Whether it's your car seat, desk chair, saddle on your bike or your favourite arm chair, sometimes we just have to make adjustments.
So all in all not a very attractive picture!
Getting up regularly and having a stretch, a walk about are all great. A standing desk is ideal but offices and schools can be slow to adapt. So what's left? Well you can lie down but that's not very practical!
Did you know your hips ideally should be at a right angle when seated and your feet flat on the floor? If you're small like me, it may not be possible to lower your seat to achieve this but you can put a block or books under your feet to raise them up.
Your wrists when on a computer should be flush with the keyboard. Again this might mean adjusting your chair position or putting something under the keyboard to raise it.
Are you overreaching for your steering wheel or keyboard? Are your shoulders rounding and you feel a little stretched?
Move the chair in closer. I had to move my saddle closer to my handlebars as I was a little too stretched, causing fatigue in my upper middle back and my neck was sore.
In your car your back and head should be supported by the chair and headrest. Check it! Also have a look at your hip angle especially if you have a sports car, are your knees up around the steering wheel?
There are loads of interesting articles online, google ergonomics, seated posture etc.
As we sit all day, be it in the car, desk or bike are shoulders will slouch. That's gravity for you. We have become habitual slouchers and we have forgotten how to sit up straight let alone back bend. By strengthening the muscles all around your shoulder blades and spine you will be able to hold better posture for longer and hopefully avoid fatigue early in the day.
Focus on actions such as rowing, these can be done easily with a resistance band. Change your hand position and target different muscles.
In yoga and pilates we focus on spine extension, camel pose, cobra poses, "swimming" exercises which include the rotator cuff and the muscles either side of your spin.
The fact of the matter is, if you are so stiff and locked up in you upper mid back you will not be able to target the correct muscle groups. You need some treatment and help to get results. This may include some massage type treatment as well as a home program suited just for you. You want to ensure you are retraining the correct muscles and not over developing the wrong areas. Our upper mid back are constantly slouching from modern life, it's not going to be a magic solution, you will need to commit to some homework.
I am so guilty of this myself I must confess. Have a look at someone on their phone whether they are standing or sitting. Hunched over shoulders, head hanging low, wrist upturned holding device which becomes heavier and heavier the longer you hold it. Diaphragm compressed and a nice big round back to top it all off. Have you heard of muscle memory or postural patterns? Well guess what.. do enough of this and soon it will be your new adopted shape. Put the phone down or limit your time on it.. easier said than done I know.
The same goes for kids on playstations / xboxes etc. Watch them next time, how are they sitting? Are they rounded? Slouching? Is their head forward? Where are their shoulders? Are they transfixed and not listening to you? Turn off the box and go outside. Sitting indoors all day is no good, we need Vitamin D and we need fresh air. Children need coordination patterns which is why ball games are so important. Do not neglect your child's structural development. It's just as important as their school/ brain development.
If you angle the tv correctly you can enjoy your favorite show while re aligning your spine!
You will need:
- A yoga mat
- A thick bath towel
- Your favorite pillow or cushions.
- Make a log for your spine. I use a yoga mat to start with and then wrap it in a good thick towel. Ensure you have a pillow for your head too. If you don't have a yoga mat a draught excluder is good too, or more towels. Just ensure it is firm enough to hold your body weight. (Play around with the thickness of your log, too much too soon is not ideal. Bulk it up over time)
- Lie your entire spine along the log, ensure your head is supported and is the same level as your spine. If, unlike me, you are tall you may need two yoga mats. Make sure you do this on the floor and not your bed, it's too soft.
- Bend your knees up to support your spine and take the arms out to 180 degrees/ like wings on an aeroplane. Let them flop on the floor. Gravity will pull your shoulders down towards the floor. Undoing rounded shoulder posture and opening out your chest. If your log is too thick this may be too much of a stretch for your chest and shoulders. Make your log less thick if this is the case.
- Stay here and breath!
Deep abdominal breaths. Focus on getting your tummy to dome upwards. Fill your body like a bucket, from the bottom to the top, belly rises and then chest rises. Exhale and squeeze your tummy like a tube of toothpaste. Pushing from the bottom upwards. Your lungs can fill to capacity in this position, no more shallow breathing. More oxygen gives you more energy, encourages healing and vitality. After a little while (the longer you can stay here and relax the better) move your arms upwards towards your ears. Keeping your hands on the floor, magine your arms are hands on a clock, try and be ten to two, or ten past ten! Once again stay here for as long as you have time for. Continue with your deep breathing. If you find your arms are not comfortable, back off to a point that is comfortable. Continue to move the arms upwards towards your ear, keeping the hands on the floor. you can take them over head for a very deep stretch but you may need to work up to this one!
I teach Yoga for Perfect Posture every Tuesday night in Rathfarnham at 8:30pm. This beginners yoga class is suitable for all no matter how stiff and tired your body is. We focus on improving posture, strengthening your back and gaining some flexibility. The class is fun and lighthearted, everyone is welcome. Teenagers must be accompanied by an adult/ guardian. This class is pregnancy yoga friendly. Please be over twelve weeks pregnant to begin this class.
I also teach Pilates too. Suitable for beginners, mature persons and intermediates. Every Tuesday night in Rathfarnham, beginners and mature persons are at 6:30pm while intermediates are at 7:30pm. Pilates improves your core, your posture and body awareness. This class is great for bad backs as well as those who need some motivation to get moving.
About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety. A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races, Half Marathons and the Camino de Santiago.