Stay Safe; Stay Well.How to restore balance back into the body from sitting too much.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Resting at a right-angle on a climbing route affects the human body differently than resting/ sitting in a chair at a right-angle.

I recently spent some time in Joshua Tree National Park camping, hiking and, rock climbing with friends. While we sat and stood on big beautiful boulders waiting for the next climber on the rope the topic of sitting kept coming up. Complaints of knee, hip, and back pain came up several times all with the same comment ” I am not used to sitting so much”. Of course, as a YogAlign posture educator, my ears perked up when I heard these statements. Mind you these experiences were coming from very fit and active human beings however, since the pandemic they have not been so active.

My gal pals.

Ironically two of my gal pals (pictured above climbing and on belay) are both teachers one a second-grade teacher and the other a P.E. (physical education) teacher to high school students. The second-grade teacher is in her middle fifties and extremely fit in every sense of the word. When she is not in the classroom you can find her engaged in a plethora of activities. Hiking, backcountry skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, swimming, and teaching/ practicing yoga. She is also very active in her classroom with her students keeping their little bodies moving. The high school P.E. teacher is in her early forties healthy, active, and always on the move. After school, you can find her rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park or training in her fully outfitted home Crossfit Gym. Both complained about the negative impacts that sitting was having on their entire body. Their teaching has transformed from various movements into sitting in front of a computer for extended periods.

I began to explain to them sitting in chairs puts your trunk and legs into a right angle position. This position causes sagging in the sacrum, spinal compression, and weakens our core muscles.

Sitting: is a basic human action and resting position in which the body weight is supported primarily by the buttocks in contact with the ground or a horizontal object such as a chair seat. The torso is more or less uprightWikipedia

Ironically so many things are happening (good, bad, and ugly) and not happening while sitting.

One of the complaints was the IT (iliotibial) band feeling dense to the touch and pain in the knees. The IT band is a long piece of connective tissue, or fascia, that runs along the outside of your leg from the hip to the knee and shinbone. The IT band helps to extend, abduct, and rotate your hip. Excessive sitting or repetitive flexion of the knees (from sitting) keeps the IT band stretched and sedentary. Which can cause instability in the hips, knees, and pelvis referring to hip pain or Iliotibial band syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome is an injury often caused by activities where you bend your knee repeatedly, in this case sitting who knew?

Creating length in the IT Band

What are some solutions?

In this case, I explained tightening what is already tight to get more out of the resting length of the muscle, fascia, and connective tissue. Think of when you laugh hard and you can’t breathe because your stomach muscles are so tight. When you stop your stomach is spacious and relaxed.

Creating length in the It band

  • lay on your back, with arms stretched out to both sides at shoulder height
  • palms facing up and fingers spread
  • with your left knee bent, and right leg straight roll onto your right side
  • placing your right hand onto the IT band of the left leg
  • while keeping your left shoulder connected to the floor (palm facing up towards your ear)
  • begin your SIP breath (like breathing through a straw) feeling your diaphragm expand
  • make a fist with your left hand and hold the breath for a few seconds
  • begin to resist by abducting your left leg towards the left (against your open-palmed hand)
  • while keeping the left shoulder on the floor and toes pointed
  • open the fist of the left hand
  • begin to S-hale like a snake (with a smile) feeling the diaphragm contract
  • releasing the tension (wrestle) from the hand against the IT band
  • drawing your left knee, a bit closer to the floor
  • massage vigorously the IT band and muscles around it creating healing circulation
  • repeat 3X on each side of the body
  • starting with the knee up and away from the floor and not open further than a right angle towards you
Using yoga blocks to get hips above your knees.

Next, I suggested to both my gal pals when sitting getting your hips above your knees which is not easy with a standard desk. Fortunately, one has a desk that adjusts to standing or sitting. She could stack a few sets of yoga blocks on her standard chair as pictured below or get more of a bar stool type chair to again to get her hips above her knees. This is not going to work with a standard desk because when you lift your hips above your knees the desk is going to be lower and you would then haft to slouch over. Some would think having a standing desk would solve the problem of excessive sitting however, that is not the case. Especially if when standing you are not in proper alignment and are starting to slouch after a period of excessive standing. In my opinion, it all comes back to balance. Balance in the body and balance between sitting, standing, and activity. I try to stand or be active equally to the amount of time I need to sit. In other words, if I sit for 30 minutes I then stand/ move my body for 30 minutes. Switching between sitting and moving my body throughout the day helps to keep me in balance.

