Stave off back and neck pain with better posture
In today’s screen-centric culture, nearly everything we do – from working for hours at the computer to looking up movie times on smartphones – invites our upper bodies to round forward. And daily life rarely offers opportunities to strech up and arch back.
As a result, many people develop a near-constant hunched posture, which can contribute to back and neck pain as well as headaches.
Often to slump is made worse by “forward head”: The head protrudes in front of the shoulders, and its weight pulls the chest into a deeper slump. And with the chin jutting forward, the neck is stressed even more. This posture can contribute to the risk of developing repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, because it shortens the muscles in the front of the chest and puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the arms. Sitting crunched forward can also compress internal organs, contributing to respiratory, circulatory and digestive problems.
Yoga can help you break the hunching habit by teaching you to pay attention to your alignment, not just when you’re on the mat but all through the day. In addition, poses to counteract slouching can cultivate strength and suppleness in the muscles that support good postural alignment. Try this sequence – daily, if you can – to stretch and strengthen your back and chest and enhance the mobility of your shoulders.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Stretches your back, arms and shoulders. Need to press evenly into the base of your fingers as you reach back with your hips.)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
(Tones and strengthens the arm and back muscles. The pose has also a backbend built into it. Backbends help maintain a better posture and keep the back free from pain. Bring the hips closer to the hands, then stretch the upper body and neck towards the sky, push back the shoulders and squeeze the buttocks and leg muscles. Take a few deep breaths into the ribcage. Only the hands and tops of the feet touch the floor.)
(Bend both knees and slide your left foot under your right thigh. Lift your bum off the floor, point through your left toes and sit down gently on your left heel. If it hurts to sit on your heel, then sit on the floor with your left heel beside your right hip. Bring your right foot as close to your left hip as possible, so both knees are stacked. Whichever variation you’re doing, the tops of your feet should be resting on the mat. Bend your left elbow behind your back. Lift your right arm straight up above your head, then bend your right elbow and if you can, clasp your fingers together. Gaze toward the ceiling and hold here for five deep breaths. Take a vinyasa and then switch sides.)