In the previous 3 blogs I have discussed the pernicious habit of pulling the head forward and tightening the neck when working at the computer – now I turn to the solutions.
The instructions in this blog you will get you started with training yourself not to ‘close down’ in the face of pressure or focused tasks. Instead you can train yourself to stay light and open — and who knows, it may change the whole way you think about work and may even help you to open up in more general ways.
Solution 1: Learn to release superficial neck and shoulder muscles and activate deep spinal muscles. You can start by playing with the idea of “thinking” of length rather than “doing” length and remembering that the whole surface of your back, shoulders and neck can expand and breath while the deep spinal muscles do their job underneath. Properly avoiding computer neck often feels like a release rather than a “holding”. Think of the head lightly balanced on top of a long spine with a the back of the neck open and free. Don’t rush it. Learning to free the neck and while your head stays up takes quite some practice and often some expert help.
Solution 2: Practice “just sitting”. Many of us sit for 8+ hours a day. But during that time we are always busy with tasks. In this way we never get chance to practice sitting well. Take 5 minutes in the morning or evening to practice. Sit on a firm bottomed chair or stool without leaning on the back. Let you weight drop, and your breathing expand your whole torso as you think of a nice length from the bottom of the pelvis up through the top of spine. Keep your neck free and practice noticing the room around you. The more you get used to sitting well, the better you’ll be able to catch yourself when you pull yourself out of shape.
Solution 3: Add stimuli and movement slowly. Once you have practiced “just sitting” for a while, add some mild stimuli. Lift an arm, move your spine a bit, drink a cup of tea, listen to music, have a quiet conversation with someone (or on your phone with speaker phone on) stand up from the chair and sit down again. As you respond to the stimuli and move, maintain a certain objectivity – engage calmly as you maintain your free neck and head balance. Eventually you can work your way up to reading, typing, and finally doing work. In this way your body can get used to the novel psychophysical experience of working with openness and freedom.
Solution 4: Play, experiment, and take your time. Think of this process as a game – how can I trick myself into staying long rather than shortening? How can I notice what I am doing? What kind of thoughts lengthen me up without stiffening? Try to laugh at your habits rather than getting self critical. Your postural habits developed over years are not going to change overnight. With patient practice you will begin to slowly change.
If you haven’t guessed already, these solutions are far from trivial and take discipline and practice. But the good news is that it is a fun and enlightening process. A few lessons with an Alexander technique teacher can really speed things up, so don’t wait too long to get some help!