Inner Breath Yoga ~ YogAlign focuses on the now, supporting our physical and mental health and wellness to create a sustainable body. A pain-free body with a positive mental outlook that allows us to keep enjoying the people, places, and new adventures that keep us thriving in life.

Aloha see you on the mat.

Travel and Yoga.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When I think of travel I instantly think of freedom, adventure and fun. My second thought would likely be some logistics like when, where and how much is this going to cost. Finally I might start going over what I am going to pack and if I need to purchase any new gear for my trip.

I will tell you what does not cross my mind, however I do know it does cross many other minds is the long uncomfortable plane ride. Let’s face it unless you splurge for extra comfort or first class at some point you are going to be uncomfortable.

I myself am considered one of the lucky ones (as I have been told) because I can sleep almost an entire six hour plane flight. That is not the case for most folks and my husband and son fall into the can’t sleep on a plane category. Although my beloveds are much taller than me and having enough leg room is a bigger issue for them.

Something else most folks do not think about when they are going on a long distance business or pleasure trip is yoga. Packing a foldable yoga mat, bringing extra funds for a yoga class or finding an app to watch and follow along with yoga class. I do know folks will visit the 24 hour fitness space in their lodgings for a work out if sleep is out of the question.

For me I know after a long distance plane ride the only thing I want is to create space in my body. Re-set the tension in my possible aching back, knees, shoulders and neck. To create more length in my current state of resting muscles. As I am sure they have become short and tight from the curled up and balled posture I have maintained will sitting for hours.

One example of why we all maybe feeling some of those aches and pains as well as stiffness and possible indigestion is due to some simple unbalanced body mechanics.

We have already taken out any possibility of getting any length in our legs by just being seated. If you are lucky enough to have some leg room in front you might be able to bend forward to get length in the back line and relief from gravity while hanging your head forward. What can help get some comfort and support is simply sitting back in your seat. And practicing a few of the YogAlign principles listed below.

The image on the left: you can see how the head is jutted forward, the chin is starting to tuck in to the chest and the shoulders are starting to round and pull forward. All of the forward head carriage and placement is causing the frontline of the body to collapse. When the frontline of the body collapses that means so do the breathing muscles. Short and shallow breaths are probably the best it is going to get. This could lead to a headache or just pure mental frustration, While the frontline collapses the backline gets stretched and pulled forward as well. After 6 hours of these type of body mechanics I can guarantee the head, neck, shoulders and back are going to be very unhappy and will be letting you know through physical symptoms. If you plan on eating anything in this hunched over posture your digestion functions are going to be questionable.

The image on the right: by simply drawing the shoulder blades under you and pressing the back of the head into the headrest you have won half the battle. The weight of the head is supported and look at how much length is naturally created in the neck. The shoulders have come down away from the ears and the chin has naturally fallen into alignment. This second image proper body alignment means you are able to breath easy. The frontline is open and spacious allowing for full diaphragm breathing. Which like a domino affect keeps full inhales and exhales flowing, relaxing not only the mind but also the shoulder girdle. Another benefit of keeping the frontline of the body open is while eating you will be able to digest your food more effectively (we know sitting does not help). And maybe, just maybe you might even fall asleep.

Now for the bottom part of the body that is so much trickier. I do like to bring a small pillow to place in my lower back region. This helps to support the natural curves of my spine and may even take some pressure off of the sacrum. Really, the only thing you can do for your legs is to get up and walk down the aisle when you get a chance. Aside from some possible self massage and toe/ foot movement. Remember, it is all connected so if you wiggle your toes and feet you are going to feel that in your legs as well. I also like to bring warm socks and a scarf or small blanket to keep my feet and legs warm. Once the body starts to get cold it is going to for sure collapse in on itself in an effort to stay warm and you will be back to square one.

