At the Office

You’ve made it in to work and thanks to  your new way of looking at things your eye is not twitching and you may even have a slight smile on your face that is not entirely based on coffee.  Well done.

We now come to a particularly insidious form of stress.  It’s extra trouble because it’s low grade, it doesn’t feel like stress.  You aren’t breathing more heavily, your heart is not thumping in your chest.  I’m talking about how many of us here in the modern world do our jobs,  seated at a desk, staring at a computer.

First of all, there’s the chair.  While chairs have been around for a while it’s only recently that we started sitting in them for 8-12 hours a day.  A chair is not optimal.  Most chair are flat or even tilt back a little bit.  This causes us to sit on our tails – on the base of our spine-and curl our backs.  This in turn causes our pelvis to tilt back – not the way it likes to be.  Go look at the model of a skeleton.  Its pelvis is tilted forward.  This allows the pelvic bone to properly support out internal organs and allows free movement of the hip joint.  Have you been to a yoga class lately?  How many people have tight hips, need blocks under their knees in baddha konasana?  Go to a yoga class in Japan, where they spend a lot of time seated on the floor,  and you’ll find people with open hips – even the men who are generally less flexible than women.

Then we have the desk and the computer.  They may cause you to hunch your upper back while you mouse and type.  And if you’re a woman the desk is probably at the wrong height so you have to raise your chair and then your feet don’t quite meet the ground.

So there you are, off balance and hunched up for many hours every day staring into a lit screen.  Your body is not happy.  It may be giving you signals with lower back pain, neck stiffness, and general tightness all over.  You may be getting headaches or blurry vision.

I often see people, women in particular, walking around with their shoulders hunched, a slight suggestion of a hump on their back.  This is the result of sitting in a hunched position all day.  I have to supress the urge to pull their shoulders back.  Try this.  Get up and go to a full length mirror (or a dark window).  Turn sideways.  Stand normally and then look at yourself. Are you nice and straight, shoulders over hips, a gentle curve at the neck and lower back?  No?  Take a deep breath, deep as you can and let it out.  Now, straighten up.  Take a deep breath again.  Is it deeper?  I bet it is, if only a little.  When you curve forward you not only ruin the line of that great suit you’re wearing you constrict your lungs.  Less air=less oxygen to your organs – including your brain.

What can you do?  Your job involves time on the computer.  You aren’t sufficiently high on the food chain to rate a custom desk and chair.  There are ways to help yourself out.

If you have an adjustable chair it may allow you to adjust the seat so it tilts forward, allowing your pelvis to do so too.  If does not adjust you can get a little pillow or blanket to tilt yourself forward.  If your feet don’t fully touch the ground invest in a couple of yoga blocks.  They work great as lifts for your feet – we all used them at a yoga studio where I worked for a while.

Then, don’t sit there for hours.  Get up every 30 minutes or so.  Take a little stretch, maybe even a little walk.  If you don’t have a window but can get to one, do so.  Look at the outside world.   At least rise up out of your cubicle space and look into the distance. Let your eyes focus on something far away for a bit so they can relax too.  DO NOT eat lunch at your desk.  Get out, even if only for 30 minutes.

These little adjustments will make a difference.  Try them and see.

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