We curl the head, neck, and shoulders up so often in Pilates: The Hundred, Single Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch, Criss Cross to name a few. Unfortunately, neck tension goes hand-in-hand with these exercises for many people. How can we prevent this? Let's look at the Chest Lift on the Mat as an example.
Interlace your fingers or nest one palm in the other palm so you can fully support the weight of your head. Maybe it helps to view it like holding a bowling ball in a basket.
Reach the elbows far away and allow your mid-back to broaden. This will help release tension from the upper trapezius. Retract your head into your hands and be sure to keep the back of the neck long.
Avoid pushing the head forward on the way up. I know- it's tempting! But don't do it! : ) Keep your head heavy in your hands.
Inhale to prepare. Exhale, lengthen the back of your neck, drop your chin to the chest and curl head, neck, and shoulders up. Inhale at the top. Exhale, lower down with control. Head heavy.
As always, move only in a range where your neck is the most comfortable. There's no need to overstay your welcome in an exercise. Just a few repetitions with great form and no pain will do your body so much more good!
Do you have a favorite cue for the Chest Lift? Tell me in the comments.