Hey you — freeze! Without changing anything, notice how you’re sitting or standing right now. Check out where your arms and head are in relation to your torso. Where’s your pelvis, tucked underneath you? Arched behind you? For most of us, when you spend time on your devices, your posture follows a predictable pattern: Your arms reach forward for the keyboard or phone, and your head juts out to get closer to the screen. This rounds your upper back, closing your chest in. Your pelvis is tucked underneath you, leaving your belly pooched outward.
Sitting in poor posture for a few minutes a day isn’t the end of the world, but more and more jobs require hours on end in front of a screen. The result? We sit for hours on end hunched over, and our bodies suffer.
Anatomically, when you’re slouching, the muscles in the front of your body, like the muscles in your chest, are shortened. Meanwhile, the muscles in the back of your body, like the ones in your upper back and neck, are lengthened.
While you can stand up, stretch yourself out, and carry on with your day, this unfortunately won’t undo the hours of sitting hunched over. Our bodies are incredibly efficient; they get better at what they do most often (practice makes progress). For example, you know how if you haven’t been doing yoga for a while, you’re not as flexible? If your muscles aren’t being stretch regularly, they won’t bother maintaining the elasticity. The same way your brain forgets how to play piano if you haven’t touched the keys in 20 years, your body “forgets” how to perform physical actions.
So after slouching for hours on end, day after day, the muscles in the front of your body stay short and get very tight. The muscles in your back stay loose and get very weak.
Don’t worry though! You’re not doomed.
1) Proper computer posture
When you work at a computer, see if you can break the habit and find new alignment. As a general guideline, try to have your pelvis, ribs, shoulder girdle, and head stacked one on top of the other with your spine a tall beanstalk reaching towards the sky.
In order to prevent the curving forward, try scooting yourself closer to your desk or your computer closer to you. If you’re having trouble keeping your head back, try zooming in on the screen. Your co-workers may make fun of you for reading everything in 120%, but you’ll be the one laughing when you can do cartwheels at age 92!
2) Keep moving!
Here’s the thing though: Even if you sat in proper posture for 10 hours a day, your body will still feel stiff! That because it’s practicing sitting still rather than moving. In order to combat this stiffness, try to incorporate as much movement as you can into your day.
More and more people are converting to standing desks, and this is awesome. The ideal, if you can convince your company to fund it, would be a desk that adjusts so you can both sit and stand. When sitting, choose an ergonomically correct chair. There are several innovative ones on the market now; check out Ergo Depot in Potrero Hill. I personally recommend sitting on a good ole fashioned yoga ball. They’re affordable and encourage small movements, engaging your legs, abdominals, and pelvic floor without even trying.
Master Trainer Kaitlyn Rhoades stresses the importance of wearing supportive shoes, especially if you stand a lot at work. She recommends getting a foot analysis from a reputable shoe store and purchasing shoes and/or orthotics accordingly. For women, Taryn Rose designs shoes with these values in mind that don’t compromise fashion.
3) There’s always Pilates.
I would advise doing Pilates (or any kind of movement, but clearly I’m a little biased) first thing in the morning. This will prime your body for the day, not to mention help you wake up! When we start moving, we remember how good it feels, and we want to do more of it.
If you’re not enough of a morning person to get into the studio, try doing a few yoga stretches as the coffee brews, like downward dog and cat/cow. Then get your Pilates on during your lunch break or after work.
Exercises that work your upper back muscles and stretch your chest are incredibly important for undoing all that computer work. They reverse the patterns your body has been clinging to at your desk, engaging the back of your body and stretching the front. Request some next time you’re in class — your body will thank you!
Here’s a great exercise for opening up the chest, engaging the abdominals, and finding proper alignment. All you need is a wall.
Stand with your heels against the wall and your arms down by your sides. Try to keep the back of your head, your upper back, your pelvis, and your heels touching the wall without letting your ribs flare open. Make sure you’re keeping your abs engaged and your chest open. Slowly, without losing the integrity of your alignment, sweep your arms out to the sides and towards your head, sliding them along the wall. See how high you can go without letting your shoulders come up. Try for 5-10 of these a day.
Author: Ali Weeks