You've heard the news. Extended time spent at "desk" jobs are contributing to the rise in obesity and obesity related diseases and now with much of the country under shelter in place, working from home has become the new office job. Jobs that require extensive time in front of a computer screen play a role in physical ailments conditions long before the weight gain sets in. Put more bluntly at a recent TedX conference and covered by WIRED magazine, sitting is the new smoking. But, you're in luck. In addition to regular physical activity, awareness to the symptoms of these five common desk-related ailments and knowing simple steps to correct them can help you prevent injury. (Note: if injury has already set in, consult a physician.)
Low Back Pain
Compression in the lower spine can lead to reduced mobility in spinal joints, joint fusion and build up of scar tissue. Prolonged periods of sitting can also compress your sciatic nerve. Ouch! This major nerve descends from your low back and branches off into your backside and down your legs.
Simple Sun Salutes. Half Sun Salutes are a great way to move in your office without splitting your khakis. Here's how:
Start in Mountain Pose
inhale to reach up
exhale, soften your knees and forward fold from the hips,
inhale to half-way lift,
exhale to forward fold,
inhale stand up and reach up,
exhale widen the elbows out to goal post (think about the motion of a 'lat pulldown'), inhale straighten the arms back up
exhale hands to heart in prayer.
Repeat 3 - 5 times.
Tight Hip Flexors
Sitting down for long periods of time brings the muscles in the front of your hips (responsible for forward flexion at the hip joint, bringing the thigh up as in a knee raise) into a continual shorten and engaged state. Over time, the tissue itself can become stiff and unyielding, causing muscle imbalance and eventually injury.
Kneeling Crescent Lunge (anjaneyasana) This pose is a great way to release your hip from the sitting position and bonus it may help your low back feel much better! Here's how:
Start in a low lunge with your left foot forward
Release your right knee down
Stack your shoulders over you hips and reach up.
Draw in the low belly to create spinal support
Engage the right glute and/or release the pelvis farther forward to create a deeper sensation
Spend at least 30 seconds on each side.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Keeping your arms and wrists bent and your fingers engaged in repetitive movements all day long can cause carpal tunnel syndrome - a chronic painful sensation and stiffness in your wrists and palms cause by the pressure on the meridian nerve and tendons running through the passageway between wrist bones. Eventually, pressure on these nerves and tendons can become a serious injury. But, before a trip to the doctor becomes necessary, there are steps you can take to alleviate the pressure on your wrists. In fact, consistent yoga practice has been shown to have more definite improvement in grip and pain alleviation in carpal tunnel syndrome patients than acupuncture or chiropractic treatment (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm).
The Fix: Gorilla Pose (Pada Hastasana)
This is a posture with a ton of benefits. The inversion will support the reduction of stress and anxiety. The depth of the fold will released the hamstrings and low back, and the pressure of the feet on the palms decompresses the wrist. So much from something so simple! Here's how:
Stand with feet hips width distance apart.
Bend down at your hips and bend generously in your knees until the belly comes to rest onto the thighs (the degree of bend in the knees varies from person to person).
When bent and stable, slip your hands palms-up underneath your feet until your toes make a connection with your wrists. If your toes don't reach, bend your knees more until they do.
When your hands are fully under your feet, transfer your weight slightly into the ball-mounts of your feet, putting pressure on your wrists and wiggle your toes to massage your wrists.
The Killer: Slumped Shoulders
Rounding over your desk, driving and constantly looking down to check your phone causes shortening in the anterior (front) shoulder muscles and chest muscles, and slack upper back muscles. Overtime, consistent poor posture can lead to a host of chronic back and neck pain due to this muscle imbalance. Plus, we all look more confident with great posture. Take time each day to open up your heart and your posture will thank you.
The Fix: Gentle 'Heart Opening' Poses that Stretch the Chest
Standing Back Bend (anuvittasana). Stand with your feet hips with distance or narrower. Tilt your tailbone straight to the floor (this will engage your low abdominal muscles. Open your arms to goal post position with your elbows in line with your shoulders. Take your gaze to the ceiling and gently lift your chest up. While this will cause a slight bend in your back, let your focus in this pose be lifting your chest and opening through the upper arms.
Try this Video featuring Michelle Keefe! She is an excellent teacher and put together a great Happy Hips videos to help you find some soothing, strengthening, and all-over mobility for your lower body. Her video is featured here in our online members section!
Julia Lopez (ERYT500, YACEP, CPT, YLC)
is the founder of Practice Everywhere and Co-Founder of Honest Soul Yoga. Yoga has become her lifelong tool for emotional and mental health, and physical wellness. Through classes, both online and in studio, as well as teacher trainings and retreats, Julia seeks to invite people to find what she feels is the best benefit of Yoga - a pathway to genuine friendship with themselves and others.
Julia's work has been featured on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Elephant Journal, and in studios across the country. Check out upcoming online classes and gatherings to find out when you can hop into one of Julia's classes or trainings.