“Uhhh, my neck feels so tense!” How often did you say or think that in the past months? Maybe you even occasionally take painkillers to get some relief. But honestly, painkillers won’t fix your problem because the root of it most likely lies in the way you are sitting in front of your computer – in the hunchback-tech-neck position, aka a poor posture, which is one of the most common reasons for complaints in this region!
The Root of all Evil Neck Pain
I truly killed this posture some years ago and know exactly how it wrecks your neck! When I quit my job 11 years ago in the banking industry, I moved from highly ergonomic working conditions to sitting cross-legged on a bench with my laptop at my dinner table. I felt very entrepreneurial to start my own yoga school and was full of joy to live my purpose in this world. As a yoga teacher I focused on proper alignment in my classes and I really should have known better than to sit for hours like that. And sure enough, I soon had the same unpleasant ache in my neck.
After a few months, the ache turned into a real problem, and I went to see my doctor. I was worried and thought I had inadvertently hurt myself. My doctor inquired about my work, and I told her about my move to self-employment. By the way I described my workday, she realized that I (yes, having your own yoga studio means more hours on the computer than in meditation or on the mat) had some serious muscle tension. So, I started to research this and even worked with a physiotherapist for a while as I wanted to understand what I was doing wrong.
The Hunchback-Tech-Neck Posture
An increasing number of people suffer from neck pain. If something is wrong with the neck region, it often manifests as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and pain in the arm and chest area. These problems directly impact one’s effectiveness and creativity at work and, in severe cases, may even prevent one from working at all.
The hunchback-tech-neck posture – recognize yourself?
When you sit with your upper back rounded (hunched over), your head protruding forward and lifted to look at your screen (tech-neck), you are completely working against the body’s natural physiognomy. Working like this for hours on end causes a significant muscular imbalance in the body: some of the muscles are constantly overworked and harden, while others are so underused that they give up entirely and harden too – and this causes pain!
Tips to Combat Bad Posture
Sit and Stand Properly
The spine has a double S shape to balance the body’s weight properly. Imagine: the head alone weighs about 5-6 kg in an adult! If your head is not positioned correctly, the neck has to carry all of this weight alone against the body’s original building plan. No wonder your neck muscles give you a hard time!
The same is true when you are standing or walking. In my yoga classes I tell participants to walk like queens, standing tall with our heads up high! If you do this regularly, you will also feel a subtle change on your mental and emotional state.
Because when we feel small, out-of-place, insecure, or anxious we tend to express it through our body and “hunch-in” to protect ourselves or to hide.
Set-up Your Workspace Correctly
Position your laptop, computer, mouse and keyboard properly.
If you don’t move, your circulation is almost zero around the back, neck and shoulder area. Try setting an alarm at least every hour and consciously move your body by doing some simple yoga stretches at your desk. Here are some ideas to try:
Sit upright on the front of your chair. Inhale and keep the side of your body long, then exhale and bring the left hand to the right thigh and the right hand behind you on the chair. Stay like this for 30-60 seconds, breathing deep but soft.
Repeat on the other side.
Sit on the chair, move forward a bit and place your hands on the side of the chair. Inhale and move the sternum up to the ceiling and the shoulder blades down to the chair, aiming to arch the entire upper-back. Stay for 30-60 seconds.
Stand behind the chair (make sure it is stable!). Step your feet about 1.25 meters apart. Then bend the front right knee and stretch the left arm towards the ceiling. Feel the entire left side stretching. Stay for 30-60 seconds.
Stand in front of the chair. Place your hand either on the seat or the back rest. Bend your knees and move the buttocks away from you – aiming to stretch the entire back. Stay for 30-60 seconds.
After these exercises, take 3-5 minutes, sit upright on the chair, place your hands on the legs with the palms facing up, close your eyes, and be aware of your breath and how the body is vibrating with the fresh circulation you just gave it.
Keep Something Nearby That Reminds You of Your Posture
Good intentions are good, but doing them is better! So, keep something at your workspace that reminds you to correct your posture. A picture of a queen, a spine, or anything that immediately reminds you to straighten up when you see it!
Most adults have lost the gift of natural and healthy breath. When you inhale, your belly should come out, and as you exhale, it should come back in. Instead, most people hold their belly tight all day and only breathe into the chest (stress further enforces incorrect breathing).
Breathing like this is ineffective. The oxygen exchange and blood circulation are significantly reduced compared to proper breathing, which also helps relieve tension in the neck area. People who breathe correctly are generally much calmer because it has a relaxing effect on body and mind. Breathing helps to focus and gives your voice a rounded and pleasant sound. Next time you are faced with a challenging situation, take a moment and practice proper breathing; you will be able to feel the benefit immediately!
About the Author
After some years in the finance industry working on the trading floor selling financial products to corporate clients, I followed my inner calling and started my own yoga school in 2011. Yoga and meditation are part of my life since 1997. In 2003, I spent a year in India to deepen my knowledge and there the seed was planted to one day being able to help others to improve their life through the gift of yoga.
Yoga for me is not just a physical thing, it must also percolate into the mental and emotional life of the practitioner over time. Because what is the use of a perfectly executed Yoga posture if I do not find mental balance in life? Where lies the truth if I am blissfully happy smiling on my Yoga mat, but later my anger, insecurity and stress eat me up from the inside? I live in Zürich and love the lake here, especially in the early mornings on the SUP on a bright summer day!