Moving less - sitting more?
It’s not easy to be locked down at home. Having less interaction with colleagues, not moving around so much, doing ALL your work from your desk, couch, or bed. Yup, this current situation got us all sitting more and moving less.
Unfortunately, most people don’t sit in favourable positions and this compromises our posture. To start, sitting causes the pelvis to rotate backward, which puts a lot of pressure on your low back, which then causes back problems. As a result of this, the head moves forward, putting a strain on the neck. This, in turn, causes the shoulders to round forward making us develop a hunchback. Not flattering! Once in a hunched forward position, the ribcage gets compressed, which restricts our breathing. So now our energy level is going down. Additionally, our hips get tighter from excessive sitting, which can cause low back pain, knee, foot, and ankle problems.
So how can we take better care of ourselves as we work from home?
Here are five stretches to practice whenever your body and mind yearn for a break. Take 5 deeps breaths and here we go.
Too many of us strain to see the computer. It’s either is too far away, too low, too high, too small, or too dim and this has an effect on our neck.
Sit up straight and hold on to your seat with one hand. Then place the other hand over the opposite ear and first lift your head up and then let it fall towards the shoulder. No pressing down. Let gravity do its thing.
Then bring your hand towards the back of your head and bring your nose towards your armpit as if you want to take a good sniff to see if that smell is you.
Just like the neck, most of us neglect our shoulders when working. This stretch will work on the armpits and the backs of the upper arms (triceps). We open the chest and extend the side-body on the side where the arm is up.
Bend your arm behind your head and down your back, and with your other hand lift your elbow up and in towards your spine. Suck your navel in and lengthen through your lower back. Press the back of your head into your arm. See if you can look straight ahead.
3. Chest and upper back
Our chests can get tight from hunching forward over the computer, and our upper back feels the strain too. Loosen yourself up with these two exercises.
Sit on the edge of your chair. Lean forwards and interlace your hands behind your back and lift them up to the edge of your chair. Bring the navel in and elongate your back. Look straight ahead.
Twists are very therapeutic for the spine and help to restore the spine's natural range of motion which gets lost by too much sitting. Additionally, they stimulate circulation and helps to cleanse the organs, pushing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. Yippee!
This one twists the entire spine whilst also giving the chest (pectoralis major and minor a stretch)
Put your knees together and place one hand on the opposite knee. Press your hand to the knee and the knee to the hand. Lengthen through your spine and bring the other hand around to grab for the back ledge of the chair. On your inhale lengthen through your spine and on your exhale press your hands to the knee and twist.
Alternatively, Sit with your side parallel to the back of your chair keeping the knees together. Slowly start to twist your shoulder to face the back ledge of the chair. The front hand pulls towards you and the backhand press into the chair. Ensure your hips stay level towards the front.
Tight hips weaken and shorten hip muscles, which affects your overall posture and body functioning. Here, we stretch the outer hip, the gluteus, and the piriformis - a little muscle that can cause sciatica often giving rise to lower back pain.
Place one ankle onto the knee and flex your foot. Place on hand to the ankle and one to the knee and lengthen through your spine. Close your eyes and lean forward. It’s important to keep the spine straight. Take five deep breaths.
6. Bonus: stand up!
No excuses! Sitting is the new smoking.
Standing up increases circulation throughout your entire body and takes the pressure off your back. So get up. Walk around. That's it.
Marie-Louise Strøyberg is a yoga teacher and meditation facilitator and the founder of Mind Your Business - a corporate moving mindfulness concept integrating movement, breathwork, and meditation to increase wellbeing and health at work.