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10:26 am

Yoga for Computer Relief

Dear Yogini: I sit in front of a computer all day long. My job is taking a toll on my neck and back. What can I do to feel better? ~ Desk Jockey. Dear Desk Jockey: Our bodies evolved to lead active lives of frequent movement. Desk jobs restrict our mobility and comprise our health. The first symptom is chronic neck and back pain, but extended sitting has also been shown to result in an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and even early death. The default computer posture curls your spine forward and compresses your heart and lungs. Your head falls forward, and your neck has to rotate awkwardly upward for your eyes to see your computer screen. Your head weighs about 12 pounds, nearly as much as a bowling ball. Imagine trying to hold a bowling ball for 8 hours straight. No wonder our necks and our backs hurt. Additionally, your body is plastic. If your body is held in a contorted position for many hours at a time, your tissues change shape. Spend some time people watching and you’ll see that the vast majority of us have transformed our bodies so that our heads hover in front of our chests. Our spines never get a break, our organs are constantly under pressure. Our spinal muscles have to continually fire to prevent that bowling ball, our heads, from collapsing onto our chest. What do we do? Begin with small lifestyle changes and add ‘the Buttefly Exercises’ to your daily routine. You’ll begin to feel better almost immediately. 1) Get up and walk, at least once every 30 minutes. Set a timer on your computer if you need to. Taking regular short walks will decompress your spine and organs and help counteract the hours of forward contortion. Taking lots of short walks can make a marked improvement in your overall health. 2) Set your workstation up well. Sit with your thighs roughly horizontal, your knees a bit below your hips, your desk top at about the height of your elbows and your computer screen just below eye level. There are a lot of good ergonomic chairs available, my current favorite is to use a ‘drummer’s throne,’ a simple round padded stool that has a little side-to-side movement. Throne sitting requires an upright posture and thus builds abdominal and back muscle strength. Thrones are inexpensive and you can find them used at The Fingerboard Extension or Gracewinds. 3) Neck Butterfly: Sit in an aligned and upright posture. Do not lean into your chair back. Bring both feet flat to the floor. Cup the back of your head in your hands with interlaced fingers. Engage your abdominal muscles firmly. Make small butterfly wing motions in your arms, moving the elbows backward and forward just a few inches. Then keep your elbows back, while you slide your head directly back into your hands while keeping your chin level. Your head will move an inch at most. Hold this position for 4 to 5 breaths then relax. Repeat the whole thing 2 or 3 times. This exercise realigns your neck and stretches your upper back and shoulders. 4) Low Back Butterfly: Now bring your hands behind your low back, interlace your fingers and rest your knuckles on your low back. Engage your abdominal muscles firmly. Again, create butterfly wing motions moving your elbows forward and back. Work consciously from a small range of motion toward a large range of motion over about 20 ‘flaps’ of your wings. Then press your palms together, extend your elbows and lift your arms away from your back. This exercise stretches your upper chest and shoulders to improve your posture. 5) Sitting Half Butterfly: Finally for your low back: from your seated posture bring your right ankle to your left knee. Let your right knee drop toward the ground to stretch your inner thigh. Keeping your belly strong, hinge at your hips to bring your chest forward toward your right shin. You’ll feel the stretch in your outer right hip and low back. Hold this position for up to 10 breath cycles and then repeat on the left leg. This movement stretches your inner thigh muscles, your hip rotators, releases your sciatic nerve, and can relieve chronic low back pain. Take care of your spine, Desk Jockey, and your spine will take care of you! A little bit of yoga can go a long way towards a long healthy life.