Here’s a human standing how we often do, pelvis forward and upper body curved (“the cashew”). (My drawing is a little inaccurate but that’s because I am not the best drawer. The curve shown in the neck below really starts in the back. Here are some other pictures. Depending on where we’re looking, we might have your head down for “text neck” or up for “vulture neck.”) Often made worse from wearing positive heel shoes.
Here’s a human who thinks they are standing up straight, but they’ve actually just flared out the ribs to pull their shoulders back into “good posture.” The upper back and neck are still curved, the head is still forward, and the front chest is still shortened. Oh, and the lower back is compressed. (Unfortunately, this is basically how I run, or at least how I used to run.)
OK, finally, here’s a human sleeping with a pillow. Yup, still upper back is still curved and head is still forward.
The other night — before I drew these pictures, and without doing any sort of research into whether this theory actually made sense — I felt like the pillow was just … interfering. So it ditched it. Or more accurately, I put it upright against the wall, out of my way. It felt fantastic.
Turns out that Katy Bowman did the same thing (well, similar). In her book Move Your DNA (no, that’s not an affiliate link, but you should probably still buy it), Katy has a section titled “Release Your Pillow.” She writes, “I realized that my ever-presnt pillow was, in fact, preventing the very motion of my neck I was practicing during my ‘stretch time.'” Important though: Katy compares moving to being pillow-less to the transition to barefootedness. In particular, “Pillowless sleeping requires relaxed neck and shoulder muscles. Sleeping without a pillow requires less hyperkyphosis (the excess curvature of the upper back).” So prepare properly for pillowlessness! Katy transitioned to lower and lower pillows over time. My pillow wasn’t super high to begin with, and I’ve been working on proper head and neck positioning in my awake time, so the transition was pretty easy for me.
So do you think I’m nuts?! FWIW, my husband does!