Neck Tension and the Hokey Pokey

Read Time: 3 min

As a kid I loved doing the Hokey Pokey.

If you come from an English-speaking country you’re probably familiar with the participation dance and its distinctive tune and lyrics.

The Hokey Pokey’s great—if you’re doing the Hokey Pokey dance.

The problem is you might be doing bits of the Hokey Pokey all day long without even realizing it. And your body is suffering for it.

Let me explain.

An opportunity

I just took a few minutes to jot down all the reasons I bring my hands up to my head in an average day. I came up with this rather long list:

  • Put food in my mouth
  • Drink something
  • Wipe my mouth with a napkin
  • Brush my teeth
  • Floss my teeth
  • Pluck any black hairs off my face and chin that have somehow miraculously grown 2 inches overnight
  • Blow my nose
  • Put on my glasses
  • Take off my glasses
  • Put on makeup
  • Wash my hair
  • Brush my hair
  • Blow dry my hair
  • Put on my earrings
  • Clean out my ears with a Q-tip (yes, I know the doc told me not to do that)

I bet your list would include many of the items above.

And I bet that if you give it some thought, you’d have more to add to the list.

You bring your hands up to your head countless times a day. So often that you don’t think about it.

Each time, it’s a wonderful opportunity to stop and choose your response.

How will you close the gap?

You bend your arms and bring your hands up toward your head, and then—when there’s still about a 2-inch gap left—what do you do? Do you even know what you do?

In the photo of the woman above, she’s at that crucial moment.

I’ve been there.

You’ve been there.

The question is—What will she do next? How will she close the gap?

The Poke

Closing the gap by poking your head forward to meet your hands is what I heard referred to once as The Poke.

A fitting name. And the reason for my reference to the Hokey Pokey.

In the Hokey Pokey dance, you’re instructed to (among other things):

  • put your head in
  • put your head out
  • put your head in and
  • shake it all about

Choose how you close the gap

If you’ve got nagging neck or upper back tension that you wish you could do something about a good place to start changing things is choosing how you close the gap.

If you’ve gotten into the habit of closing that last 2-inch gap by doing a bit of the Hokey Pokey and poking your head forward, practice consciously choosing to do it by continuing to bring your hands all the way up to your head instead.

Your head weighs 10-15 lbs. As you close the gap by poking your head forward of your body, it requires more muscular effort (especially in the back of the neck) to hold the head up.

Start simple but be consistent

It’s a lot to pay attention to these things—especially if your not used to it.

My advice is start by making your own list like I did above.

Then choose one and only one thing on the list to start with. As it becomes easier to pay attention to that one thing, then choose a second and so on.

After a while I’ll bet you’re thinking about it without having to try so hard to think about it.

Start small and keep it simple—but be consistent with it.

Your body will thank you for it.

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