Dump The Slump

Let us hope that one of the good things that will emerge from the pandemic will be an end to the culture which all but awarded a medal of honour to those who ‘soldiered on’ in the face of illness, colds and flu and continued to go into the office to work (enabling viruses they were suffering from to spread and thrive!)

With the ever increasing pressure and drive towards more success, achievement and profit, at the expense of quality of life and happiness, society has trained us to push through minor ailments and aches and pains, as just a ‘normal part of life’. Thus, we learn to ignore the natural warning signals from our body, telling us something is wrong and we need to change what we are doing (and adjust our priorities). Waiting until we are immobilised with pain or illness, is likely to have far more long term, negative repercussions.

Poor postural habits can so easily creep up on us, just because of sitting still for long periods – especially when using un-ergonomic furniture and work equipment positioning. In the recent circumstances, many of us have found ourselves having to improvise home offices in our kitchens and bedrooms, imagining it would only be short term….! 

Last week, I focused on sitting, the optimal position of the pelvis and how we can take simple measures to ensure our sitting posture is not damaging our spine (see video on Youtube).

This week I am bringing attention to the upper body and how a slumped posture (which, when sitting, starts from the pelvis) can lead to a chronic imbalance known as ‘upper crossed syndrome’.    

You can see this in action in the photos and even that it can start in childhood.

Imagine how common it is these days and how it might be affecting you or those around you.

The short term effect is restricted breathing, lower vitality and poor concentration (often sending us off in search of a fix of caffeine and/ or sugar!) The knock on effect is that the chronically over- stretched upper back muscles, are working extra hard to hold us upright. They become weakened, start to ache and may even develop fibrotic knots. We then feel as if we need to stretch (!) or get a massage, which brings only temporary relief. The shortened neck muscles get more and more tense, also ache and can lead to headaches – but we just pop some pills and soldier on….. 

With the loss of adequate muscle support and such poor alignment, the ligaments and joints also begin to cause trouble….

…maybe you can get the picture.

To redress the situation we need a good balance of strengthening, for the weakened back muscles with mild, gravity-resisted back bends and gentle, sustained lengthening for the short chest muscles, using supported, restorative chest releasing poses. These can be combined with breathing and attention to restrictions in the breathing mechanics.

In this week’s classes we will be exploring some poses and techniques along these lines.

Cobra Pose & Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Inhale, circle arms up, exhale out and down.

The most important things is to remove the underlying causes – long periods of sitting still, with poor posture at un-ergonomic work set ups. The solution is not difficult; adjust the position to improve posture and preserve the natural spinal curves, build in some activity, establish a routine of regular movement breaks with conscious breathing shoulder and arm movements.
The added benefits are that this will help reduce the need for caffeine and sugar and lead to better concentration, higher energy levels and even improved sleep quality.

Studies of a tribal people in Tanzania, the Hadza show that they actually sit around as much as we do, but in ways that are more active and they do not suffer from the same problems as us.