Pilates in your everyday life (part four)

How do you spend your days? Do you tend to be in one position for prolonged periods of time? Have you noticed that this affects how your body feels?

When we stay in one position for some time it will have an impact on how our body feels but we might not always be aware of it. If we then repeat that same pattern every day, the impact is likely to become much more noticeable.

For example:

  • If you spend a few hours in the car driving to visit a friend, when you get out of the car you might notice some tightness in the hips, or stiffness in the low back, or maybe some tension in the neck and shoulders. As soon as you stand up and move about, most of those issues will ease-off and you will carry on as usual.
  • If you drive every day for work, you might start to experience more of the same issues more of the time, and you might find that they don’t ease-off quite so quickly/at all. Over time, some of the on-going tightness or tension might then begin to affect your posture, which in turn would cause more tightness or tension in the body.

By changing our posture throughout the day we can try to break the postural patterns we are creating and help to reduce repetitive strain, overuse injuries and fatigue. In part three I talked about ways to break up your day with some movement, and today we are looking specifically at changes you might need to consider for your working environment if you are largely desk-based.

Your working environment:

The goal is to set up your work space so that you can minimise any negative impact on your posture. Here are a few things you might like to consider:

  1. find a supportive chair to reduce muscle fatigue in your lower back – make sure that it is adjustable so that you can get the best fit for your body. Personally I don’t like traditional office chairs but I use a saddle stool on a wheeled base, which enables me to maintain a neutral alignment for my spine without any tension. Find what works for you.
  2. check that you have room under your desk to place your feet flat on the floor – use a footrest if necessary. Aim to have your knees slightly lower than your hips and your feet slightly forward of your knees.
  3. have your keyboard and screen directly in front of you rather than off to one side or at an angle. This allows your shoulders to be square and face the screen fully. Arms are best supported – forearms on the desk and upper arms comfortably by your sides.
  4. set yourself up so that everything you need to access most often is within easy reach to avoid repeated stretching and leaning to one side.
  5. look after your eyes by having your screen about arms length away from you with the top of your screen level with your eyes. Reduce glare from nearby windows by using blinds or curtains. Use appropriate lighting levels to further reduce eye strain.
  6. try to keep your wrists straight while typing, with hands and wrists hovering just above the keyboard. Choose a mouse that fits your hand and move it with your arm instead of bending your wrist into weird positions.
  7. this last one is still on my to-do list, and I know it would make a huge difference – learn to touch-type so that you can keep your head in a neutral position rather than always looking down at your keyboard (as I am doing right now!)

In your car:

Maybe you are not desk-based but spend considerable amounts of time driving each day?

You can apply the same approach to your car:

  1. check your seat position, tilt and height and adjust it again if someone else has been driving your car
  2. position your mirrors so that you are not straining to look at them
  3. consider what shoes you are wearing – heels will change the position of your foot and ankle in relation to the pedals
  4. keep your hands, wrists and arms relaxed

Alignment cues:

Making small changes to your posture will help to reduce neck & shoulder tension, ease back pain and support your body throughout the day. You might also like to think of the alignment cues we use in Pilates and apply these to your working day:

  • lengthen your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head
  • soften your shoulders
  • gently lengthen the back of your neck by dropping the chin slightly
  • maintain soft, relaxed breathing into your ribcage
  • plant your feet in the earth so that you are grounded (this applies whether you’re seated or standing)
  • find an even weight through your sit-bones when seated

I hope some of these suggestions help you to make some positive postural changes. Keep checking-in with your body as you go through your day until you naturally start adjusting your posture as required.

Let me know if you have any questions at all?

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