Do you sag in your office chair? Text as you walk? Watch TV in bed or play computer games while slumped on the sofa? Then you could be one of the millions of people affected by the Poor Posture Pandemic, or PPP, as I like to call it.
We can’t deny that technology is a wonderful thing. The world’s at our fingertips; we’ve reduced the burden of physical labor and increased productivity exponentially. Anything your heart desires is just a click away. It’s almost too convenient — micro-movements of thumbs and wrists are all we need to get anything we want.
After 3 million years of evolution, we stood erect, our spine a sculpted “S.” In just two decades, the PPP has converted young and old alike into a rounded “C.” Are we retrogressing? Will we be dragging our knuckles on the floor in another 20 years?
The human head weighs 10 to 14 pounds. As we sit stooped over a computer screen or handheld technology, our shoulders round forward and our heavy head responds to the ever-present pull of gravity. Even when we stand, the spine is so habitually slumped that it temporarily forgets the legacy of evolution. We walk as if we are still sitting down. Tucked buttocks, rounded shoulders and head forward are a kinesthetic recipe for pain and discomfort.
Fortunately, AIM (Awareness, Integration and Movement) can break us of these habits and help us learn more functional, less painful ways to sit, stand and move.
“You have to know what you’re doing before you can do what you want.” –Moshé Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education
How are you sitting as you read this? Are you stooped over a kitchen counter or slumped in a chair? Is your head forward, shoulders rounded? The first step back to the evolutionary highway is recognizing you have a postural problem. Engaging your body’s natural skills of perception enables you to notice your alignment during everyday tasks.
Once you have identified your postural habits by applying awareness, you can change. You don’t have to stop using technology — just get smarter about your posture while you use it:
- Support your back in an “S” shape while sitting at your desk. You can use lumbar cushions or a rolled towel placed in the low back area — or even invest in an ergonomic chair.
- Generally decrease the time you spend in front of a screen, especially one you look down at. Hold your phone up to your eyes instead of constantly looking down.
- If you have to work 8 hours at a computer, set a timer to remind you to get away from your desk for a few minutes every one or two hours.
People often ask me how they should stretch their necks and shoulders to relieve pain. My answer frequently surprises them. The habitual “C” shape you’re developing is already overstretched — that’s why it’s often painful. Try gently contracting the sore, tight muscles instead, then slowly releasing. This helps reset the muscles’ resting length and reverse the effects of poor posture. Remember if any of these exercises cause pain, STOP.*
- Let your arms hang by your sides, and shrug both shoulders to your ears. Hold at the top of the contraction, then very slowly release. Repeat 3 times.
- Let your arms hang by your sides, and shrug both shoulders to your ears. Hold at the top of the contraction, and very slowly turn your head to the right and then to the left a few times. Slowly release your shoulders.
- Resting your arms on your desk, draw slow concentric circles with your shoulder blades, first clockwise then counterclockwise.
- Take 3 slow, deep breaths, concentrating on the exhalation.
Awareness, Integration and Movement (AIM) are the keys to postural reeducation, reduced pain and improved range of motion. AIM group classes and private one-on-one sessions identify your habitual movement patterns and offer alternatives, reminding the brain of more functional pathways to achieve the same action.
AIM group classes are relaxing, helping you de-stress while developing your proprioception and body awareness. During one-on-one AIM sessions, we use simple somatic movements that release tight muscles and increase range of motion, then offer gentle stretches that regain muscle length. The work is cumulative — gradual changes affirmed by a series of personalized exercises and group classes that build on positive results. AIM Somatic Movement classes are available exclusively at Yoga Nook in Simi Valley.
You hold the key to resolving your pain and enjoying a more active lifestyle. Step out of the pain cycle, and ask us how Yoga Nook and AIM can help.
*It’s beyond my scope and that of this article to diagnose pain, tingling or limits to ranges of motion. If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek the help of a health professional immediately.
Image credit: Ben Yapp on Flickr