Reverse the Computer Posture
In our last post we examined the Upper Crossed Syndrome: Tight chest and back of the neck and weak upper back and front of the neck. The Lower Crossed Syndrome which we will examine in this article goes hand in hand with the Upper Crossed Syndrome. When our upper body is out of whack, the lower body is going to have to compensate and vice versa. When we give into gravity and hang down and forward our pelvis will tilt. In a seated position, typically the pelvis rolls under, flattening the lumbar curve and creating a very weak, compromised position in the lower back. And when standing the pelvis usually tilts forward creating gripping in the lower back and a letting go of the abdominals. In either scenario this causes us to lose the optimal height of our spine and the upper body collapses. This puts a great deal of pressure on the muscles of the lower back and tension into the front of the hips ( hip flexors).
In the Lower Crossed Syndrome the gluteals and abdominals are weak and the lower back and hip flexors are tight. Below are some release sequences for you to practice everyday to slowly start to organize and balance your connective tissue. Remember to only stay in one spot no more than a minute and a half. Hold pinpointed pressure or add a very small rocking or flossing action on the ball.
1. Side Hip Release
You need a mat, 2 pillows ( one for under the head and one for between the legs) and a regular sized tennis ball. Side lie on the mat and place the pillows. Place the ball under the bottom hip at the side seam of the pant in the meat and not on a bone. You are looking for a spot of intense sensation. After 2 or 3 breath cycles the spot should soften and you should feel as if you can absorb the ball into the pelvis. Add the flossing motion. Before moving to the opposite side, turn onto the back and sense the difference between the 2 sides.
2. Front of the Hip Release
You will need a mat and 2 regular sized tennis balls. Lie on your belly and place a ball under each hip crease. Fold the hands with the elbows out to the sides and place the forehead on the hands.Take a few inhales and exhales to land on the balls ( get heavy). Staying heavy on the balls throughout start to add a small tilt of the pelvis. Inhale and send the tail to the ceiling. Exhale and send the tail between the legs. As you go back and forth start to pay attention to the upper body and keeping it heavy. After 10 to 20 reps of the slow rocking take the balls out, lie on the belly and sense the difference. Sit back into child’s pose and breath into the back of the body while allowing the head to rest on the floor.
Let’s face it. As much as we try, our bodies take the “path of least resistance.” And a lot of times we don’t even realize it until it is to late. Have you ever noticed that on a lot of days driving home from work you have to lower the setting of your rear view mirror? In the morning you were much taller but through the work day the shoulders rounded forward, the chest caved in, upper back rounded and the belly just surrendered.
This “path of least resistance” is our bodies naturally giving into gravity. There are times when we want to give in to it but if it is happening in a consistent, habitual manner then trouble can be ahead. Instead of using our tissue activation to support our joints, we start to hang and sit into our connective tissue ( fascia, tendons, ligaments). And just certain workhorse muscles are on constant overtime and other muscles are on a constant vacation. The most common occurrence of this is the lower back being super rigid because one has no abdominal activation to speak of.
Any of us that have had an injury like a broken foot or a badly sprained knee know all about how the body loves to compensate and how that can lead to a lot of mucked up stuff in the body and imbalances galore! Everything in the body is connected and when one thing changes everything else will too weather that be for the good , bad or the ugly.
A typical pose that a lot of us sit into day in and day out is a typical desk worker’s posture. And these days all of us are desk workers because we are slaves to our computers and our smartphones. We are pulled forward and down because we are unable to counter gravity. Our shoulders are rounded forward and the chest collapses and to bring our eyes to the horizon our neck must extend into a forward head posture. This is typically called Upper Crossed Syndrome. The chest and back of the neck are very tight and the upper back and front of the neck are weak.
To start to slowly change the organization of your connective tissue in the upper body try the below simple release sequences everyday. Only stay in one spot no more than a minute and a half. Hold pinpointed pressure or add a very small rocking or flossing action on the ball.
You need a yoga block and a regular sized tennis ball. Place the yoga block on the wall and the tennis ball on the yoga block. Place the front of your right chest (below the collar bone and close to the front of your shoulder) on the ball. Steady the block with your left hand and the ball with your right fingertips until you have the feet and legs in the right position and you feel secure. You can hold pinpointed pressure or the flossing motion. Be sure to ask yourself where you can let go and effort less. The typical suspects for tension are the face, jaw, shoulders, pelvis, hands and feet. Before doing the opposite side, take inventory of what feels different.
2. Back of the Neck Release
You need a mat and a Great Dane Tennis Ball. Lie on the floor. Knees can be bent and feet on the floor or put a support under the knees and lengthen the legs. Place the oversized tennis ball at the occiput and balance. Give the weight of the head to the ball. Secure the ball with the right fingertips and turn your head to the right so that you land on the right mastoid process ( the nobby on the right side of the occiput). Hold pinpointed pressure and/or the flossing motion. Very important to soften the face, jaw and tongue. Come back to the center and before moving to the opposite side notice what feels different.
One of the most common mucked up postures we take on is shoulders shoved back, chest forward and front ribs splayed. This creates a habitually overextended thoracic spine and an increased lordotic ( lower back) curve. This destroys the birthright convex curve of our thoracic spine and the just right concave curve of the lumbar. This organization changes pressures within the body and we lose the intended shock absorption that the natural curves of the spine accommodate us with.
I think we have all been told “Stand up tall. You are slumping.” It is pretty much imprinted in our brains. When we present our best selves to the world we want to be our fullest and bravest self and this posture usually does the trick. However, it is a shortening of the spine because we are closing off the back of our body.We take the easiest way to look like we are standing tall and shove our shoulder blades together to try to bring our chest forward. The shoulder girdle, however, is suppose to translate and take cues from the spine and not the other way around.
