to “disturb the children.”)
Do this for long enough, and the jaw muscles lock up and become painful to the touch — sometimes extremely so. The pain is the result of “biting off” their words — not speaking their minds. The unspoken words are, in a sense, trapped in the jaw muscles.
In a rigid jaw, the teeth seem locked together. In the kind of breathing we teach, the mouth should be open far enough to insert two or three fingers, one on top of the other. Many people can’t (won’t) open their mouths that far.
If they do, sound comes out on the out breath, and they get “uptight.”
So, test yourself, and see if you can easily open your mouth. Without discomfort.
Try inserting 2, then 3 fingers, stacked atop one another.
Next, massage the jaw joint firmly. You should be able to apply inward pressure to the jaw hinge muscles with only mild discomfort. Most people “light up” from the pain they feel in the jaw muscle. If you do, spend a few minutes a day massaging the jaw hinge muscles.