There you are again, your arms reaching forward and your head tilted down. The tension that comes with sitting at a desk is an issue at the new tech-centered workplace.
It’s the same effect if you stand all day; your posture may suffer. Whether you’re working at a desk, as a stylist at a salon or a teacher grading papers, ouch—slouch hurts!
The reasons this body posture can cause problems or pain begins with the imbalance of the muscles that act on the spine. When doing close work like sitting at a desk, the muscles at the front of the shoulders and neck are pulled forward causing tension, which in turn stretches the muscles behind the neck and shoulders, causing weakness.
To help rebalance your body and be fit, be sure to incorporate exercises that strengthen your upper back and stretch your chest, such as bent-over or upright rowing and chin ups/pulldowns.
It can also help to take a break from repetitive movements during the day. Here are two exercises that can help offset that “computer slouch.”
Try A Half Cow Face Pose When Sitting At A Desk
The yoga pose known as Cow Face Pose is a seated pose that provides an amazing stretch for both the hips and the shoulders, while challenging us to maintain a long spine.
You can perform this exercise at your desk with relative ease, but you likely won’t be able to manage the traditional body position with the legs deeply crossed and knees stacked. Still, the upper body portion of Cow Face is well worth the effort to combat daily slouchy or slack posture.
- When sitting at a desk, sit up tall, stretch your right arm out sideways, parallel to the floor. Rotate your right thumb down, rolling the palm back, then you’re your right arm around behind you, bending the elbow and reaching the back of your hand along spine.
- With your right shoulder rolling a bit forward, you may be able to work your hand up your spine toward your shoulder blades. Breathe deeply and try to keep the right elbow in contact with your back.
- Leaving the right arm in place, reach the left arm straight up with the palm facing behind you, then bend that elbow to place the palm behind your head. Keep your left elbow reaching to the sky as you work your left hand down toward your right hand, along you spine.
- If possible, grasp your bottom fingers with your top hand and hold, pulling in on the ribs and keeping the head and neck extended upward. If you can’t reach (it is a huge stretch for the shoulder blades so it is common to be unable to touch your fingers), try this pose while holding a strap or towel in the top hand, so you can dangle it down behind your back and let the bottom hand reach up to grab hold of it.
- Hold for about a minute and repeat this same pose on the other side, beginning with the left arm behind your back and the right elbow behind your head.
The Shoulder Blade Squeeze
This is a simple exercise you can perform while sitting at a desk, in the car, or standing in line for the elevator. Even just getting into position is a corrective action for your posture. Anytime you can open your shoulders and drop them down your back, plus engage your abs by pulling in your navel, it helps work against effects of looking down all day.
- Sit up in your chair and lengthen your spine. Avoid sticking the chest out “at attention” – instead simply lift up your chin to bring your gaze straight ahead, grow your back taller and engage your abdominals by drawing in the belly button to support your low back.
- Exhale and release any tension from your neck, shoulders and back, while maintaining your tall posture and tight tummy. Drop your shoulder blades down into neutral and tilt your chin up to look at the ceiling.
- Inhale and return your gaze to straight ahead. Then pull your scapula (your shoulder blades, or “wing bones”) back behind you, as if squeezing a softball between them. Hold to a count of ten, then release back to neutral.
- Repeat the movement of head and shoulders three to five times, several times a day.