I recently started practising Iyengar Yoga. This discipline of yoga, which concentrates on proper alignment of the body during poses, is really helping to correct the bad posture I have developed after years spent in the kitchen hunched over a chopping board, whilst working as a chef. Couple this with the forward rotation I experience when I paddle around on my surfboard and the time I spend sitting working at my computer, and  I have a serious case of "round shoulders". 

Having "rounded Shoulders" means my head and shoulders are forward of my body midline, which causes neck pain. My chest muscles are shortened and tight and to compensate my upper back muscles are lengthened and weak. To balance this shift in my upper body my lower back muscles are tight, creating an arch, which puts most of my weight in the front part of my foot. This has caused inflammation in my ball joints, meaning I roll onto the outsides of my feet when I walk, which has caused my arches to fall, not to mention what this mis alignment may be doing to my internal organs. So you have probably realized by now, that correct posture is key if you are going to go into old age happy, healthy and pain free.

I am not alone, it is estimated that a whopping 73% of the population have this condition. Rounded shoulders are more commonly a result of slouching when sitting, so is especially seen in people who have office jobs, work at a computer or drive frequently. 
In my training, as an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer and Pilates Instructor, I have studied musculoskeletal deviations and posture.  I am aware of how important posture is, not only for the duration of a yoga class or when I am training clients, so that they can avoid injury and increase their athletic performance, but in every aspect of daily life.  It is amazing to me how I can be so conscious of how I am holding my body for an hour or 2 a day when training but then completely complacent about it in every other "normal" daily activity I perform.

Most people have some form of alignment deviation. As a result, the body does not work at maximum efficiency. As the body is like a machine, we must think of that way. When a machine is properly aligned, the working parts act efficiently. This machine will last a lot longer than one that is out of alignment. In a mis aligned machine, wear and tear on the bearings increases, and stress and strain on the working parts produce general depreciation. Having just one body part misaligned causes other parts of the body to deviate out of their proper alignment to compensate. So it is important to check your posture regularly so that you can work to correct them quickly so that they do not become problematic.

To check your posture, stand with your back against a wall. Your heels, the back of your calves, butt, upper back and head should all comfortably touch the wall.
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Here are some common body mis-alignments.
So, how did you do? 

For most of us most, our back problems come from being in a seated position for an extended period of time. 
It is not usually until you stand up that you realize that you are in pain and so often miss the link between how you are sitting and the cause of your back pain. You may be surprised to learn that the pressure exerted on your spine is up to 11 times greater when you are sitting down compared to standing or lying down.

When you stand your body weight is more evenly distributed over a variety of structures, including your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. When you are sitting, however, the abdominal "corset" relaxes and the majority of your body weight shifts to load onto the disks in your spine. Over time, this increased load can lead to so many problems from pinched nerves to osteoarthritis.

So here are 10 ways to reduce problems associated with long term seated postures.

1) Limit the time you sit to as little as possible. Now, when work at my computer, I  frequently stand to review what I have just written. This way I am alternating between sitting and standing so that I regularly relieve my back of the stress of sitting (I also usually do jumping jacks or squats in this time for a little 2 minute HIIT hit too).

2) Buy a chair with a lumbar support. These have been shown to lower the intra-discal pressure on your spine compared to chairs with out these supports.

3) Make sure your chair has armrests, this also reduces pressure on the spine.

4) Sit in a slightly reclined position when possible. It has been proven that sitting at an angle of 120 degrees lowers disk pressure, so make sure you get a chair that allows you to adjust your position.
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"Proper form" when sitting at your desk.
5) Since keeping your knees close together makes you more prone to "slumping", choose a chair that is wide enough that it allows you to sit with your knees apart. 

6) Because we all come in different shapes and sizes, choose a chair that allows you to adjust the height as well as the angle. Make sure your feet can fully touch the ground or make sure you use a support if not. I often place my yoga blocks under my feet for this reason, as I am only 5'4".

7) Make sure your desk is free of clutter. Not only do I subscribe to the saying "tidy desk, tidy mind" but ensuring you have space on your desk so that you can rest your forearms at 90 degrees and close to your sides will help alleviate the pressure on your back. This position reduces the stress on the muscles in between your shoulders and upper back and also your neck.

8)  As standing allows you to distribute your body weight more evenly on all the other parts of your musculo-skeletal frame, invest in your future and purchase a standing desk. I found this one online with an in built treadmill so you can workout and get your work done simultaneously - Genius!
9) When you pause for thought, give your body a quick head to toe evaluation and note where you need to make any adjustments. Soon you will have formed a habit of doing this and find good posture easy to maintain.

10) I have found the key to having a well aligned body is to identify your weak areas and work a little everyday to strengthen them. You will probably also find that the opposing muscles are tight so having a daily stretching regimen will help too. A few minutes of conscious effort every day will help keep your joints in their natural place so you will not only look better but you will perform better too. 

If you find yourself in a seated position due to a long commute, then you may find this video from motors.co.uk helpful too.
 


Comments

Nice fitness blog!!! I really like the tips provided by the blogger regarding this important subject. Thanks for sharing.

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11/22/2012 7:24am

The best way to get rid of muscle pain is to exercise regularly. Thus, our muscles will be in great shape, I recommend Crossfit.

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