I’m going to tell you a little story. It may be a story you know, but I bet you’ve never thought of it in quite this way before. It’s a story that sometimes comes to mind when I am massaging my clients’ necks and heads, loosening up all the tension that tends to accumulate there.
Ready? Here, I saved a spot for you on the bench… Make yourself comfy.
Once upon a time there was a Titan named Atlas. The Titans were giants and Atlas, for sure, was gi-normous. Anyway, the Titans had lost a battle with the Greek gods and so, as punishment, the gods made Atlas hold up the sky, and some say, the whole world.
What’s that you say? … Oh yes. That would get tiring on the shoulders even for a giant, for sure!
Anyway… Atlas, poor guy, held up the sky for years and years until one day Hercules came along looking for some golden apples. (Let’s save the story of the golden apples and why Hercules was so desperate to find them for another rainy day, OK?).
Atlas said, “Herc, what’s up? You look distraught.”
“I’m looking for some golden apples.”
“Finding those apples seems very important to you–“
“You have no idea! I’d do anything to get them. Anything.”
“Um, as it turns out, I happen to know where they are.”
“Yes. If you hold up the world for me, I’ll go get them for you.”
Hercules happened to also be very strong, not quite as strong as Atlas the giant, but very strong nonetheless and he reeeeally wanted those apples. In fact, you could say that getting those apples was more important to him than pretty much anything else in the world. And so it was that Hercules agreed.
Soon Atlas came back and, sure enough, he had the golden apples. As he got closer he noticed Hercules sweating and grunting from holding up all that weight and he thought to himself, “Know what? That there is actually not a job I want to take back.”
Now Hercules could see what Atlas was thinking and he did not like it one bit. So he thought up a trick.
“Wow, thanks, Atlas!” he said.
“No problem, man. I’ll leave them right here for you. Actually, I’ll even tuck them in your pockets… OK then, goodbye. It’s been nice doing business with you.”
“Oh uh, say, before you go… I wonder if you could help me with something.”
“As you know, this is some heavy heavy weight to hold and I’d like to get myself more comfortable in this position here… Could you hold the sky up for me for just a minute while I go get myself some padding for my shoulders?”
“Um… OK but just for a minute.”
So Atlas took back the sky from Hercules, and Hercules, of course, did not come back. [Insert expletive!] And that’s the story of how Atlas ended up with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
What’s that?… You’re wondering what happened to him?
Well, no one really knows, of course, but eventually, it is believed, he turned into a mountain. In fact, the Atlas mountains in Northwestern Africa, are named for him. As is a bone in your body! No kidding. Can you guess which one?
Yes, exactly! The very first vertebra (C1) in your spine, the one at the tippy top where your neck meets your head, is also named after Atlas.
Go ahead, check it out. Reach your hand behind you and find your spine at about shoulder level. You’ll know you’re on your spine by its bumpy ridgy stick-y-out-y bits. Each one of those bumps corresponds to a vertebra.
Now inch your fingers up the spine, over the bumps, until you reach the base of your skull/head… Right there, yes. Good.
Now go ahead and say hi to Atlas and his band of supporting tissues (made of muscles, ligaments and fascia).
Good. Since you’re there, why not give Atlas and Company a good squeeze. I call it the mama cat squeeze, with your hand being the cat and the fascia and connective tissue in your neck being the kitten:
Cup one hand into a C shape and reach it around to hold onto the back (scruff) of your neck. Now pretend you’re a mama cat picking up her kitten by the neck: squeeze and pull until your palm (area closest to wrist) and finger tips come together… Ahhhhh…
After doing the mama cat squeeze a few times, go ahead and roll your head around in slow, small little circles. Slowwwww… Take the opportunity to breathe while you’re at it!
If you’ve been sitting for awhile staring at a screen (ahem!) you may well hear little crackly sounds when you do this… that is the sound of your joints saying, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou! FI-nally someone is moving us!”
Movement is what keeps your joints nice and lubricated… Lubricated joints are happy joints. Dry and sticky joints that have not gotten movement, are not happy. (And the lubrication, called “synovial fluid,” is already right there in your joints. You do not even have to get your squirt gun.)
“Ahhhhhh”… I swear I just heard your Atlas moan. “Ahhhh…”
That there is the sound of one very appreciative wee bone that has the equivalent of a bowling ball sitting on top of it day in and day out. Yes, your head weighs somewhere between 8 – 12 lbs. Not counting hair!
That is all for today. Thank you for taking these moments with me and with Atlas.
If you live in the Boston area and would like me to work on your Atlas and Company, please give me a call or email me. I’d love to help.
There are even a few openings left this week: two today(!), Friday. And one tomorrow, Saturday, afternoon.
Until soon, I hope–