Holding the ripe mango under your chin
In your Pilates classes at The Fix Program, you will have heard us reminding you to keep a big juicy ripe mango gently tucked in between your chin and chest. This is another of the many visual cues we use to help you correct your neck and upper back posture, engaging the deep postural muscles that support an ideal alignment.
Why I do I need to think about a mango under my chin?
When you're sitting or standing for long periods, you might find your neck falling forward, your chin creeping out in front, your shoulders rounding forward, or even all three at once. Desk work and watching TV are when I notice this the most, when it sometimes even feels natural to relax my entire upper body and let it hang loose.
The truth, however, is that this slumping greatly increases the curve (technically the lordosis) of the cervical spine as the upper vertebrae slide forward over the ones below. The spaces between the vertebrae become more narrowed, leaving less room for your nerves to enter and leave the spinal column – this can exacerbate or even cause pain in the neck, head and even arms.
Also, forcing the outer muscles of your neck and shoulder to hold your head so far out increases their tightness and fatigue, causes pain and heachaches that are cervicogenic (which means 'from the neck'). At the same time, your chest muscles become tight and shorten, your shoulder joints held forward and stiff, and the more you do it the harder it is not to!
So, how do I 'hold my mango'?
To counteract this, we ask you to imagine that you're very gently holding a big juicy mango between your chin and chest. Your head will gently be drawn back in line over your body, the back of your neck growing long and tall, and your chin slightly tucking down to gently hold your big mango to your chest. This restores the lordosis of your neck and upper back to its ideal state, optimally spacing out your vertebrae. It also relieves a lot of the weight of the head on your neck muscles – sitting atop your spine allows gravity to take over, relieving that familiar neck stiffness.
But most importantly this postural cue helps us to gently switch on the tiny, deep muscles near your spine in the neck called the deep neck flexors which, when activated properly, should work gently to support your neck in a tall, lengthened, ideal posture as you go about your day and practice your Pilates exercises.
Try to hold your mango very gently, so as not to squish its softness! This will keep your deep neck flexors doing the work and growing stronger, and help to avoid overuse and fatigue of the outer neck muscles.
So always remember your big juicy mango wherever you are, from sitting at work, on the sofa, carrying your shopping or your toddler. This will help you to stay properly aligned and supported to avoid postural neck pain and headaches.