Chances are that you’re reading this on your smartphone or secretly at your work computer (it’s okay, we won’t tell). Quick—don’t think twice, just take a posture check. Is your head hanging forward? Are your shoulders rounded? How does your lower back feel?
The amount of time we spend engaged with our various screens in our highly virtual world makes it easy to find ourselves in a constant “slouch.”
Our screen-centric culture comes with many benefits. It is easier than ever to expand our knowledge and constantly learn, to stay visually connected with faraway family, to form unexpected relationships, or to work and play remotely. On the flip side, the increased periods of time that we spend staring at our cellphones or utilizing technology at work has introduced a new health issue, popularly dubbed “tech neck.” If you need proof, take a look at the majority of people around you the next time you’re in a public place! Examine their postures and the curves of their spines (but don’t be creepy about it; wear some mirrored sunglasses). The amount of time we spend engaged with our various screens in our highly virtual world makes it easy to find ourselves in a constant “slouch.” Over time, staying hunched over cellphones, office desks, or on the couch can lead to a host of muscular and spinal issues. A regularly rounded upper back can also lead to extended periods of shallow breathing, which may cause you to feel mentally or physically sluggish.
Here is a seated variation of salamba bhujangasana (sphinx pose) intended for those of us who spend a lot of time at a desk or over a screen. It can easily be done in your office chair, during a Netflix marathon, or at any other time when you’re feeling tightness across the chest, neck, and shoulders.
1. Start seated in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. As you inhale, sit taller and extend through the crown of your head. Imagine a thread attached to your crown. Now imagine a friend pulling this thread toward the ceiling, stacking each of your vertebrae into a neat column until your crown is stacked over your pelvis. Keep your chin parallel to the ground and your gaze forward.
2. Place both hands palms-down in your lap, with one hand on each thigh. Roll both of your shoulders exaggeratedly forward, then up toward your earlobes, then finally relax them back and down. Feel your collarbones spreading, and feel the expansion across the front of your chest. Hold for three to five breath cycles.
3. On an inhalation, keeping your elbows in toward your sides, slowly drag your hands back toward your hip creases until your elbows are below your shoulders. You will feel your chest begin to open even more here. To continue to keep a long, supported spine, maintain slight tone in the abdomen by engaging the muscles directly below your navel.
4. With your hands at your hip creases, slowly lift your gaze toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch at the front of the neck. Don’t compromise the back of your neck here—stop your gaze at a point that is accessible for you without causing any pinching or pain. Hold this gaze for three to five breath cycles. Be mindful of your shoulders, ensuring that they remain level and do not creep up toward your ears. Notice any points of tension around the shoulder blades, armpits, and chest. Feel free to pause at these points and allow full breaths through any tightness.
5. Slowly bring the head back to a forward gaze, and slide the palms toward their original placement on your thighs.
6. Repeat as many times as desired. Enjoy the sensations of expansion and a deeper breath!!