neck muscles

Postby Wushuer » Wed Dec 03, 2003 4:02 pm

I have to agree with you about these strictures being "negative prescriptions". It's more of a counter for bad habits than anything else.
I found it humorous that you used almost the exact same wording as Sifu uses to describe what westerners think of as "standing up straight". He used to tell us that this kind of military posture was the worst possible way to stand.
"Tucking in the chin" counters the bad habit of sticking out the chin, "tucking in the hips", counters the ramrod straight back that military style "attention" standing brings.
Now, "tucking in the chin" can demonstrably raise the headtop and straighten the neck and upper back. I do know this for a fact as my PT measured the results three times a week for three months on me. I started with very little flexion (his word that I don't know if I'm spelling correctly) due to my injury but was very quickly able to flex further than he thought possible. Doing this hurt like crazy for the first few weeks, though he said it was more because I was opening the nerve pathways by doing so and allowing a surge of feeling to move into areas that had been numb than because I was doing any damage. I had to learn to ignore the "phantom pain" (another of his expressions that I have no idea if it has any clinical basis) and keep flexing and stretching the muscles and bones in my neck until I had opened it up again. "Tucking in the chin" was only one of many excercises I had to go through to reach this goal. I still do all these exercises, three times a day, usually as part of my warm up before TCC practice.
I spent a great deal of time in cervical traction as well. This was fascinating to me, as it pulled my neck up and quite literally suspended my headtop. When I had that collar on and all that weight pulling my neck back where it was supposed to be I felt like a did when I was eighteen again, or more like I did when I was in full time training at WTCCA and as loose, "song", as I could get.
When in traction, I was able to "tuck in" my chin and enhance this feeling even more. Out of traction I got into the habit, again, of keeping my chin "tucked", my headtop raised and my neck empty of tension. Out of traction it works very well on it's own.
"Tucking in the chin" is the single fastest and easiest way to attain the desired straightening and elongating of the neck that I have found.
When I simply supsend my heatop and empty my neck, I feel loose and relaxed, but I do not get the same open and extended feel I get when I "tuck in".
I have heard the expression "the neck should touch the collar of your shirt". I, like you, find that to be a bit too vague. Which shirt? How much of my neck should be touching the collar?
I read an article once, purportedly from a student of a disciple of Yang Zhenji though I do not recall his name. He claimed that he would occasionally have classes with Master Yang Zhenji and that the Master would often exclaim "show me your neck!". I had no way to verify the veracity of this claim and do not have the article on hand to give any more detail. I only recall it because of the "show me your necks!" quote. I was just starting YCF style TCC training at the time and I was reading every article I could find on the style. I knew YZJ was YZD's older brother, and I was caught by the "necks" reference, as that was a big problem for me back then.
If I'm remembering clearly, the author went on the explain that YZJ expounded on "lifting the headtop, emptying the neck" and that this would have the effect of "showing your neck" from above a collarless shirt. That if he couldn't see your neck you were doing it wrong.
Again, I was yelling at the article (a bad habit of mine) "Where's the "tuck in" advice! Why not continue it and tell them "tuck in your chin" so they can get all the way there?". Alas, it was not to be found in the article.
It seems simple, almost elementary, to me that "tucking" raises the heatop and empties the neck, all by itself, if you do it in the correct fashion. No guesswork about what "emptying the neck" means. No guesswork about what "raising the headtop" means. It all just happens naturally if you "tuck in your chin" as I've described.
Again, photos of Masters from the two families put them in the same position, so it's a battle of semantics, I believe. I just find it easier to get into the proper position with the mental image of "tucking" rather than a complicated, question frought formula of "raising and emptying".
But that may just be me as I've seen practitioners from both styles reach the same posturing in their own way.

Good thread, Louis.
I have thought of starting a similar thread for a long time. It's obviously a subject on which I am conversant.
Unfortunately so.
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Dec 03, 2003 8:19 pm

Greetings Louis,

> I?m not sure that everyone has a whorl pattern in their scalp hair at the same location, and even less sure it has any correlation with the baihui point. <

I'm pretty sure that that whorl point is found in different places. A recent study claims that the direction of the swirl is related to the handedness of the individual.

