BY: TRISHA CURLING
There is no doubt that technology is great and that it makes our lives easier and saves time in so many ways. Like anything else, though, it is still our responsibility to use technology and the devices we use daily in a responsible way. I know how difficult this can be for many of us, it’s easy to get caught up in what we are doing and not consider how mindlessly we are using devices like our smartphones and/or desktop computers at home or at work. This is why I find yoga so helpful. It really helps to offset some of the “damage” we might have done throughout the day. It also helps to create more awareness around our daily habits, hopefully helping us to prevent further damage or and/or to maintain healthy habits.
We’re so fortunate to have access to information at our fingertips. I do realize that this can be both good and bad, but let’s look at the positive for a moment. Doing research for school, doing our banking, or even simply checking a movie time on our smartphones seems harmless and great because of the time we might save, unfortunately, there are many more things taking place if we look a little bit deeper. Typically, if we were to examine our body positioning when texting/using our phones, we tend to be looking on a downward slope with forward head carriage (creating a lack of alignment of ears over shoulders). This can put a great deal of pressure on the spine, and in turn create more tension in our pectoralis muscles (chest), upper back (i.e. upper trapezius and levator scapula), and muscles that support our head and neck (i.e. splenius capitus and splenius cervicis). It does not only mean stretching these muscles, it also means that we potentially need to strengthen our weak deeper neck muscles (i.e. longus capitus and longus colli) and potentially weaker mid back muscles (lower trapezius and serratus anterior). All of these issues can lead to things like headache or neck pain.
This position can often be seen if we are sitting for long periods of time, especially at work, perhaps on a desktop computer. These are habits that we form due to repetition and eventually becomes “comfortable” or “natural” when in fact this is not how we were designed to perform daily movement optimally.
What does yoga have to do with this?
Yoga gives you the opportunity to execute postures like (backbends and/or chest openers and twists) to not only offset some of the pain and/or tendency to roll the shoulders forward, but when doing these postures regularly, we tend to notice our habits and alignment when we are doing things like using our phones or sitting at our desks at work. Even standing in line at the grocery store can be done with better alignment and posture due to increased awareness. Incorporating a regular yoga practice helps to bring this awareness outside of our practice.
We stick our neck out thinking that it is ok because we are engaging in something that is “normal” for our society now. Straining to look more closely at our phones or computers may be causing a great deal of discomfort and mobility issues that may not be present in the moment, but will show themselves later and maybe affect other areas of the body too.
Working one on one with a yoga teacher can be very helpful in assessing these issues. You can then walk way with a tool bag of strategies to release tissues, to stretch and strengthen muscles so that you may stop sticking your neck out for things that are causing more harm than good.