Out Of The Office Into The World!
By Adam Divine
Your body sculpts itself around the most common activities you do.Quite literally there is an intelligence in the body’s cells; a communication and a listening takes place. If you perform an exercise like running, the bone building cells (imagine Bob the Builder) will lay down calcium deposits along those lines of mechanical stress to make you stronger for that activity.
Yoga takes this to the next level. In yoga, as you exercise in lots of weird and wonderful directions calcium deposits will be laid down in all of these three dimensions to make your bones stronger to support you more in that activity.
So what happens to the average ‘office’ body sitting at a desk 5 days a week 8 hours a day with little movement? The office X-ray shows that we are devolving when we sit at the computer. The spine is curved, the head is heavy and there is no integrity in the posture.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2013 alone, almost 31 million days of work were lost due to back, neck and muscle problems. As computers and devices are such a big part of our world, we need to create more body awareness and conscious ways of sitting. The fact that we now plonk our small children in front of ipads and devices where they are hunched over is not a great foundation for their growth and posture.
Bones can also change shape according to the poor stresses placed upon them. Here we have a picture of bone growths and strain in the vertebrae.When your sitting down day in day out with your spine in a poorly flexed position, muscles, tendons and ligaments on the back will all be overstretched and locked long. Meanwhile the tissues in the front of the body will be shortened.
Ligaments attach bone to bone. When you overstretch the ligaments in the back they will tug on the bone. In fact, the bone itself has a skin, called the Periosteum, like a cling film wrap. It’s this ‘skin’ that the ligament attaches too and as you sit at your desk in a hunched position over time the ligament will tug on the periosteum(skin) and can pull it away from the bone to make a little tent-like structure. Then the little bob the builder bone building cells will fill up the tent-like space with calcium deposits making a solid bone growth which hinders our mobility and potentially causes pain.
Yoga asana can be used for positive change – just get people moving!
Areas of focus will be tight Hamstrings, Gluteals, Rectus Abdominus, Pec major, while the Erector muscles, Rhomboids and Neck muscles will be weak. This is all happening in the saggital plane (front to back) so sun salutations would be the perfect solution. Bring students back to basics.
Tadansana allows for proper stacking of the bodily segments and healthy axial extension of the spine (like an accordion to the sky). Tucking in the chin stacks the head properly on top of the shoulders and engages the front of the neck which creates space in the Subocciptals (muscles at the base of the skull). This helps to train you out of a head forward posture.
Down dog covers the hamstrings and shifts a posteriorly tilted pelvis moving into a more anteriorly with the sits bones to the sky. Forward folds will generally release the hamstrings. Down dog will also allow lengthening of the Latissimus Dorsi muscle that tighten, pulling the shoulders in an inferior downward direction.
Warrior 1 extends the spine, opens the chest and opens the Psoas in the extended hip, as well as lengthening the opposite Gluteal muscle in the flexed hip. The Psoas is key here as it stores stress on a core level and we know just how stressful the work place can be, so its good to clear out.
With regards to safe sitting, knees should be below the hips – we are looking for a straight line from the ear to the greater Trochanter (hip bone). If your pelvis is more posterior you will want to tilt it more anteriorly, so the spine is more balanced and the chest opens.
Smart sitting– watch this space for the next article where we will look at opening up the Pectoralis Minor and engaging the Serratus muscle.
This article was written by anatomy aficionado Adam Divine. Adam has been working with the Himalaya Yoga Valley team as Anatomy teacher for the last 5 years and is passionate about sharing his anatomy knowledge with students from all backgrounds.