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We’re all spending a bit too much time hunched over keyboards and staring blearily at screens, it seems. Here’s how to help counteract that.

All you TLDR people, please see my YouTube playlist here. (All exercises mentioned in this article are demonstrated.)

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  • Open up your upper body and hips. Think “anti-slouch,” and get more movement in upper spine, less from the lower
  • Screen at eye level, elbows 90 degrees, wrists neutral
  • Solid stance and feet, active tall posture from the back of the neck (the “string” pulling your head up is closer to the back of the head) – you can use a water bottle or a book behind low back to make sure you don’t slump
  • When stretching, nudge your body’s range of motion, don’t force anything
  • Mobility and postural work is long-term (unlike particularly cardio, and strength as well)
  • No pain; don’t override any instructions from your physio etc – instead, repeat any previous stretch that felt good or practice diaphragmatic breathing)
  • And maintain good, relaxed breathing throughout. Diaphragm breathing – 360 degrees, no shrug, no chest up – nice and slow: 4-count inhale, 4 to 8-count exhale
  • This type of breathing is definitely easier to practice while horizontal instead of upright. Please see my “Breathe Your Way Calmer” video if you need more input

VISION BREAKS

It’s true, even our eyes use muscles. You can counteract tension and eyestrain with mobility work.

  • Eternity loops
  • Peripheral glances
  • Pencil fusion drill

SEATED EXERCISE BREAKS 

Upper back

  • Maintain impeccable posture, and bring in a small sternum lift – keep low back solid
  • Mini cat/cow
  • Elbow-braced t-spine opener: pull navel in toward spine to protect low back, fingertips on both ears, gaze follows elbow to ceiling
  • T-spine rotation; head and shoulders come with you rather than leading. Important: not from the low back!

Low back

  • Hip hitch/pendulum

Shoulder blades (Make sure the low back doesn’t arch with any of these)

  • Big, slow, shoulder blade circles, i.e. scapular CARs
  • Alternate-side active shrugs – find the spot where you don’t have to spend all day
  • Then pull down the shoulder blades as an “anti-shrug” (scapular depression – often more sustainable and definitely less military than scapular retraction)
  • “Breathing with arms,” including a slight tilt upwards of the sternum (no low back arch though)

Neck (Use caution with these – skulls are heavy! Particularly use caution if you have or even suspect that you may have bone density issues)

  • Release suboccipitals with thumbs (may want to brace elbows on desk) – breathe again 😉
  • Peel down one vertebra at a time, back up
  • Big, slow circles
  • Shoulder checks
  • Ear to shoulder

Torso

  • Diagonal reach above the opposite shoulder

Hips

  • #4, pressing down on thighs to open up side of hips

STANDING EXERCISE BREAKS (AT SUPPORT)

Hips

  • Rotation: “Riverdance”
  • Quads: If you have a solid chair, lift one shin to rest on it. If you are able to control your lower back and not let it arch, you can push your up-leg buttock forward to get hip flexors (iliopsoas) as well as the quads.
  • If that doesn’t work, hold preferably your shin, ankles are okay too if necessary.
  • Front of hip: Inside foot forward, outside arm up to the ceiling – again, not much arch in low back please
  • Outside of hip: Face your support for Spidermans

Upper back

  • This one does double duty for the front of hip: Inside foot forward, outside arm up to the ceiling – again, not much arch in low back please
  • All of the seated exercise breaks for the upper back work great standing too 🙂

NEED MORE?

Log in to my my Unwind on-line mobility classes whenever you feel you want to move more easily with less tension. Monday and Thursday evenings for a half-hour, at 6:30 pm PST.