Archive for the ‘Yoga and work’ Category

Why do we hunch over smart phones?

Friday, May 18th, 2018

I was walking in my local park recently when my eye was caught by a woman walking towards me. She was walking well, an easy stride and a natural free movement.

Then she took out her phone to check a message. Instant transformation for the worse. She hunched over, her body locked up and her natural stride disappeared to be replaced by something much more awkward.

That little mini drama is played out with almost everyone I know (often including me!).

It’s the moment of disappearing into a whole set of beliefs, movements and attitudes that end up creating that hunched up, iposture look.

What causes this?
I think there are 3 main causes.

We don’t really know what smart phones are. We’re bombarded by marketing that presents them as cool, friendly and trustworthy devices. Yet, what are they really to you?

We don’t know what we truly believe about who we are and how we interact with the world. Smart phones are often used as an extension to how we interact with the world. If we have trouble with that, then smart phones will probably be an aspect of that.

We don’t know how our bodies work when they are functioning naturally. We hold on to faulty internal maps of where and what everything in our body does.

A simple example: if you think that your jaw is part of your head (as opposed to being a limb of your skull) then you’ll probably push your chin out as you look at your smart phone screen. That movement of pushing your chin out is the start of the iposture problem.

Want to find out more? Come along to my workshop on Computers, Smartphone, Yoga and the Alexander Technique on Saturday 9th June 10am to 1pm in London, UK.

Common mistakes with computer posture

Friday, May 11th, 2018

We’re all given well-meaning advice about posture when it comes to sitting at computers. Most of it is either too vague or general to be of use of just plain wrong.

Take this article for example:
https://thenewdaily.com.au/life/wellbeing/2018/05/01/good-posture-practices/

It advises this for standing – ‘While standing, it is best to keep your shoulders back and aligned’.

It sounds like it means something but quickly doesn’t.  Shoulders back from where? From the front of your body or from your neck? How far back? Aligned with what? Is this a one time movement or do you need to keep repeating it? How much effort will it take?

Then there’s this one
https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Pages/Howtositcorrectly.aspx

This page give advice on ergonomics, the height of your screen, the position of your mouse.

Both sites give advice based on an outmoded idea of how our body works in practice.

In this idea, posture is static, positional and requires effort to maintain. Corrections are about getting good bio-mechanics or ergonomics.

They ignore our sensed, emotional and spiritual connections to our environment. If there is a disconnect in any of those it show up in your body as ‘bad’ posture.

So what is bad posture?
Bad posture is holding a position which is hard for your body to maintain easily for a period of time and believing that there is no other way of doing it.

Our bodies are flexible and adaptable. We can put ourselves into a wide variety of positions without a problem – even the infamous iposture or text neck position is fine. The problem is that iposture / text is difficult for our body to maintain for any length of time. Add the usual anxieties that most people bring to the act of using a computer and smart-phone and you’ve got a recipe for strain that could lead to injury.

So what is good posture at the computer?
Here’s my definition:
The ability to respond to the computer with balance, poise, ease, enjoyment no matter what pressure you’re under. It has physical components too. These are the relationship of your body to the surface you are resting on. The organization of your torso, particularly your head, spine and pelvis. The habits that pull out of this ease are multi-layered and includes your emotions, your mental focus and your sense of connectedness as well as your muscles and bones.

Here’s a definition from Pathways to a Centred Body by Donna Farhi and Leila Stuart

Structural Core Stability is defined as the ability to center your body in a clear relationship to ground, gravity, and space. Bringing awareness to the core structures of the body can assist in the synergistic activation of both primary and secondary core muscles. Your body is then able to organize itself around a fluidly stable and responsive core.

Here’s one tip that will begin to change your posture at a computer:
Connect backwards from the task on the screen you’re looking at to your body so that your task includes being aware of your body. It is this inclusiveness that will allow your work on a computer flow.

Want to find out more? Come along to my workshop on Computers, Smartphones, Yoga and the Alexander Technique on Saturday 9th June 2018, 10am to 1pm in London,UK.

Workshop Saturday 9th June, Working with Computers/Smartphone using Alexander Technique and Yoga

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Cost is £28. There is an early bird discount of £22 if you apply before 12th May 2018

Computers and smart phone cause a lot of people problems. Aches and pains, even debilitating conditions and injuries.

But what if we could figure out what was really causing each one of us the problem? This workshop uses ideas from the Alexander Technique and Yoga to explore the remedies for computer / smart phone issues.

Human beings have always had tools. These tools that have evolved over time to be part of our culture and we use them in ways that are almost semi-conscious. How often to you think about the way you hold a knife when you cut an apple? That’s because the design has evolved and it’s now an accepted part of our culture.

It wasn’t always like this, think what it would to be one of the first to use a knife to cut your food.

It’s the same with a computer. Compared to most of our tools, it’s in the very early stages of design and development.