Once I have landed and feel settled in, a grounding YogAlign practice is where I start first to regain my composure and get my body back in its happy place. Although I was able to practice some of the YogAlign principles on the plane (in the above mentioned) to really come back into homeostasis I need to include the entire body. Sometimes long distance traveling can create some anxiety and having some familiar breathing habits and relaxing yoga postures is just what can bring us back to feeling safe and supported. To that I wish you safe, comfortable and happy travels.

See you on the mat.

YogAlign and Gaming – how can gamers best prevent injuries?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

When most folks think of injuries gaming is not the first activity that would come to mind.

Gaming is a very hot topic in today’s world and also in my household. The topic of gaming contains many layers of knowledge, judgment and opinions and yet little research has been done to determine the long term effects, if any; on our mind, body and spirit.

What is Gaming? Definition from Techopedia – Gaming refers to playing electronic games, whether through consoles, computers, mobile phones or another medium altogether. Gaming is a nuanced term that suggests regular gameplay, possibly as a hobby or competitive sport.

I myself, am like many other parents today navigating this new and very different world of online gaming. My biggest concern is poor posture however, equally important is eye strain, repetitive strain issues and lack of movement. I often remind my 16 year old son to find balance between gaming and physical activity with one being a regular YogAlign practice.

First of all let’s take a look at a typical gaming posture below:

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To the naked eye we can visually see the forward curving of the spine – backline of the body, shaping into a C formation. The shoulders are also rolled forward due to the way in this picture and with most gaming mouse are used in relation to the hand, wrist and arm position. The head, neck and chin are jutted forward as the eyes are pulling the head closer to the screen. Some of the things the naked eye may not be able to see is the tightening and clenching of the jaw and teeth (as the gaming becomes more intense or gamer becomes more irritated). As the spine – backline of the body curves forward into a C, the frontline of the body becomes collapsed. The chest, diaphragm and organs of the frontline are being squeezed making it difficult to take a full inhale and exhale (breathing becomes shallow).  While the gamer sits for long periods of time daily some muscle groups are becoming shorter and tighter making other muscle groups longer, stretched out and tired. The body is a continuum and can only be affected as a whole not in pieces as some might believe.

We are just scratching the surface here in regard to the intricacy of the human anatomy while sitting and it’s wear and tear on the body, when done on a regular basis for long periods of time.

I found that once I transitioned my yoga practice to YogAlign I learned and became more aware of the intracicies in regard to human anatomy, movement and function. Not only during my YogAlign practice, but in mine and my families everyday life (including my sons gaming posture and habits).

How can gamers best prevent injuries?

Let’s go back to the ergonomics – at a very basic level. “Ergonomics”, as defined by the International Ergonomics Association, is “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and over all system of performance”.

Ergonomics relating to gaming  explains how players interact with their hardwares and tools. Gaming products should be designed to support the natural posture of the body and the repetitive movements of the body that are necessary to operate them. Shoulder, wrist arm position, seating posture and playing style all come into effect when it comes to ergonomics in gaming. Self control, limiting the amount of time playing for pleasure or for competition daily and days weekly can be helpful in preventing injuries. Movement before, and after gaming is key especially movement that re-wires the brain from poor posture habits to proper posture habits.

Here are a few ergonomic gaming tools I have come across:

Logitech 

An ergonomic mouse that better fits the user’s hand when scrolling and clicking.

Gunnar Opticks

Safety glasses designed to eliminate eye strain and block a computer’s blue light.

Couch-master Cycon 

Helps players keep an ergonmic posture from their couch or bed by not having to rest their keyboard on their lap.

Whether  you sit in an office staring at a computer all day or sit gaming for hours we all need to get up and move. So, next time you sit for an extended period of time, check in with your body, breath and ask yourself:

  • How long has it been since I stood up, stretched and maybe walked around a bit?

Sitting all day is bad for your health – A University of Waterloo professor says his research shows that people should be standing for at least 30 minutes per hour to get health benefits.

  • Do my eyes feel strained and maybe even feel a slight head ache coming on

Extended computer use or inadequate or excessive lighting may cause eye strain.

  • When was the last time I had a drink of water or a healthy snack?

