All over the world we are sitting at home, doing our best to stay active, stay on top of the cooking and cleaning, running a business, and let’s be honest we’ve all had a few emotional wobbles along the way.
I know we miss being free, and there are enormous challenges facing us, but someone recently told me the story of Anthony Ray Hinton, a man who was wrongly convicted and was on death row for nearly 30 years, and it gives me buckets of perspective and even a little boost.
Here’s a snippet from his book, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, that I’d like to share with you: “I was afraid every single day on death row. And I also found a way to find joy every single day. I learned that fear and joy are both a choice. Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices, and that knowledge rocked me. I may not have had as many Lester (his friend who visited him monthly) had, but I still had some choices. I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. And more than anything else, love was a choice. Compassion was a choice. I was born with the same gift from God we’re all born with – the impulse to reach out and lessen the suffering of another human being, it was a gift, and we each had a choice to use this gift or not.”
For those of us that are lucky enough to be able to work from home, this might mean more days that blur into each other, as we sit hunched at the kitchen table trying to get our work done.
After teaching many yoga classes via Zoom these last few weeks, I’ve had many people telling me about their aches and pains around the neck, shoulders, and lower back.
WHAT DOES LOOKING AT A SCREEN ALL DAY DO TO OUR BODIES?
- When we sit cross-legged, this reduces venal flow and cuts off the circulation to the legs.
- Our lower back is often drooped, pulling on the muscles of the spine and causing compression of the nerves in the lower back.
- The weight of the head and arms dropping forwards causes the upper back to bulge outwards, creating a ‘hump’ effect.
- The shoulders are also pulled forwards, causing the chest to become convex and drop.
- The head is pulled forwards, again pulling on the upper spine, and pulling the cervical spine out of alignment, which can cause neck problems.
All these little changes to our bodies accumulate and affect our natural posture, which as a result can affect our breathing.
Even though it’s automatic, have you noticed how you’ve been breathing? Why not take a long deep conscious breath, now. And, repeat a few more times. And, hopefully, you’re smiling by now.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IMPROVING YOUR POSTURE FOR QUALITY BREATH?
As with most things, the first step is awareness. Once you become aware of how you are sitting, it’s easier to do something about it. Sit at your computer and scan through your body – get someone to take a picture of you if you’re not sure!
Here are a few tips to start with:
- Uncross your legs, and sit on a chair that’s the right height so that your feet can be flat on the floor with your shins vertical.
- Lengthen your spine, find that natural curve in the lower back, and lift your chest up slightly.
- Draw your shoulders back and down, think of broadening the collar bones, at regular intervals and try to keep them there while you work.
- Lift your screen up on some big books (or you can buy a laptop stand) so that you can keep your head lifted while looking at the screen.
MAYBE SOME CHAIR YOGA?
If you have 5 minutes in between your calls and Zoom meetings, whilst sitting down or standing, why not try these shoulder stretches:
- Upward Facing arms (Urdhva Hastasana) – stretch your arms up to the ceiling, with palms facing each other. It lifts the heart, lifts the spine, stretches the shoulders. You could even flicker the fingers or roll out the wrists from all that typing. Take 3-5 deep breaths here. You might start feeling it in the lower ribs too.
- Cow Face Pose arms (Gomukhasana arms) – stretch one arm up to the ceiling then fold it down behind your back so that the palm is in between your shoulder blades. Stretch the other arm out and slight the back of the hand up the back – clasp the hands together if you can. If you can’t catch, then get hold of your clothes and pull the top elbow up and the bottom elbow down. Take 3-5 deep breaths on each side.
- Bound Arms Behind Your Back (Paschima Baddha Hastasana) – this is a simple pose that helps to draw the outer shoulders back and down. Hold one elbow behind your back and draw the arm down, then reach across and hold the other elbow. Take 3-5 deep breaths and feel the stretch.
There’s a video below where I demonstrate these stretches.
I hope those simple yoga stretches will help alleviate some aches and pains so you can work with comfort and at your optimum level again. Try it for a few days and let me know how you feel.
“Health is an investment, not an expense”
Although we are going through unprecedented times, most of us will never have to endure the horrors of death row, and I think knowing this helps us refocus on what we are grateful for and how to get through this insane time.