> It?s funny, though; that immediately made me think of the ?coriolis effect? I learned about in physical geography. There used to be a sort of urban legend that because of the coriolis effect (an inertia effect associated with the rotation of the earth), toilets flushed in a counterclockwise pattern in the northern hemisphere, and in a clockwise pattern in the southern hemisphere (or was it the reverse?).

Evidently, that?s not true. <

Some debunkers are lousy experimenters.

Forget the toilet scenario because the water is projected into the bowl at an angle and with enough force to counter the coriolis effect.

Given a standing bowl of water and a drain connected up normally, the water will find a way to pass the air going the other way following the line of least resistance and form a funnel. In the northern hemisphere the water closer to the north side of the bowl is minutely moving more slowly to the east with the earth than the water in the south side of the bowl, so the funnel will move counterclockwise.

I believe this was first observed long ago when toilets were primitive and put the water into the bowl straight.

Directly observing such a thing one should take care to keep his or her alignment correct. Image


David J
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Dec 03, 2003 9:09 pm

Hi David,

Yes, I think the point is that the coriolis effect is weak enough that other factors easily overwhelm any effect it may have on water going down a drain.

Based on your experience, do you have any thoughts on the head/neck alignment discussion? I’d be interested in your thoughts on it.

Take care,
Louis Swaim
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Postby Anderzander » Wed Dec 03, 2003 11:29 pm


I asked my Hairdresser friend - he confirmed that whorls are in different places on different people and that some people have more than one.

The most he'd seen on one head was 3 apparently Image and apparently I have two?

I dont have much on the neck subject except perhaps an anecdote?

Earlier on in my Taiji career I joined a ballet group for the postural training. I was the only man - and all the girls thought I was injured because I was so 'unsupple'.

(This meant not being able to do a side split for a bunch of girls who'd started when they were 3)

Anyway - I had some good conversations with the teacher and I told her that I loved the mood the exercises gave me. This prompted her to tell me how she had taken the girls to watch a ballet recently and then got them to join in on the troupes training the next day.

Apparently the girls had all come away complaining that they professionals were arrogant.

The teacher explained to me that they weren't - it was just the feeling of nobility that they had inherited from the postures.

I like that.

I studided Zazen and if you aren't familiar.......whilst some meditation schools teach a whole variety of techniques, zazen teaches how to sit.

When you get buddha posture - you will get buddha mind is the method.

They also say that buddha mind is not something that you create (otherwise it could be destroyed - and it is a permanent state) - buddha mind is something you uncover. It is innate.

(the taoist diamond body is similar if I remember)

I think of taiji in this way - perfect posture is something you uncover. Through releasing and letting go the taiji body emerges.

With the body comes the mind. I like the idea that through postures we are inheriting the mind of the past masters.

Sorry I've gone on a bit - if I stand any chance of you reading it all I'd best stop now Image


[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 12-03-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Dec 04, 2003 2:22 pm

Wu stylists are often perceived as being humble and non-intrusive, because we keep our chins tucked closer to our necks than most people and our chests emptied, our backs rounded, our shoulders are down and relaxed, our knees slightly bent, and so we are perceived as constantly looking down and we seem somewhat shorter and smaller than we really are.
People have a hard time believing I'm really 5'7" tall, which isn't very tall anyway, but I'm frequently guessed at being about 5'4" to 5'5" rather than my true height. I have to stand next to someone and then straighten my knees, un-sink my chest, unround my back and untuck my chin to get them to realise my true stature.
This is the same as your balerinas, who are perceived to be arrogant because of the noble way they hold their heads high and thier bodies erect.
It works for us, because we wish to be percieved as non-threatening. It's just one of the bonuses of TCC training. If no one perceives you as a threat, you have allready won because there will be no altercation.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 12-04-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Dec 04, 2003 4:10 pm

AnderZander and Wushuer,

Very interesting comparisons you both ones occupation or dedication eventually permeates the whole essence of ones being.

Noble, seemingly arrogant ballerinas
Humble, seemingly meek Wu practitioners.