What if there was a different way of being with a computer or smart phone that actually felt good in your body? What if we could slow down and take the time to figure out how to use these tools to actually make your life better? Come along to this workshop and find out how to do this.

The workshop will consist of

Body mapping
Body mapping offers the opportunity to bring the more anatomical approaches into a more thoughtful reflective approach which combines movement, function, anatomy and emotion in one package. It looks at what our internal map of our body is and then asks how we feel about that.

Yoga Poses
We’ll be working with some simple poses that help you recover from working on a computer.

Personal work on your issues
General knowledge of your body and doing Yoga stretches help, but it is figuring what exactly your issues are that will really help you make a difference. In this part, we’ll be using the Alexander Technique to build a more personal approach to your work with computers and smart phones.

We will be doing some simple vinyasas (flowing sequences) and asana as part of the class.

It is suitable for all yoga practitioners including complete beginners.

Click here to apply for this workshop

Working with computers, how to find ease

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

I’m at an Alexander Technique retreat and I’ve been given a student who has never done yoga, never done Alexander Technique and he wants to sort out his shoulders. After a bit of going back and forth, it turns out that the source of his problems was how he worked on a computer.

I asked him to recreate the situation in his office, we set up a desk with a computer and a phone. He started doing what he normally did. He tucked his phone into his shoulder, started typing and then tried to answer a question from his colleague – all at the same time. I was struck not by his posture (which is never a static thing), but by his timing.

He was trying to do everything all at once, answer the phone, talk, type. Most of the problem wasn’t something he was doing in his body, it was something he was doing in his life. His body was just desperately trying to keep up and sending him urgent signals that he was doing too much!

Donna Farhi says “I think now I can say I hardly ever meet people who truly have spinal problems. I meet spines that have people problems.”

And that was the case here. Just asking him to figure out how to do one thing at a time produced a noticeable change. He stopped crouching over his computer, sat up, looked around and for the first time took a deep breath.

That wasn’t all I needed to do with him.
I also needed to work with how he rotated his forearm to hold a mouse. Like many people, he had locked his elbow to his side and that meant he couldn’t rotate his forearm comfortably to hold a mouse.

After a bit of work with my hands, he was getting more comfortable.

Of course, unless he also figured out how to put these ideas into practice using the idea from the retreat, then he would simply revert back to his old problem.

Once you’ve figured out what the issue is, you still need to practice to make sure that you remain problem free.

I’m going to be looking into this topic in more depth in my workshop on ease in computer use with Yoga and the Alexander Technique in a couple of months.

Using Computers & Smart Phones with ease using Yoga and the Alexander Technique. Saturday 9th June 2018, 10am to 1pm (https://www.yogaground.com/workshop/39)

Come along to this workshop and find out how to do this.

Alexander Technique and Yoga: Knee care

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Knees are vulnerable parts of us. They need lots of TLC through our lives or otherwise they’ll start complaining.

My 18 year old niece had recently sprained her ankle. It seemed to heal up but then she was getting a sore knee, particularly when climbing stairs. So I volunteered to see if I could help her out.

She climbed up the stairs to show me what was up. Everything fine on left but when it came to the right knee, a definite wince. I could see that she was bracing her knee and was then pushing her foot down really strongly to get up the step.

Pain tends not to make us more adventurous or skilled when it comes to movement. 

We get into all sorts of compensation strategies to avoid pain. Problem is, if we don’t work with our bodies’ natural design, those compensation strategies end up making things worse.

When we have pain and unnecessary muscle tension it can trigger our fight flight response, our bodies get ready for short bursts of extraordinary effort.

In this case, the bracing of her knee made her feel like she had to put extra oomph into the push. And that ended up putting weight abruptly through her knee joint, leading to more pain. Which lead to more oomph and.. well you get the picture.

Like all joints, our knees love weight, but not so abruptly that our bodies can’t naturally stabilize that joint.

The remedy? I got this tip from Alexander teacher Bruce Fertman. When it comes to climbing stairs, our head needs to be over the front foot and moving upwards in the direction we’re going in.

In my niece’s case, like all of us who have had trouble with stairs, her head was pulled back. I asked her to step up so that her right foot was on the step above ready to move off. I used my hands to put her head over her foot and then waited until her body reorganised itself. I could feel lots of activity under my hands, her muscles were abruptly switching on and off, like her nervous system was trying 10 things all at once. I waited and then there was a moment where something quieted down and switched on at the same time. That was the go signal I had been waiting for and I asked her to start moving.

We did it a couple of times, each time, less pain.

It took about 5 minutes. It was a good lesson for me too, even with pain, it only takes a few minutes to start to come out of it.

Those 5 minutes won’t fix all your problems but they will get you moving in the right direction.

And then the rest is still a big deal as it requires practice – the thing that we’d all like to skip!