In this posture the spinal muscles and the Internal Oblique abdominals are tight and the External Oblique abdominals, Transverse abdominals and Rectus are weak. A less known muscle, the Transverse Thoracis muscle also gets very weak. This structure lies on the inside of the thoracic ribcage. Its fibers attach to the lower borders and inner surfaces of the coastal cartilages of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th ribs. The lowest fibers of this muscle are horizontal in their direction, and are continuous with those of the Transverse abdominals ( our core abdominals). Strengthening this structure inside the ribcage helps to synchronize all the tissues of the ab wall and create a balanced ribcage. It eliminates the splaying forward of the ribs and the overextended thoracic spine.
Below is an easy sequence to get you started.
Supine Rib Stands:
You need a mat, a pillow and a yoga block.
With a yoga block or half foam roller between the hands, send the long arms over the head ( shoulder flexion) without lifting the mid back ribs off the floor.
At first, most will have to have an inclined pillow and knees will be bent and feet flat on the floor. After one strengthens this area, the incline can be reduced or eliminated and the legs can be long on the floor.`
The news is out : Sitting is the new smoking. It has been determined that too much sitting creates many disastrous outcomes : back pain, pelvic instability, less circulation and ( here’s the big one ) brain health decline. If that doesn’t get you out of your chair and walking around , I’m not sure what will.
With all that being said and true the harsh facts of our modern day life is that we must sit in chairs, on high toilets and in our cars. We can improve the situation by what I am naming Conscious Sitting. Learning to dissect the seated posture and pay attention to the parts so that the whole comes together in a full body participation. Let’s first think about a typical seated posture that we see on the bus or at cafe’s or in the office…Or better yet in the High school with Smart Phones. This is a dumping, a collapse and one is just hanging into their connective tissue and relying little on any tissue activation or motivation in the up direction. That exact posture over many years leads to our common and chronic complaints : forward head posture, shoulder instability, lower back, sacrum , hip and pelvic pain…Not to mention pelvic organ support problems such as incontinence and organ prolapse. Ok, now that I have scared the chair right out from under you, what can we do to sit better?
In this first Installment we will focus on the feet and the importance of sensing them reach into the earth as we sit. The feet along with our Sit bones in the seated posture are our most important grounding forces.
I hope these tips give you something to ponder and practice. Look out for Sit Well Part 2. We will be talking legs and pelvis!
I have come to a point in my career that I refuse to isolate body parts and dumb down information even for learning purposes. Because it gives one a distorted perception of the end game for the potential of the body. I also refuse to buy into the conventional approach and knowledge base by sacrificing exploration, experimentation and our creative impulse to intuit what is best and right for the individual body. Healers, Body Workers and Movement therapist have been figuring this out one body at a time long before modern scientific studies have been seemingly giving us the “ right approach” for this population or body type. And I am saying this as a science and anatomy full on geek. I fully believe that before you climb “ Out of the Box” you have to know every inch of that box intimately. I read those papers, I study with these scientist and anatomists and physiotherapist and love it and get a lot of knowledge but it never will replace that space and time of one teacher, one client and the infinite possibilities that can erupt , be unearthed and owned by those two people. Just a thought. A thought to keep us less sterile, keep the work more of the earth, grounded in the connection of flesh and mind and when those two really synchronize miracles happen. Things that might not be believed or even thought of in the lab. Just a reminder to start every session as a beginner and with a child’s mind so that we don’t block the obvious and the simple solutions that are right before us.
The above is the thread that I want to follow in this special 4 week Pelvic Self Care Workshop. My end goal? Just to create sparks of change that inspire you into further change long after the 4 weeks is over. I want to empower you with just some simple thoughts, exploration and full body exercises to be your own healer and find a way to tune your pelvis on a daily basis so that balance is maintained.
Why focus just on Pelvic Self Care? Why not Full Body Self Care? The pelvis is the anatomical and the energetic current of communication between the spine,our cranium, our limbs, the front and back of our body and the touch stone for overall wellness and homeostasis. If things get stuck in this area ( physical and/or energetically) things break down and stagnate. It is where Mecca lives in our body. When we pay attention to how we use our ribs and shoulder girdle ( for example) and check in on the effects in the pelvis we start to realize our interconnectedness . It is a pilgrimage to the place in our body that all our centers flow towards, into and away again.
The Pelvis , for so many of us, is a place of pain or numbness. This is especially true if we have survived trauma, post pregnant, post op, have had chronic back pain for an extended period of time or we are Menopausal. The catch is that we have to bring the focus away from the pelvis to heal the pelvis. We have to do the work with many synchronization systems in the body so that the conduit of the pelvis ( the pass through of the pelvis) is clear of gunk and things can pass and translate through.
I want to highlight a message to those of you who feel pretty good and might put this workshop into the category of something you definitely do not need. Our body is not a machine and the time we should be caring for it and paying the most attention to it is WHEN IT IS WORKING WELL. This workshop will get you to boil down, refine and pay attention. You will learn why you might be feeling ok and you might even run into some dead, blind spots that we can revive. This is called preventative care. This is keeping things tuned and working well. And you’ll be learning about and getting to know the one real gift we were all given.
Hope you can make this 4 week series on Wednesday from 6pm until 7. Aug 31st, Sept 7, sept 21, sept 28 We will be skipping sept 14th
The entire 4 weeks is 40$ or 14$ drop in rate. Please call to reserve your spot. Space is limited.`