One common postural suggestion is to think of a string attached to the top of your head. And to imagine pulling up on the string.
I don’t recommend this image for two reasons. First of all, it’s not a great analogy. The head does not exert an upward pull on the spine as if you had a string attached pulling it up toward the ceiling. You would need a muscle between your head and the ceiling that would contract to create such a scenario. Last I checked that was not part of the human anatomy.
The second reason I don’t recommend this image is that when you imagine it, it’s very easy to start creating excess tension in your body so that you feel like the head is lifting off the spine. I invite you to go ahead and imagine the image of the string pulling up on your head and try to make it happen for you. And exaggerate it. Where are you working? When I do this experiment, I feel tension in my neck, shoulders, and torso for starters. This will just create a sore neck, shoulders, and torso…for starters.
A better analogy is to think of balancing your skull on top of your spine like balancing a top hat on the tip of a cane which in turn is balanced in the palm of your hand*.
Your skull rests gently on top of your spine and is moveable. It doesn’t press down on the spine. It doesn’t exert an upward pull on the spine. As your body and spine move underneath it is free to respond and subtly adjust. Just like that top hat on the top of the cane in the palm of your hand.
Just as posture is not about a right position, there is no right position for your head. Instead, there is a healthy relationship between your head and your spine that allows your head to adjust as necessary.
Experiment with thinking of the weight of your skull balancing on the top of the spine way up high above your ears like balancing a top hat on the tip of a cane in the palm of your hand. Try it when you’re walking your dog, waiting in line at the supermarket, driving the car, working at the computer, wherever.
*I’d like to credit Los Angeles-based Alexander teacher Brett Hershey with the top hat analogy.