Yoga and positive thinking

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Who wouldn’t like to think positively? And keep doing it better? Probably most of us would admit to wanting to be better at positive thinking.

The trouble is, there is an inherent contradiction in the term positive thinking. We think thoughts. And once that thought comes to your concisous mind, you label it positive or negative.

So, it’s not the thoughts that are the problem, they are just thoughts. Our brain generates thoughts and associations in the same way that our gall bladder produces bile. What most people have difficulty with is unwanted thought patterns which repeat again and again like an old fashioned record stuck in a groove.

These unwanted thought patterns are sometimes a symptom of  tension or maybe illness in your body. And sometimes, the thoughts we label as negative are just things that we have difficulty with in our lives. I’ve noticed again and again that if I release tension in my body, my thought patterns change. So just doing some yoga and relaxing a bit might sort out the problem.

But that doesn’t always get to the source of the problem. Desikachar in ‘The Heart of Yoga’ talks about samskara (roughly translated as habit or conditioning) and getting to the root of the habit. With unwanted and persistent thoughts that are not generated by tension in your body or unresolved issues from your past, you need to stop the thought just as it arises and choose another thought before the negative thought begins. Since our brain generates associations very quickly, we need some way of becoming aware.

The best ways to break a habit are:

  • A meditative practice which allows us to observe thoughts and stop them before it all begins.
  • A form of mantra which is repeated again and again with the intention of replacing a bad habit or attitude with a better one.

It’s possible with practice but isn’t easy. Most of us are trying to deal with the thoughts after the fact. So some techniques which might be useful.

  • Acknowledging the positives can rebalance our thinking. A standard technique is taking time to acknowledge the good things in your life, the things you feel grateful for.
  • Find the context, the big picture. Telling yourself not to take it personally if someone rubs you up the wrong way, that they do it to everyone is an example.
  • Break out of any isolation that you might feel. Take time to acknowledge that other people are in the same position and also struggling with the same problems.
  • Have compassion for yourself. You are human and that means that you are imperfect and that’s still OK.
  • Find ways of dealing with stress, lack of sleep or improper nutrition in ways which suit your body and your personality.
  • Take time to reflect on the things that trigger the thoughts. Gradually learning to disable the triggers will give your mind a breathing space and allow you to meditate clearly on the causes of the thought in the first place.

There are many forms of meditation which allow you to see the root of the habits and choose different pathways. If you want to explore this, I can recommend getting hold of ‘A Path with Heart’ by Jack Kornfield. It’s beautifully written and gives many practical meditations.

 

 

If you want to explore replacing thoughts by using affirmations, then Louise Hay’s ‘Heal Your Life’ is a also good read.

 

 

 

 

If you want a very entertaining talk on happiness and positive thinking at work (a place a lot of people have difficulty being positive about), check out http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

This blog post arose out of some conversations in my intermediate yoga class, so thanks to Jo for bringing it up.

Yoga and working on computers

Monday, March 28th, 2011

An interesting animation on how to sit at computers…

Yoga and the office

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

OfficeIf you do a search for yoga in the office, it brings up a whole raft of results. They all have images of yogi doing stretches, either sitting on chairs or next to some sort of office furniture. Often the results are unintentionally hilarious. There’s a YouTube video which contains a 20 minute workout from a well known teacher sitting in a pair of shorts at a table on beach. There’s soothing music while the teacher goes through a routine which can only be described as extremely athletic. Perhaps there are offices in the wackier parts of California where this is the norm but a 20 minute routine where you are sharing lots of body sweat while the tinny sounds of indian music coming out of your iwhatever is unlikely to win you co-worker of the month in UK offices.

There’s very little written about yoga as wholistic discipline in the context of office work. Which is a pity because the moment you enter an office, you are in presence of a very strong system. And systems need to be approached as a whole in order to bring about change. So, that back bend which is so loving photographed on a brochure might be just the thing to sort out your office stress. On the other hand, it might be completely irrelevant as the source of the problem could be long hours, poor management, lack of money.

According to Body Support in the Office: Sitting, Seating, and Low Back Pain, Herman Miller site:

“The strongest predictors of back pain discovered so far are surprising: smoking, lack of work enjoyment, low overall happiness levels, and workers’ perceptions of lack of company concern. But even for these predictors, causal relationships are muddy; these social/psychological issues may affect whether people report back problems rather than whether they experience them. “

Yoga works best for me in an office setting where it is a quiet moment thread of awareness which is continuously renewed and ever present. Hmm, sounding familiar? Well, things a focus on the breath might be a start. What, on top of deadlines, co-workers, managers, silly working hours I’m supposed have this ever present thingie going on as well? Actually, yes, it’s possible with practice and anyway, the every present thread of awareness is the support for all the rest.

This is a topic I’m putting some thought into at the moment. I don’t have the answers yet but will be returning to it in a future blog.

Happing breathing!

PS. If you find that youtube video, watch it and admire.