Sitting Tall

Nov 15, 2010

Often times we sit in our chairs slouched over.  We do not think about it, we just sit the way we do. However, we may develop bad habits if we don’t sit in proper alignment. For example, at my job I usually sit at a computer all day. I am usually sitting up with shoulders rounded forward, which puts strain on my neck and shoulders, or slouched back in my chair, which puts strain on the low back. After work I sometimes feel pain in my neck, shoulders, and/or low back.

Before I started yoga teacher training, I knew that the way I sat was not the best for my body, but I never truly realized how much of my muscle/joint pain could be attributed to the way I sat. Even though cannot change the fact that I am at a computer for most of the day, I can change and be aware of the way I sit.  I can also do some simple stretches throughout the day to keep your muscles active and the blood circulating in your body.

How does one sit tall, in proper alignment?  In yoga they have different cues for sitting in alignment. Some of these key actions for sitting in alignment include:

  • Press down through the feet
  • Anchor into the sit bones
  • Lift the side ribs
  • Broaden the chest and collarbones
  • Slide the shoulder blades down the back

Obviously, you cannot be thinking of all of the above action at every minute throughout the day, but I find it helpful to remind myself of these actions for proper alignment and doing a few simple seated stretches throughout the day. By doing these simple stretches throughout the day my muscles and joints are feeling better.

Here are a few stretches you can try:

1. Shoulder Raises:

  • Inhale and raise your shoulders up to your ears,
  • Exhale draw them back and down to the starting position,
  • Do the right, then left shoulders individually.
  • Raise and lower both shoulders at the same time
  • Do this exercise 10 times raising the right and left shoulder and 10 times raising both shoulders

2. Shoulder Circles:

  • Think about moving the shoulder-blades: open apart> up > squeeze toward the spine > drag down the spine
  • Explore the full range of the shoulders, really focusing on each direction the shoulders move
  • Breath deeply and fully as you move.
  • Do 5 circles then reverse the direction and do 5 the other way.
  • Move both shoulders together in a circle
  • Then try to move each shoulder individually

3. Neck Stretch

  • Tuck your chin toward your throat (looking downward) Take 3-5 deep breaths.
  • Rotate your right ear toward your right shoulder then pass through #1 to press your left ear toward your left shoulder (3-5 times)
  • Hold on each side for 3-5 breaths

4. Side Stretch:

  • Sit up straight and lengthen through your front body.
  • Anchor your hips into the chair.
  • INHALE: Reach your right arm straight overhead to the left  enough to feel a stretch on the right side waist. Extend all the way through your fingertips.
  • EXHALE twist your navel to the right
  • Stay here 3 to 5 completes breaths then, exhale to come back to center and lower right arm
  • Repeat on the other side.

5. Seated Twist:

  • Sitting at the front of your chair, sit as straight as possible.
  • Place your right hand on the outside of your right knee or thigh.
  • Inhale: lengthen your spine
  • Exhale twist your upper body to the left, (you may be able to look over your left shoulder)
  • Inhale: grow a little taller in the twist,
  • Exhale twist a little more to the right, if that is possible for you.
  • Stay in the twist and attempt to deepen it for 3 to 5 breaths
  • Come out of the twist on an inhalation.
  • Repeat twist the right side

Author: Ryan