Unless your computer screen is on eye level and you are paying attention to sitting straight, you are likely to adopt the easiest position in front of your computer, with a rounded back and forward neck. This “computer posture” is very common in our times and, apart from tightening or overstretching muscles, has a snowballing effect on our health. Below I explain why we should avoid this way of sitting and describe 3 yoga poses to counter computer posture.
Computer posture is characterised by a rounded back and forward head with a flattened neck curve. Let’s start with the consequences for our neck: our head is very heavy, and it is even more strenuous for the neck and upper back muscles to support the head when it is held in front of the shoulders. This can lead to aching and tight neck muscles and tension headaches. With time, the flattened neck curve is likely to cause increasing neck pain, as tight ligaments and muscles compress the neck vertebrae and the intervertebral discs may deteriorate. The potential nerve pain and arthritis of the neck are to be avoided at all cost.
Not only the neck suffers: the mechanism of the shoulders is compromised when the shoulders are held forward of the midline, and this can mean they become more easily injured and inflamed. For the upper part of our trunk, the rounded back position is bad news too. While the upper back muscles become weak and overstretched, the muscles in the upper chest tighten. The whole upper back can become so rigid that the loss of mobility overworks and strains the lower back.
By rounding the spine, the front of the body becomes compressed, which means there is less space for the lungs, so our breathing becomes shallow and inefficient. Furthermore, the abdominal organs are pushed down and out, which weakens the abdominal muscles, and this again has a negative impact on the lower back.
When muscles have become weak or tight over time, it is impossible to adopt a new position immediately: pulling the shoulders back and forcing the neck upright is impossible, but working with gentle yoga exercises and paying attention to the way you sit will gradually give you the benefits of good posture.
This standing position helps us become aware of our posture. Don’t try to push your shoulders back and don’t worry if your head does not touch the wall, it may do so over time.
-Stand with your heels against a wall, feet together.
-To avoid overarching the lower back, think of lengthening the tailbone down and engaging the lower abdominal muscles.
-Lift the upper chest.
-Feel the support from the wall behind you, lean into it.
-Find the symmetry of the left and the right side of your back against the wall.
-Stand in this position for 5-6 breaths.
Strengthening the upper back
-Still with the whole back against the wall:
-Inhale and raise your arms out to the side in a 90-degrees angle, the elbows more or less level with the shoulders.
-Exhale and lower the arms down.
-Repeat a few times.
-Once this is easy and you can touch the elbows on the wall, keep the arms to the side and slide the elbows up and down a fraction: up with the inhalation and down when you breathe out.
-Relax the shoulders by swinging them gently.
Opening the chest and lengthening the neck
This position is lovely to rest in regularly: it will make you feel rejuvenated as well as correct your posture.
-Roll a blanket into a firm roll that is the length of your whole back and head.
Have one or two cushions ready.
-Lie with your back and head on the roll.
-Use a cushion under your head: the back of your neck should feel relaxed and your chin comfortably relaxed to the throat.
-Stay in this position from 5-20 minutes. The longer time will make you feel more rested.
Neck pain, rounded shoulders and poor posture have to be approached from a whole-body perspective. To discuss how private yoga therapy sessions can help your whole body to support change, please contact me here.
You can also check out neck stretches on this previous blog:
and safe abdominal exercises on my video series: