Big Garden Birdwatch – take care of your neck and back

Do you join in RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch?


The Big Garden Birdwatch is useful, as well as being fun! Encourage your children to join you in monitoring the birds for the hour. You can do this in local parks such as Clissold Park, Finsbury Park, or even from your window at home.

This annual survey is the largest example of citizen science in the world! Your findings will add to the information that has been built up over three decades about the state of the UK’s native birdlife. This information shows which birds are thriving and which are in decline.  It also gives an indication about the health of our environment as a whole.

Sir John Betjeman by Martin Jennings

How do you look up for ages without hurting your neck and back?

This delightful sculpture of Sir John Betjeman by Martin Jennings in St Pancras Station shows some of the problems well. As he looks up, Sir John’s neck is contracted and compressed.  His lower back is arched into a lordosis, which thrusts lots of weight down into his lumbar spine. His arm is lifted, much as it would be to use binoculars. But I wonder, is he holding his hat on as he looks upwards towards the splendid roof, or is he protecting his neck by taking some of the weight of his head in his hand – or both?

Birdwatching can cause problems for our necks and backs!

If you are using binoculars, or looking up to see what bird is sitting in the treetops, your neck and shoulders can get very contracted, tense and jammed up.  A good challenge is to look right up to the top of the Tate Modern tower, to where peregrine falcons often sit and sometimes nest. Can you do this without scrunching up your neck? How do you do that?

Using the Alexander Technique can help you enjoy birdwatching

I know from bitter experience, that we need to apply what we have learnt in Alexander lessons! Remember to keep freeing your neck and maintaining as much length as possible in both your neck and spine as you look up and around. Allow your neck to lengthen out again at frequent intervals. Keep your arms and shoulders free and loose, allowing them to drop down regularly. Are you using heavy binoculars? You could try using a wide strap to spread the weight, rather than pressing it into your neck.

It’s easy to arch your back if you’re looking up like Sir John and end up with back pain and neck ache. However, if you are aware of your body use and maintain the length in your spine, you’ll hopefully avoid discomfort.  You might be wise to lie down in semi-supine afterwards, to let go of the scrunching and allow yourself ease and unwind.

Have an enjoyable Birdwatch!

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