A Poised Person and a Balanced Head

Forget the instruction to “hold your head up”. That well-meaning suggestion doesn’t have much value. If over-interpreted, muscle responses might pull the head down. Instead, go for poise.

Poise is defined as:

1. a state of balance or equilibrium, as from equality or equal distribution of weight.

2. a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure.

3. steadiness; stability.

Anatomically, poised head carriage arises from a balanced chest-neck-head complex. Poised means that the head seems to float on top of the spine. The poised head almost “bobbles” in response to lower body movements. When walking, it rocks slightly with each step. Sitting on a bus, a gentle rocking occurs with starts and stops.

The head is not rigidly locked in place over the spine. Instead, it is relaxed over the spine. The top of the head points straight upward. During quiet times, eyes rest on the horizon. An arm could be raised to pick fruit from a tree, and the head would remain poised.

Sparing the technical detail, two concepts are important. First, muscles exert force by contraction, not expansion. When activated, a muscle shortens distance in every direction that it possibly can. Second, bones are not separate from the muscles that move them. Bones don’t exist alone in space. Some muscles from the chest attach to the neck; others cross the neck and attach to the head.

Here’s the bottom line: since head carriage depends on muscles originating below the head, unbalanced muscle activation pulls downward on the head. Only balanced use can float the head upward.

Everyone knows that gravity pulls downward. But when balanced, “lift” occurs along the gravity line. Lift is easier to experience than to verbalize. It’s hard to put into words. But when you feel lift, you will know it. 

The head is the highest structure in the body. So, it will be affected by everything below. Every part of the body is “under-stood” by structures below. 

Ideally, we would start with the feet to achieve head poise. But save that for a longer-term goal. To get started, balance the chest over the lower back. Then balance the entire chest-neck-head complex.

Remember that relaxation is the key to balance, and balance is the key to lift. In physical terms, relaxation means “let weight fall to experience lift”. Try lifting the head by visualizing the entire lower body dropping downward from the head. Headaches might become a distant memory.

Give head poise a try. You’ll feel better and have more energy. If you currently have frequent headaches or neck pain, consider this.


Jack Menear