Does your neck often feel tight and sore? Perhaps your way of breathing is partly to blame. Look at your neck in the mirror while you breathe. Try not to change how you are breathing – you are simply observing. Do you notice your neck muscles tighten with each breath?
Now place your hand gently around the front of your neck, thumb on one side, fingers on the other, and once again tune into your breathing. Do you feel any muscles hardening and then softening as you inhale and exhale?
If you saw your neck muscles working, or you felt them turning on and off while you were breathing, it is not surprising that your neck feels tight and sore. The neck muscles are not meant to pull up your ribcage with each breath – they are small and stringy things, and it is hard work for them to counteract the pull of the larger muscles that connect the ribs to the pelvis.
Your breathing muscle is your diaphragm, and learning to use this muscle will be key to reducing the strain in your neck.
Wrap a towel or strap around your lower ribcage, cross it in the front and hang onto the ends. Now as you breathe, try and feel your lower ribs expanding all around against the towel or strap. Keep your neck quiet.
Don’t breathe in more air than usual – simply try and place the air low in your ribs. You can also practice by lying on your back and placing your hand on your neck to monitor for unwanted muscle contraction.
As you breathe, you should feel your ribs imprinting more into the floor, and you should feel nothing in the neck. Be consistent in your practice, and your breathing pattern will change.
Chek, Paul, CHEK Level 3 Manual – The Upper Quarter, Paul Chek Seminars, CHEK Institute, 1992, 1997, 2000
Kisner, Carolyn and Colby, Lynn,Therapeutic Exercise; Foundations and Techniques, Second Edition, F.A. Davis, Philadelphia, 1990.