Yeah, it’s about posture. If you are in my age group (Baby Boomer), you may remember being told by a parent to stand up straight and sit straight, etc. Quite annoying. But maybe Mom or Dad had something there.
I’ve also noticed that my body is definitely pushing me harder to maintain a straight line from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet. My time in front of a computer, often in informal circumstances like sitting on a bed with the laptop on a platform in my lap(!) or at a kitchen table with cushions to get my arms up high enough to type, has hampered my ability to sit up straight. I’ve developed slouching habits and the tendency to crane my neck forward to see the screen better (need new glasses, too).
Well, all of these posture habits may not have bothered me earlier in life, but my body has been on the planet long enough now that it has started to complain about this constant misalignment, both in sitting and standing.
Fair warning to those of you who are much younger than me (younger than 60, that is) that your body will only accommodate bad posture for so many years before your back, legs, and in my case in particular, neck, start seizing up. I can probably relieve the pain and stiffness I have now with a good massage, but finding and reinforcing alignment will solve the problem for the long term.
As a result of my body’s signals, my senses (not just the five, but also my sense of alignment in 3d space) have contributed to my overall well-being by reminding me to align myself externally, and therefore internally.
I take conscious time when standing in one place or sitting to roll my shoulders back, drop my chin and set my neck straight above my shoulders. At first it felt really weird, but that was my clue that I hadn’t been doing it for a long time. Also, when standing, the yoga pose called Mountain has come in very handy to re-align.
Try this for yourself and you may be surprised at how your body and mind feel, and how your breath changes as well:
- Stand up with feet together pointed forward.
- Check your knees; they should not be locked, but slightly bent and relaxed.
- Check your hips/pelvis. Bet it’s tilted top/belly forward, butt out and back. Nope, don’t just suck your tummy in; actually tilt your hips forward while squeezing your butt; your tummy should automatically move in and back. Make note of how that makes your upper body feel (should be a sense of being strong and in control).
- Chest out, shoulders back. Also, to get the difference of the feel for this, scrunch your shoulders up and then drop them, keeping them in line with your hips.
- Arms straight down by your side but relaxed or in prayer pose.
- Drop your chin (not all the way to your neck, just probably lower than seems “natural”) and pull your neck back to align with the center of your shoulders. This is the bit I am concentrating on at present. It takes less strength to raise my chin and let my head roll back out of alignment. You can practice this neck adjustment while driving to get in the habit.
- Open your mouth and close it again. Most folks have their jaws clenched or at least tensed up most of the time.
- Take some deep breaths from this position, and then start the dishes or whatever standing up stuff you are looking to do.
Additional Notes for Sitting
If you are sitting, keeping your feet flat on the floor and being mindful of the Mountain Pose upper body positioning will keep you more comfortable. But like the Varidesk commercial and a whole lot of health resources say, sitting is killer, literally. Humans were not meant to sit for very long, and certainly not in chairs. The main rule about sitting is not to do it for more than about 50 minutes at a time (your school was thinking of your health when they made a class 50 minutes long—at least we hope so).
I have a hard time with taking such frequent breaks from computer work when I’m into a project, but it’s becoming more important as I get older. A standing desk is great for getting a break from sitting without having to leave the work (the Varidesk looks cool, but homemade arrangements can work just as well), as is scheduling household duties or short errands in such a way that they interrupt the sitting. I also have friends who use treadmill desks, although the differences in breathing can be a bit disruptive in Skype meetings.
I can’t emphasize enough how important these posture and movement habits are for those of us who work at computers for most of the day. I have been taking my body alignment for granted for a long time, and it is definitely catching up with me. Increasing my alignment sense will be key to a mobile and comfortable old age. Wish I’d started earlier, but there is always the present to begin!