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Meet the Suboccipital Muscles

The past week I've been talking about how self-massage can be more helpful than stretching for the suboccipital muscles. Let's meet them officially!

I have a lot on my plate this week, so this blog post is quick and dirty.

This above image is an illustration of the suboccipital muscles. The Occiput is the base of your scull. It is pronounced "OX-i-put." Sub means "below." The suboccipitals are below the base of the scull. See how the muscles are short and cross very little distance? They support the head on the neck and assist with small, subtle movements.

Now check out another neck muscle, the Levator Scapulae:

This mucle group attaches to multiple vertebrae and the scapulae, or shoulderblades. It's job, as the latin name suggests, is to levitate the scapulae.

Since this muscle is so long, you can see how a side bend in the neck would stretch it, right? We often do this in class: press the right shoulderblade down and lean the head ot the left.

Well those suboccipitals don't cover as much distance, so you can't move their end points apart much. But that doesn't mean they don't feel tight! Tight occipitals can lead tension headaches and general discomfort.

That's why I often have us do a quick stretch/massage technique in class! You can do this yourself anytime. Just bring your fingertips to the muscles where the neck is close to the scull. press your fingertips in and draw up to the back of the head. You can also press directly right under the ridge of the scull where the mucles are most dense.

You don't see a lot of massage techniques in classical Hatha Yoga-- but Ayurveda, the sister-science to yoga, uses massage, essential oils, herbs and food planning to help balance the mind and body.

While I don't practice Ayurveda strictly, I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in plant foods. I supplement my movement practice with massage and meditation. This is all a part of a holistic lifestyle.

Happy Yogaing!

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