Personally, I find Yang style seems to produce a slightly different projection, as seen through my perception...Although certainly humble in being, I don't find that acheived Yang style practitioners LOOK non-threatening, as they do in Wu style (due to the tucked chin effect), but more like the expression I've heard alluding to the stance of a cat about to pounce on it's prey. With the 'hackles up' on the rounded, raised back, which does seem quite alert and intense. Extended. I also find the posture of the Yang Masters does not have that particular slouching effect at all...I see great...extended...posture, carried with great confidence and a very prominent grounding effect as though intimately bound with the earth...Less like a cat, more like a tiger...weighted.

Thanks for the thread of thought,
Best regards,

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 12-04-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Dec 04, 2003 5:56 pm

Let's examine these two different schools of "perception".

If you look meek, humble, non-threatening, then you can be perceived as not being a threat to anyone, so you may not be singled out to be attacked. On the other hand, you can also be seen as the perfect target, someone who could not defend himself, so you could be attacked for that reason.
Either way, you have an up front advantage. If perceived as a non-threat, so you are left alone, you win because there was no altercation.
If, however, you are perceived as a non-threat and are attacked because you don't look like you can defend yourself, you have the immediate advantage of allready being underestimated by your opponent. He will be more likely to be off his guard and careless in his approach, because he feels superior at that time.

It's true that as a weighted tiger you may be perceived as a threat, so you may be left alone because your opponent won't wish to mess with you, so you win because there was no altercation.
However you may also be pre-emptively attacked, to eliminate your perceived threat quickly, or you could be attacked so that the other guy can "prove" himself against such a formidable looking opponent.
If you are attacked for either of these reasons, your opponent will be on his best guard and will approach you cautiously, as he is not going to underestimate you since you look so capable.

So I guess it's a question of which way you want to go. I prefer to look humble and meek, due to the advantages it has given me. I know the truth about myself and from this this perception I believe that I have avoided conflict and I believe that when conflict was not avoided I had the advantage of surprise on my side when I proved to be more than capable of defending myself.
Everyone has their own style, I prefer the one I trained up to in Wu style.

Now, I have seen Wu stylists walk like kings and I have seen very meek looking Yang stylists. This is not an all encompassing, one size fits all, grouping.
I learned from the Wu's that it might be better to work for this deceptive guise, however I never heard it required.
Most of us who were around for a good number of years at WTCCA found it worked, so we emulated this style. Some were just too big and muscular to get there as no amount of knee bending or chin tucking was ever going to make them appear meek or humble. Others were that way to begin with and so needed no education to appear this way.

Sorry, Loius. These thread have a tendency to get off on a tangent.
I'll stop now.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 12-04-2003).]
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Postby Audi » Sun Dec 07, 2003 8:22 pm

Greetings all,

Nice thread and interesting comments. For those with neck problems, I would heartily recommend the methods explained by Robin MacKenzie in How to Treat Your Back and How to Treat Your Neck. These two books outline methods that largely agree with what has been posted here. Basically, he talks about restoring balance at various key points in your anatomy, by performing compensating joint extensions in directions that are often neglected in our daily movements. “Chin tucking” linked with “cervical extensions” is one of the basic neck exercises.

Take care,
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Dec 09, 2003 10:54 pm

Greetings Louis,

The article on the relationship of the neck muscles to proprioception and the hamstrings was very interesting.

I was taught that the head should hang as though suspended from above. I always took this to be a metaphor as well as a literal instruction. I though Wushers initial description of "tuck the chin," and your caution about over-doing it were very good. To this I would add to be careful tucking the chin as to do it from the wrong place can cause problems.

To what has been written so far let me add that the shoulders in part hang from the skull and that the muscles that stretch between them are important. The art of holding your head and neck correctly includes allowing the shoulders to hang.

In some people the whole shoulder girdle muscle set may be shifted up and forward. How the upper part of the spine is addressed can affect this. I agree with your description of how to hold the upper part of the spine, in the discussion of "raise the back" a while ago. Once the upper spine is in correct alignment one may shift the whole muscle complex back into place.

The muscles used to hold the head up from a forward tilt, like when reading a book, may be much stronger than their complementary muscles used to hold the head up from a backward tilt. This commonly plagues people sitting a computer all day long or doing close work with their heads down. It may help to lay on your back and do "neck ups" to strengthen the complementary muscles.

