Sit up straight! Let’s undo the ‘couch slouch’…
I came across this great little Ted Ed clip a while ago.
Well worth the few minutes play-time, it neatly summarises why good posture is so important to our overall well-being; physical, mental & emotional.
It also shows us just how sadly easy it is for so many of us now to fall into ‘less than optimal’ postural habits; our very lifestyles almost dictate it.
So many of us are sitting in front of screens for hours at work and/or at home, with little regard for the position of our chair, desk, screen & their relation to our legs, arms, back & head.
Maybe our job is very physical & keeps us 'locked' into certain positions that work against us in even trying to keep our posture in good stead.
Outside of work, many of us then get home, maybe after a long drive in the car & sit collapsed on the couch at night watching TV or surfing online. More sitting & not usually on a firm, hard-backed chair that makes us sit up straight either!
Perhaps we commute sitting on a bus, tram or train, glued to our smartphones in the morning & the evening. Necks hyperextended (overly long) behind, over-short at the front, head dipping heavily down & likely, our back rounded & shoulders slumped.
I don't see many people like this guy here on the left, sitting up nice & tall, looking straight ahead & not in a smartphone bubble ;-)
Over time, our habitual ‘pose’ becomes our longterm ‘posture’; we’re not conscious of it but nonetheless, that is the ‘pattern’ our body then falls into.
Whatever we most do is what we are & it can bring with it a host of unwelcome physical issues, from smaller to bigger ones, temporary to longterm ones.
Typically, some muscles will tighten & tense from overuse & some will grow weaker & atrophy from underuse; if we ‘stay’ in a certain position for too long, that is what naturally occurs. And this can lead to neck & upper & lower back pain, as parts of our musculoskeletal system ‘compensate’ for the non-centred way we are sitting or even moving. We can also experience headaches & in time, our mood can also grow low. We then feel even less inclined to move as we’re holding onto tension which can turn into chronic physical & emotional pain & so, the cycle gets worse.
We’re not going to throw away our TV’s & smartphones, quit our jobs or stop working on & using laptops & PC’s; so what we can we do?
So simple but so powerful. Literally, get up,
move around & stretch.
At work we can add in handy ‘task reminders’ to pop up on our Outlook for example; you can set these to 'pop up' say 3 times a day, with simple message like 'Move & Stretch!'.
Go walk around the office, block or site, stretch standing at your desk or wherever you are. If you have your own office or some very friendly colleagues, do a little specifically helpful Yoga for a minutes right there together.
Engage also in some deep belly breathing to fill the lungs & refresh yourself; we are not aware enough of how bad posture can also affect how we breathe & how lacking in energy or alertness we can feel as a result.
At home, we can develop the habit of hopping up every time there’s an ad break.
There’e usually never a shortage of ads on mainstream TV. Even if you’re ‘binging’ on a Netflix box-set, simply add a task reminder to your smart or mobile phone to remind you to hit ‘pause’ occasionally. Then get up, walk around & bust a few stretching moves. Smart & mobile phones don’t have to just be sources of bad posture - let’s make them work for us & use them ‘smartly’ to minimise their potential posture pitfalls.
Drop down on the living-room floor into Child’s Pose to lengthen your spine gently & then maybe do a few cosy ‘knee’s bent’ Downward Facing Dog’s, walking the feet in place, before the programme resumes.
Practice at home or get yourself to Yoga class
Helping to undo our bodies unhealthy patterns is just one of the many benefits of Yoga. In your typical class, there will be emphasis on lengthening the spine, on finding your ‘centre’, that is, allowing, like the clip shows, your shoulders to reside over the hips, to allow your spine to naturally curve where it should & to tune into the spine as being a guiding ‘line’ from the very top of our head to the soles of our feet. It can take time & effort to ‘relearn’ this more healthy posture; it is well worth the effort though as our bodies will feel the better for it over time. Even if our minds resist at first (“I’m tired”, “I’ve had a long day”, “I’m cosy where I am”, “I’ll do it later”), stick with it & you’ll reap the rewards.
One other great bonus of better posture is that it is said to ‘lop off’ up to 10 years off our perceived ‘body-age’! Picture someone bent over from the waist, back rounded, shoulders slumped, walking slowly, eyes towards the ground; we tend, fairly or unfairly, to associate that image with older-age & infirmity.
Now picture someone else, striding along, spine long, head, neck & shoulders in line, eyes facing forward & able to see the world all around them; naturally once more, we associate that posture with a more youthful outlook & healthier way of ‘being’.
There is no good reason for us all not to more closely resemble this second image, no matter our age or current condition - all it takes is awareness & practice.
What do YOU do at home or at work to undo 'Tech Neck' or too much sitting? Leave a comment below & share any helpful tips.