Does this look or feel familiar? Hunched shoulders, head forward, collapsed spine with rounded lower back. Up until 3 years ago, this position was my default. In fact I probably spent 10- 14 hours a day like this, for over a decade. I was totally unaware of my body and my posture.
How about you, how are you sitting right now?
In 2013, I pursued a long-time dream of becoming a Pilates instructor. I’d been practicing Pilates since 2001 and I fell in love with the exercise right away. I love how it requires a mental workout as well – training my brain to sense every part of my body and how each body part moved in isolation and with other parts. After I had my second child, my posture was terrible, despite having left my corporate office job. Pilates helped me build strength all around, not just in the core, and, more importantly, created an acute awareness of my body and what it’s doing in everyday life. Since embarking on this journey, I’ve discovered a passion for body awareness and movement, which I believe is an important aspect of our overall well-being.
I’m going to share a few quick tips for those whose work is mostly desk-bound and hope they help you build awareness and work towards a healthy posture.
1. Quick posture check – every 30 minutes
Set a timer and check your sitting position every 30 minutes when you’re working in front of a computer. Before making any changes, just take a few moments to sense how your body feels in that position. Is there any strain, tension, or soreness? Is it in the shoulders, lower back, or somewhere else in your body? What’s your core doing?
Now, take a deep inhale – get the air into the sides and back of your rib cage as much as you can. Pause. Exhale through pursed lips, as if blowing out a birthday candle, and simultaneously tense your abdominals and straighten your lower back. What do you notice? Yes! Your body will respond by lengthening from the lower back, where you’re starting to straighten, through the top of your head. Keep this posture and bring your shoulders down and back to open up your chest.
Try to breath intentionally to keep this sitting posture for about 5 minutes or as long as you can manage.
2. Quick stretches – every hour
If you can, each hour take a break and stand up from your chair. If you only have a minute or two to spare and can’t leave your desk, you can do these stretches right in your chair (as long as the chair is stationary).
Shift your body to the edge of your chair and sit tall on your sit bones, lengthening your spine from tailbone through the top of your head. Legs are a little wider than hip distance apart. Heels are directly below the knees so that you can still see your toes in front of your knee.
Arch & Curl
- Hands gently resting on your thighs.
- Inhale to open up the chest as your gaze moves upward. If your eyes are looking at the part of the ceiling directly above your head, then you’ve extended your neck too far. Imagine creating a nice arch from your tailbone through to the top of your head.
- Exhale through your mouth as you curl forward, pulling in your stomach and melting your chest in, stretching your spine, until your gaze is towards the floor between your legs.
- Repeat 5 times
- On the last repetition, from the curled position, inhale and stack your spine from the tailbone, one segment at a time, and back to the starting sitting position.
- With your hands resting gently on your thighs, take a deep inhale and lengthen your spine from tailbone through the top of your head.
- Exhale, twist to one side, allowing the same side hand to glide toward your body while the opposite side hand glides towards the knee. Hold for one inhale and exhale while pressing the opposite side hand into the inside of the knee to deepen the stretch. Be sure to initiate the movement from your torso.
- Inhale, return to center.
- Exhale, twist to the other side, just like in step 2.
- Inhale, return to center.
- Repeat 3-5 times on each side, alternating.
(A core challenge – try reversing the breath such that you twist as you inhale. With this breath pattern, you need to remember to engage your abdominals – pulling in your stomach – as you twist since it typically expands on the inhale)
If you use the Pomodoro Technique to break up your work every 25 minutes, the quick posture check and two stretches here are perfect for that Pomodoro break before you settle back in for the next 25 minutes.
Amie is a mom of two energetic and life-loving boys who keep her busy. Her passion for body awareness and movement stems from her own desire to enjoy physical play with her young boys without pain. This means keeping fit and strong, mentally and physically. Pilates and complimentary movement exercises help her do just that. Amie is passionate about sharing her knowledge and practices with others, especially families. She is a certified STOTT PILATES® instructor and qualified to teach Zen•Ga™.
She holds Pilates classes, both one-on-one and group sessions, at Woolf Works on Mondays and caters from absolute beginners to experienced. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.