Is modern life ruining your posture?

Is modern life ruining your posture?

Picture a typical day.

You wake up, shower and check your phone while grabbing breakfast then head for work.  The boring train commute is made more bearable by the book you read on your tablet. 

You reach the office and spend the day with eyes fixed on the laptop, taking a break at lunchtime to catch up with what’s going on in the world of Facebook/twitter/Instagram (insert or delete as applicable!).  Then it’s home on the train again, picking up a now ubiquitous free evening paper as you go. 

After a day of sitting, you head to the gym for an evening workout, a spin class with some tough abdominal crunches to finish before collapsing on the sofa, phew……..

Now look at the position of your head while doing all of these things. 

Reading the paper, looking at your phone, tablet, laptop, slouching on the sofa and even working out on a spin bike and doing ab crunches, your head is forward of your spine. 

The average adult human head weighs around 5 KG.  However, there is growing evidence to show that by tilting your head forward to look at a phone, tablet, laptop or book, significantly increases the load on your spine. 

You may just be taking a slight downwards gaze without noticeably bending your neck but just a 15 degree tilt produces a load of 12 KG on your spine.  At the extreme end of the scale (picture the shape of a typical tech obsessed teenager) a forward title of 60 degrees produces a load of 27 KG on the spine. 

Over time, the body will harden into this position

The muscles and other soft tissue in the front of the neck, shoulder and chest will shorten, whilst those in the back of the neck, shoulders and upper back become stretched and weak. 

Eventually, there may even be a change in the shape of the vertebrae of the neck and thoracic spine to accommodate this habitual bad posture. Add to that an exercise regime of cycling, running and weight training and you perpetuate that head forward, C shape, shortening the abdominal muscles and hip flexors. 

Put all of this together and it is no wonder we are experiencing an epidemic of back and neck pain! 

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means advocating that you should give up technology and exercise. However, by being mindful of these not so positive movement patterns, you can make your body feel better.

Have these intentions:

  • When reading from a tablet or phone, try to keep it at eye level.  You may get some strange looks but your back will thank you for it.  Remember, even if you think you are keeping your head level, just by having a downward gaze, you increase the load on your back.
  • Try to use your device less!  Be present with your friends and family more.
  • Be mindful of your posture, seek to maintain a neutral spine with shoulders down and head not forward, even when standing at the bus stop or watching TV.
  • Have a balanced exercise regime.  Put aside time to stretch as well as sweat.  Remember to stretch the front body as well as the back body.  Don’t obsess over ab crunches, a beautiful six pack is not going to give you core stability.  Instead focus on building stability through yoga asana or pilates.  Remember “core” includes the stabilising muscles of the whole torso from hips to abdominals and lower and upper back, particularly those around the shoulder blades.
  • A balanced yoga class will move your body through its full range of movement but here are some asanas to work into your practice:

Tadasana

tadasana...

The simplest asana but so perfectly balanced.  The feet are evenly pressed into the floor, toes spread.  Muscles in the front of the legs draw up, not locking the knees, the pelvis is level and the tail bone is drawing down.  Lower belly is engaged as are shoulder blades giving the torso stability and creating softness in the shoulders and neck.  The chin is slightly tucked towards the throat and the crown of the head is lifting.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downwards facing dog)

adho...

Works the whole body from the heels to the head.  If you have tight hamstrings, bend the knees slightly and concentrate on feeling your weight moving back towards the heels.  Press the whole hand evenly into the mat, engaging the stabilising muscles of the shoulder blades by rotating upper arms outwards.

Dolphin

dolphin...

Approach from downwards facing dog, lowering onto the elbows while keeping the shoulder blades drawing down the back.  The asana will engage core muscles, especially those of the shoulder blades. 

Prasarita Padottanasana C

prasarita...

Lengthens hamstrings and opens up the fronts of the shoulders.  Keep the Quads and lower belly switched on to support your back as you gently encourage the hands to move overhead.  Weight is slightly forward, head is heavy, allowing muscles of  the neck to release.

Cobra

cobra...

Start with gentle back bends to build strength in the lower back and open the front of the body.  Make sure your legs are strongly engaged and pressing into the mat, keep the neck long rather than tipping the head back.  Shoulders should be soft.

 

Read more and credits:

https://www.yogauonline.com/yogau-wellness-blog/yoga-for-back-pain-are-your-tech-devices-ruining-your-posture

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7459/8-yoga-poses-to-help-cervical-spine-neck-issues.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2848190/Study-finds-type-tablet-computers-face-muscle-problems-shoulder-strain.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/outdoor-activity/how-to-improve-posture-10-best-buys-a6883766.html

 


The Author

Jo Walder

I am a Yoga Alliance 200 hour trained yoga teacher, practising and teaching in SW14.
My Personal Philosophy
I practise Vinyasa flow style yoga which so appeals for its creativity and expression through movement. As my practice deepens, I am learning more about the importance of mindful movement, having an alignment focused practice and connecting body with mind and spirit through movement and breath. From that initial physical feel good factor, my practice has developed to produce an overall sense of wellness which I aim to facilitate in my students. I have learnt, through training and experience, of the recurring postural issues and injuries which can be addressed by a mindful yoga practice and my teaching is informed by that, encouraging positive habitual movement patterns, building strength and flexibility and providing my students with a quiet place in which to explore and find space for themselves. Little by little our bodies and minds become more open. This, I believe, is the transformative power of yoga..

Comments

Emma C.
28 February 2016

Emma C.

When I am looking at my phone or tablet on the table I really do notice the back of my neck straining, and I have to look up to straighten it. But it would be awkward to hold the gadgets at eye level.

Trevor D.
27 February 2016

Trevor D.

Back in the nineties it was RSI from typing - now we are wrecking our necks with constant phone use. Very wise advice, let's break the addiction.

Sasha B.
27 February 2016

Sasha B.

I really like the PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA C move, (although I never knew it was called that before!). I find that it loosens up any upper and lower body tensions better than almost anything else and gets me deep breathing very strongly.

Matthew C.
27 February 2016

Matthew C.

Very worrying reading about how muscles can harden due to looking at devices. I don't do yoga but this has definitely made me more aware of how much I am leaning forward, as I do have occasional neck ache.

Phillip H.
25 February 2016

Phillip H.

this is so timely with my aching back today! I just bought a tablet and I'm making all the mistakes that you mention. Something will change right now.

Would you like to post a comment? Please register or log in.

Log In Register

Share this

Subscribe

Popular Posts

By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies. You can change this and find out more by following this link.