Read at the risk of your own benefit!
Sit up straight for this one -- literally! Everyone wants great posture, but it's one of most difficult goals to achieve -- especially if you sit a lot. Despite the best ergonomic chair or other tools, prolonged sitting can negatively impact our muscles and joints. The human body adapts to movement patterns, even if the routines the body learns are bad for us.
All of this dreaded sitting contributes to rounded shoulders, a tilting forward of the neck (aka the "chicken-over-the-fence" look or "turtle neck"), and even lower crossed syndrome (LCS). Developed by legendary neurologist and rehab specialist, Vladimir Janda M.D., LCS produces a predictable low-back movement pattern that can lead to dysfunction.
However, with increased awareness and intentional movement, you can combat dysfunctions. A simple prop that can help alleviate these symptoms is the yoga strap. Check with your doctor or someone who is qualified before starting any of these stretches. These might feel too good!
Image courtesy of Drishti
Yes, the strap. It comes in various colors, fabrics, and widths, and it is both durable and inexpensive. It is beneficial to beginners and advanced practitioners alike: It's appropriate for all people looking shift the way they move.
Try to employ this series of stretches with the strap every two hours at work or at home for approximately 30-120 seconds in order to loosen your joints from stiffness.
Note: All poses must be performed with a smile.
Gomukhasana -- Cow Face Pose
Hold the strap with right arm behind your back. Bring your right knuckles to rest in the middle of your back. Bring your left arm above your head and down your back. Grip the strap with both hands. Try to maintain an extended chest (or thoracic extension), a long spine, and retract the scapulae. Move your hands towards one another. Repeat on the opposite side.
Images courtesy of John Ligas
This next one seems deceptively simple. Take the strap behind your back, wider than the width of your shoulders so you don't hyperextend. First hold the strap there while you resist your hands out to the sides, then pulse and lift the strap up towards the ceiling about 10 Xs.
Because of our computer and phone use, our slumping over desks, this motion is actually really challenging. Your upper pectorals are often tight and shortened, so opening them here in an active way is rewarding and sustainable. In addition, the back muscles have to extend and engage to keep this feeling good (e.g., to take an arch out of the lower back), so it's a win-win situation!
Vrksasana -- Tree Pose (modified)
A little more intense than the classic "tree pose" because you can go into a half bind or half lotus if you'd like: Stand up and shift your weight onto the left foot. Bend deeply at the hips as you "take a seat" while standing. Bend your right knee and put your right ankle on top of your left knee first, then take the strap and loop it around your right foot. Hold your right foot with the left hand. Let your hips open, the right knee should be facing to the right, not forward. Hold for desired number of seconds and repeat on the opposite side. This pose can be challenging on the knee joint, so please be aware of that as you adjust with the strap.
A yoga strap at work can perform miracles as it increases your body awareness and helps you refine your movements. With these simple exercises you will not only alleviate but also reverse unhealthy movement patterns. So, strap it on!