Posture Improvement - The Desk Dwellers Stretch By Ric Chamberlin, LMT
Most people that have had an appointment at my office or heard me speak at a class or presentation have heard about the Desk Dwellers Stretch. I prescribe this simple exercise for people who frequently fall into uncomfortable postures due to lack of focus on their body and it's alignment.
In our busy "doing" world we often focus intensely on the tasks we wish to accomplish which results in tuning out other things including our bodies. The Desk Dwellers Stretch gives us a short break from our task, brings awareness back to our body, and restores our posture, comfort, and vitality. I call this simple exercise the Desk Dwellers Stretch because so many of us work at a desk where it is easy to fall into that hunched over posture that causes pain when we finally do get up. However it works just as well for anyone that falls into uncomfortable postures which is just about all of us.
Lets look at the exercise then we will examine what is happening.
The Desk Dwellers Stretch
Break contact with your work.
Stand up if you are not already.
Bring your focus back to your body. What do you notice? Back sore? Shoulders? Neck? Lower body?
Don't try to change this, just notice it.
Take a slow, deep breath in. Take your time. Fill all of your lungs, starting with the lower part first.
As you inhale raise your arms in front of you, palms down.
As your hands continue to raise the palms will face forward and your arms will end up fully extended over your head.
Your inhale should be complete as your hands stop over your head.
Pause for a second.
Start to exhale just as slowly as you inhaled.
As you exhale begin lowering your arms to your sides, palms down.
When arms are 3/4 of the way down let them drop the rest of the way.
If you are like me long, detailed instructions can be less than simple to understand. This whole exercise can be summarized as:
Focus on body.
Inhale slowly, raising arms over head.
Exhale slowly, lowering arms to sides.
When the arms are 3/4 of the way down let them drop.
How can something this simple be of benefit? Let’s examine:
You took your focus away from your work and put it back on your body. This by itself is of great benefit. Our bodies do terrific job of keeping us in balance when we let it. Tuning out our body allows us to fall into uncomfortable postures and patterns. Bringing awareness back to ourselves breaks that pattern. It improves our sense of presence.
You took a slow deep breath. Normally we breath very shallow, which has limits. By taking even one deep breath we increase the amount of oxygen and energy flowing through our system. A move towards relaxation is triggered and the nervous system moves us towards balance.
Raising your arms opened your chest. If you were sitting hunched over your chest was compressed, making breath even more shallow and blocking the flow of energy between the head and the lower body. Opening the chest allows deeper breathing, improved energy flow, and a sense of vitality.
You gave your body some movement. Simple movement is a great tool for getting fluids flowing in the body. It also gives the body information. Our bodies know how to keep us in balance and comfort if they have enough information. Movement along a range of motion sends information to our brain, through the nervous system. The brain responds with adjustments to the body to move us towards balance.
You gave the spine a gentle stretch and allowed it to straighten. Stretching separates the individual vertebra a little bit so the disks aren't so compressed. A straighter spine improves energy flow and comfort.
Lowering your arms to your sides allows the spine to relax into a more normal posture. The individual vertebra come to rest on top of each other. You've allowed your posture to correct on it's own through natural movement rather than trying to force a rigid posture that your body might not be ready for and would probably only hold as long as you are thinking about.
The Finishing Touch Allowing your arms to drop the rest of the way sends a ripple down the spine that stimulates the nervous system and provides more information to the brain bringing awareness of your increased comfort.
This simple exercise takes less than 30 seconds yet can yield powerful results. It can be done just once after which you return to your task or you can repeat it as often as you want as long as it remains comfortable to do so. Doing it even once can help move you away from discomfort back towards comfort. Done on a regular basis it can keep you from falling into discomfort in the first place.
How often should you do the Desk Dwellers Stretch? There is no one answer for everyone. Doing it every 30 or 60 minutes while you work would go a long way towards keeping you comfortable. Each time you do it you are training your body to find and retain comfort. The important thing to remember is that doing it once will benefit you now. If goals are hard to keep then just do this exercise in the moment, when you think about it.
The next time you visit The Healing Connection ask for a bookmark or a postcard with this exercise printed on it so you can carry it with you as a reminder.
Embrace balance on many levels. Make it a part of your day to bring awareness back to yourself and achieve the empowerment of comfort and balance.
Return to yourself! Try the Desk Dwellers Stretch!
Ric Chamberlin Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ® Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska The Healing Connection 900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE 68114 402 850 0752