Recently, I read a British article called “Do you suffer from IPosture” which you can read in the following link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2439365
It was found that 84% of 18 to 24-years-olds have admitted to suffering back pain in the last 12 months – perhaps because they were spending a large amount of time hunching over tablets and smartphones. Besides, this age group now loses more working days a year to back pain than those in their parents’ generation. Also, half of the population experience pain in the neck or lower back every year.
Are you in this age group? Do you go to the yoga class in the hope to get some relief?
Or do these issues actually keep you away from yoga?
Yoga is a good start for these neck and back pain because stretching tight muscles can be very helpful provided you do not force your stretch excessively. Of course, it also feels awfully good. The question is: what do you actually integrate from your yoga class and what is it you forget as soon as you leave the yoga studio? It seems to me that increased flexibility and strength are definitely yoga benefits that can drive you back to your class because you can feel the difference in your everyday life. However, could there be something missing in your practice? What could account for the difference in how aligned you look on the yoga mat and how it all melts away when you grab that smartphone or when you find yourself in front of a screen, be it the computer or the TV?
Can you give me a specific example?
Ok. For instance, when doing your eagle pose, your head neck and torso are aligned and your arms are bent at the elbows, hands pointing up. Then your class over, you go to the changing room and grab your smartphone to check your messages. Before you know it, do you find yourself with your neck extended forward as your eyes face your smartphone which is itself parallel to the ground? Head neck and torso no longer are in alignment and the forward extension past your chest of both your neck and head are pulling your shoulders forward and down as well. Does that sound familiar? Look at the pictures below.
Why is alignment present on the mat and so difficult to remember off the mat?
First, you are mindful of your postural balance when in your yoga class in a way you are not outside of it. Still, you should not have to think about your postural balance all the time. So mindfulness is only part of the solution. The other part is to have a deeper understanding of movement, an understanding that includes the awareness of your postural reflexes and how to activate them. Without letting your postural reflexes do their job, you are using too much muscular tension to control your yoga pose. As a result, you cannot sustain it for very long. As a matter of fact, you are building unnecessary muscle tension while you are trying to build strength. That excess tension interferes with your postural muscles strength build-up. Your postural muscles are in charge of your postural balance and can do so for long periods of time. When interfered with however, they can no longer do their job. They become lazy and make you surrender to gravity as in reading the smartphone after the yoga class.
As shown on the pictures above, you can start by bringing your yoga awareness to your everyday activities. For instance, next time you grab that smartphone to read your messages, don’t sacrifice your head neck and torso alignment. Use your eagle pose as a model of how to bring the phone in front of your face instead of binging your head and neck down to the phone. When possible and if you are planning to use your phone for a while, have your elbows supported so that you don’t have to hold your arms. You could use the back of a chair if it is tall enough for your height. You could sit and lean forward so your elbow rest on your thighs close to the knees or above them depending on your body type. Once you know what you do not want to sacrifice, you will figure something out that works in your environment. And till you learn to activate your postural reflexes so you can release and expand into your inner space, make sure you use the least amount of effort to do what you do. Release body excess tension into your support without sacrificing your head neck torso alignment. You will be ahead of the game!
Coming next: Off the Mat Yoga and working at the computer!