I make the effort to vary what I’m teaching week to week so that we’re not all doing the same thing for weeks at a time, which can be very fatiguing for the body and for the mind. This week, my focus was strengthening the posterior body. The vocabulary of poses in yoga is extremely varied and great for stretching out and strengthening most parts of the body, but there are a few ways in which it is lacking. The biggest of these is the over-emphasis on the body’s pushing muscles and a paucity of poses that develop our pull strength. To compensate for this, I like to turn back-bending practices, the theme of this week, into back-strengthening classes, throwing in set-ups that help you develop the pulling muscles in your arms, shoulders and back.
The Structure of Sitting
This week I happened to have a couple of questions about sitting and the problems that arise around it, and I realized this is a good time for a short series on the art of sitting. In last week’s newsletter, I gave you a short yoga sequence that’s great for relieving the back after a long day at your desk. This week, I thought I’d offer you some tips on how to arrange your working environment to better support your body.
This picture might be very familiar to you if you’ve ever looked around you in a Starbucks or a library. It’s a classic working posture for many of us.
What’s wrong with this picture:
- Slumping forward with your head dropped and your chest collapsed, as I am in the picture, puts stress on your neck and lower back. The muscles there will have to work much harder than they should to keep you supported, and, over an extended period of time, supporting the weight of your head and torso this way could lead to problems in your neck and back, including herniation of the discs in your spine.
- Leaning on the table with your shoulders rounded forward can contribute to constriction of your neck and shoulders, creating problems in your upper back, and can lead to repetitive strain injuries in your wrists and hands.
In this picture I’ve adjusted my computer and chair to allow my body to support itself better. Here’s what you can do to arrange your work environment optimally.
- Raise your computer screen so you don’t have to stoop to see it. In the picture, I can see the screen by nodding my head forward slightly and looking down. I could have raised my screen even further so that it was directly in front of my face. (I ran out of yoga blocks.)
- Raise your seat so your hips are above your knees. The higher the better, but even a small elevation the way I’m set up in the picture can make a huge difference. The weight of your legs can then release away from you rather than fall back and push your torso back.
- Sit with your pelvis balanced on your sitting bones. It can be challenging to figure out exactly what part of your sitting bones you should be perched on, but it’s sufficient to notice if you’re tilting forward or backward a lot and to adjust. Don’t worry about the exact position, but instead feel like your pelvis is balanced over your sitting bones rather than collapsing back or forward.
- Sit with your wrists below your elbows. This will take the weight out of your wrists and will prevent you from needing to hold them extended for a lengthy period of time, which can create constriction around the nerves that run through them. In the picture I could have sat a little higher to relive my wrists and my back more.
Your Practice Challenge: Re-Engineer Your Workspace
Your challenge this week is to take a good look at the way you have your workspace set up and to see if you can change it to your advantage. The simplest thing you might do is elevate your seat and your computer screen. They are such simple changes, but they can make all the difference. The next time your back is unhappy with you after a long session at your desk, keep this in mind and see if there are any tweaks you can make to the way your workspace is set up.
I you try the practice, let me know how it went, either via email or before/after one of my classes this week!