MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE: Head Carrying Can Heal Your Spine

Do you think carrying objects on your head is only good for people living in other countries? Or for the vendors on our beaches?

You may want to reconsider and borrow this practice for yourself.

Adding head carrying to your movement practice is healthy and therapeutic. It will strengthen and restore your neck muscles. These are the muscles that you have used, abused, and overworked with Forward Head Posture. It will reduce chronic neck tension.

Head carrying slows down spinal degeneration. In our culture, spinal degeneration begins around age 20. In indigenous cultures where head-carrying is common, spinal degeneration begins around age 50.

The muscles of your spine, activate very differently when you have a weight on your head. Your spine reacts vertically to support the load. Your head pushes up into the load. As a result, the spine lengthens, extends, and re-aligns itself. You get taller! The more slouched you are, the more height you will gain!

Your Mother was right when she told you could improve your posture by walking around with a book on your head. Optimal head/neck alignment is guaranteed when you carry weight on your head.

Ester Gokhale, posture expert, lists these benefits of carrying a weight on your head:
• Helps you find your vertical axis; stimulates alignment of bones and joints.
• Strengths longus colli muscles deep in the neck; helps to prevent spinal compression.
• Relaxes superficial neck muscles which we tend to overuse. Including your levator scapulae, scalene, sternocleidomastoid, splenius and trapezius muscles.
• Evokes a feeling of groundedness similar to meditation.
A 1979 study asked subjects how they felt after they carried a 15 kg (33 lb) object on their head, compared to in their hand. The findings were dramatic:
• after hand carrying: arm and muscles fatigue, felt shorter, short of breath.
• after head carrying: sensation of lightness, felt taller, felt respiratory freedom
If you are ready to try it, I suggest that you buy a small, round, 1 kilo (2.5 lbs.) weight plate in the sporting goods section at Soriano or Walmart or on Amazon Mexico. A book will work too, but it is harder to find a book that is the right size and the right weight.

Start by stacking your head over your ribcage before you put the weight plate on your head. Keep the weight plate in place for 3, 6, or 9 minutes. Start small. Walk from one room to another.

Another option is to place a yoga block on your head. Hold on to the block. Push up into your hands and the block.

Repeat often during your day. Repetition will create new neural pathways in your body for the changes that will result.

Summing Up:

Head carrying improves your posture and reduces your neck tension. It helps to prevent spinal compression and improves respiration. You may want to add it to your movement practice.

Reference: Perrin, Roger. Reeducation vertebrale, Principes Techniques. Librarie Le Francois. Paris

[Medical disclaimer: This information presented here is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for the professional judgment of a medical professional.]

Photo credit: Lori Voga

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