There are many different opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day. Health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.

  • Am I sitting closer to the edge of my chair to allow by spine to lengthen?

Sit up at the end of  your chair with your back straight and your shoulders blades down, all three natural back curves (cervical, lumbar and thoracic) should be present while sitting. (if possible get your hips above your knees).

  • Are my shoulder blades relaxed down my back or creeping up to my ears?

Tight shoulders can be caused by sitting for extended periods causing pain or stiffness in your neck, back and upper body.

  • Am I clenching my teeth and tightening my jaw?

Stress or anxiety can cause the muscles in the jaw to tighten. A person may clench their jaw or grind their teeth without even noticing it.

  • Am I able to take a full inhale an exhale from my diaphragm?

On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year.

Believe or Not, it takes more precious life force energy in our everyday lives and activities to have poor posture than it does to have proper posture.

My motto “sit up and cheer up, get up stand up – for your life”.

How does to much time sitting in chairs damages our ocean’s reefs? 

By Renee’ Fulkerson

You might be thinking what does sitting in a chair haft to do with an ocean’s reefs? I would be thinking the same thing if I had not made the connection personally on my last adventure out snorkeling.

A little back story:

Last year in the middle of April 2018 Kauai received 50 inches of rain in 24 hours that devastated the island. The north shore communities of Wainiha and Haena were cut off from the rest of the island due to countless mudslides that covered the only two lane road in or out of these communities. It took over a year to repair the road to a safety standard that would allow all non Wainiha and Haena residents to re-enter the area.

YogAlign Inner Breath Yoga Kauai (18)

During this one year period the only folks allowed in and out of the above mentioned communities while massive road repair was taking place were the full time residents. As a full time resident living in Haena I saw with my own eyes the land transform.

Myself and many of the locals had an opportunity of a lifetime to spend time on the secluded and empty beaches. We began to see the fish returning, turtles nesting that had not been there since folks could remember and the reefs were coming alive again.

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This is when I began my regular snorkeling adventures!

During this time I continued teaching and practicing YogAlign – pain-free yoga from your inner core. I began realizing much of my movements in the water reflected my movements in YogAlign. Not to mention breathing through the snorkel replicated the SIP breath in my practice. Like snorkeling a full body activity we too in YogAlign engage the entire body in practice and view the body as a whole.

The primary muscle groups engaged while snorkeling include:

Hip flexors, ham strings, upper and lower abdominal’s, quads and gluteul muscles

A fair amount of flexibility in the ankle region as well as the ability to point the toes like a dancer is necessary (if you prefer to avoid leg and foot cramps).

A  strong core (abdominal, Oblique and back muscles) help to create a stable platform for legs to kick as well as a balance in your front and back leg strength.

Here is were the sitting in a chair comes in as none of the above mentioned muscle groups are engaged during sitting – it is quite the opposite. (the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting)

Having said that you take an average person who sits 7.7 hours a day in a chair and he or she decides one day to go snorkeling chances are the ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystem) and themselves are going to suffer.

How because he or she would be expecting their bodies to preform in a way it is incapable of preforming. The primary muscle groups that need to be engaged while snorkeling have amnesia from sitting. Flexibility in the ankles and pointing of the toes  would be limited – due to the shortening and tightening of the front line while sitting. Their core would be void creating an unstable platform for their legs to kick not to mention the unbalance between the back and front leg muscles.

How does all of this effect the oceans reefs?

On my last snorkeling adventure I realized I had gained greater endurance, strength and stamina (all supported by my regular YogAlign practice). However when I looked all around me as far as my eye could see people were STANDING ON THE REEFS! Why? Because they were tired and or had leg/ foot cramps and difficulty breathing (and yes I asked).

I swam up and said do you realize you are standing on a fragile underwater ecosystem that has had a years gift to repair itself from the endless years of damage it has received? Usually the response was I was so tired I could not get back to shore or I was having trouble breathing and got a leg cramp. lol

I encourage everyone to get out and get moving including snorkeling however, not at the sake of our ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystems) or their safety. #getupstandupforyourlife

See you on the mat!

Top 10 benefits of Snorkeling