- Press the elbows into the Swiss ball to avoid sagging into our shoulders girdle.
- Look straight down. It might help to imagine someone has got hold of the back of the ears and is pulling them up towards the ceiling, so there is a real sense of opening up the back of the neck.
- Keep the whole spine long.
- If the abs are working well, the exercise will be felt in the lower abs. So flatten out the low abs before pressing up into the start position. If the upper abs (felt directly over the stomach itself) switch on or the breath is held, then restart. The face should feel completely relaxed. At no point should this exercise be felt in the back.
- As you move the ball about in a circle, the body remains completely still.
- Done properly, the exercise not only strengthens the abs but also the deep muscles that support the spine, since they have to contract to keep the spine still whilst the ball is moving about.
This exercise is harder than it looks. What I like about this video is the bloke is keeping his body beautifully still, his hands are relaxed and he really is looking down, so the back of his neck is straight. All too often people look slightly forwards, and so shorten the back of the neck, which tightens up some tiny muscles at the bottom of the skull, collectively referred to as the occipitals. Now these tiddlers are responsible for headaches, tension throughout the head/neck/jaw and, indeed, whole body, so we want to aim to keep them as calm as possible. The Alexander technique could be said to be based on lengthening these squirts.
There is another point about looking straight down, with a long back of neck: as a basic position, the eyes need to look the same way as the nose. All to often, we think we are looking down, as in this case, but in fact the eyes are looking down to the ball, but the chin is slightly lifted. It is a bit complex to go into in such a blog as this, but doing this messes up an important eye reflex which has major repercussions throughout the body. It is a major driver of scoliosis, for instance. The reflex is called the vestibular ocular reflex and essentially means that where the eyes look has a reflexive action in the body, so it slightly moves the same way. So look down and the body should subtly tip forwards. For many reasons, this reflex gets messed up; working on a computer, looking down, then frequently lifting the eyes only to look at the screen is a prime example. Repeat this over a long period of time and the reflex is overcome, with resulting pain and dysfunction. So, yes, we can spend much time and money on remedial body work, but if the driver of the pain is not being rectified, then we are in for a lifetime’s job.