In the past I have used Hatha yoga stretches. Egoscue's books have been recommended to me, but I'm not familiar with either them or Audi's recommended book, though I definitely agree with the general idea of remedial work.

I once thought that maybe a course in "How to get in shape to Tai Chi Chuan correctly" might be useful.

This corresponds with ideas expressed in the I Ching: to work on what has been spoiled, and to clean out the cauldron.


David J

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 12-09-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Dec 10, 2003 9:02 pm

The idea of the "how to get in shape for TCC" class would be a good one, except...
Who's idea of "in TCC shape" would you use?
Just between the three styles of TCC that I have studied there have been vast differences of opinion on what "in shape" means.
I guess if the Yang family were to say "this is the ideal shape to be in for Yang Cheng Fu style TCC", then you could push for a class along those lines. Again it would have to be family or style specific.
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Postby Gianluca Meassi » Mon Dec 29, 2003 6:13 pm

I've looked at your page Louis. It's very interesting, and will have a talk with a friend of mine (kinesiologist?) before making any comment.

To All :
I must agree with Louis about the way i prefer to find the "xu ling ding jing". I try to keep my head, and a little even the upper part of my body, like i was keeped up with a string from the Ba Hui point. Something like a marionette, with a string on the head.

I've suffered a lot about cervical problem in the past. I've worked too much ( about 10-14 h/day) for a very long time (4-5 years) on a computer (i do visual effects) and so after that period i start with terrible headaches, ipotermia, cold sweat, nausea, vertigos, difficulty on keeping balance, i was very clumsy. Well didn't got these effects all the time, but about 1-2 times in a month for a 1-2 day period. In these days was nearly impossible to do anything.
I start making some medical exams and some therapies. They worked but just for a short period of time. Then luckly comes taiji and all problems were reduced or disappear.

What i found as a personal experience is that to relax neck muscle we must first relax shoulders. I used to relax shoulder with some exercise before taking into action the neck.

Relaxing is a full time job. In the last years i start to feel relaxation in places that i never considered, like where the cervical vertrebres attach to the skull, the jaw, teeth, ecc. Some kind of opening, expansion, that probably is just a feeling with no real changes. But i liked it.

Good Holidays to all.
Gianluca Meassi
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Postby Michael » Tue Dec 30, 2003 10:06 am


One of my friends a PT, a TCC advocate and "practioner" looked over the info you posted. She is aquinted with some of his work and has one of his books on a related subject. The neck muscles he speaks about, the sub orbitals...? can't remember the name and don't have time to go back as it's nearly three in the morning and Iam nodding....anyway. She says they seem to be directly connected by the nervous system with the hamstrings. In "normal" people the connection will not limit the stretch in the hamstrings or in mild cases of occassional tensions within these muscles and the ones immediately around them. When however there are more serious effects on them such as one my find with CP and other conditions, this can be an important connection, and may very well limit the lengthening of the hamstrings.

This also can be affected by neck injuries and those who for what ever reason tend to allow their heads to and necks to angle to far forward. Over time this can be significant.

I hope I reported what she told me correctly. My apologies to you and to Gail, if I have not. I have to go to bed.

my best

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 12-30-2003).]
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Postby Michael » Tue Dec 30, 2003 10:17 am


"Relaxing" is an amazing thing is it not? If I did not know how to (or be aware enough to) relax my the muscles around my hip joints I would not be walking very much. A lower back injury would be much worse if I hadn't learned from my taiji to make this a normal part of everyday movement.

Good Holidays to you!
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Postby Gianluca Meassi » Wed Dec 31, 2003 2:26 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Michael:

"Relaxing" is an amazing thing is it not?


Yes. Each time I make a new step in relaxing my life changes a bit. In better.
I've heard a nutritionist talking about that tension and stress reduce assumption of some substances like vitamins. I don't know if this is supported by studies or was just a personal opinion but I liked.
Personally I feel that a good level relaxtion require a life-time. Don't matter to me. It's a so good feeling that nothing will keep me away from that.

Gianluca Meassi
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Dec 31, 2003 7:32 pm

Hi Guys,

Your body adapts to what is going on. If you are serene as though nothing is or ever will be discommodious, a cut will leave less of a scar when healed than it will if you are agitated as though your life is in constant peril.


David J
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