Sitting Too Much? How To Restore Balance Back Into Your Body.

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.

Aloha

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. But I do know it does cross many others is the long 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’m one of the lucky ones or, so I have been told because I can sleep almost the entire six-hour plane ride. And I know this is not the case for most people. 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 legroom is an issue for them. 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. Create more length in my current state of resting muscles. I know they have become short and tight from the curled up and balled posture I have maintained while sitting for hours. That curled up ball position also gives me indigestion.

Also, people do not think about yoga when there going on a long-distance business or pleasure trip. Remembering to pack a foldable yoga mat, bring extra funds for a yoga class, or find an app to watch. I know people will visit the 24-hour fitness at their lodgings to work out if sleep is out of the question.

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 legroom in front of you. You might be able to bend forward to get the length in the backline and relief from gravity while hanging your head down. What can help you get some comfort and support is sitting back in your seat. And using a few of the YogAlign principles listed below the photos.

In the image on the left: you can see how the head is forward, the chin is starting to tuck into 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 caves in. That means so do the breathing muscles. Short and shallow breaths are probably the best it is going to get. That could lead to a headache or just pure mental frustration. When the frontline shortens, the backline gets stretched and pulled forward as well. After 6 hours of this type of body mechanics, I can guarantee the head, neck, shoulders, and back will be 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 drawing the shoulder blades under you and pressing the back of your head into the headrest, you have won half the battle. That allows head support by the headrest and not your shoulders. And look at how much length there is in the neck. The shoulders have come down away from the ears and, the chin has naturally fallen into alignment. Thie second image’s proper body alignment means you can breathe easily. The frontline is open and spacious, letting you take a full diaphragm breath. Like a domino, effect keeping inhales and exhales flowing. And relaxing not only the mind but also the shoulder girdle. Another benefit of keeping the frontline of the body open is when you, eat you will be able to digest your food more effectively (we know sitting does not help). And 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. That helps to support the natural curves of my spine. And may even take some pressure off of the sacrum. 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, the body is connected. So if you wiggle your toes and feet, you will feel that in your legs too. 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, cool it will collapse in on itself. Trying 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 practiced some of the YogAlign principles on the plane (in the above mentioned). To fully 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.

Aloha

YogAlign And Gaming – How Can Gamers 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 hot topic in today’s world and also in my household. The subject of gaming contains many layers of knowledge, judgment, and opinions. Yet little research has been done to determine the long-term effects if, any? On our mind, body, and spirit.

What is Gaming? The definition is 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 am like many other parents today impacted by this new and very different world of online gaming. My biggest concern is poor posture but, equally important is eye strain, repetitive strain issues, and lack of movement. I often remind my 16-year-old son to find the balance between gaming and physical activity. One being regular YogAlign practice.

First of all, let’s take a look at a typical gaming posture below: 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 rolled forward due to the way (in this picture) most gaming mouses put the hand, wrist, and arm position. The head, neck, and chin are forward. Meanwhile, the eyes are drawing the head to the screen. Some of the issues you may not be seeing. Are the tightening and clenching of the jaw and teeth. (as the gaming becomes more intense or the gamer becomes more irritated). As the spine – backline of the body curves forward into a C, and the frontline becomes collapsed. The chest, diaphragm, and organs of the frontline are becoming squeezed. Making it difficult to take a full inhale and exhale (breathing becomes shallow). While the gamer sits for long periods daily, some muscle groups are becoming shorter and tighter. Forcing the other muscle groups to get longer stretched out and tired. The body is a continuum and can only be affected as a whole and not in pieces, as some might believe.

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We are just scratching the surface here regarding the intricacy of the human anatomy while sitting and it’s wear and tear on the body when done regularly for long periods. I found that once I transitioned my yoga practice to YogAlign, I learned and became more aware of the intricacies regarding human anatomy, movement, and function. I noticed this not only during my YogAlign practice but in my and my family’s everyday life (including my son’s gaming posture and habits).

How can gamers best prevent injuries?

Let’s go back to the ergonomics – at a 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 to optimize human well-being and overall system of performance.”

Ergonomics relating to gaming explains how players interact with their hardware and tools. Gaming products do not 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 competition daily and days weekly, can help prevent injuries. It is oh so important to move your body before, during, and after gaming. 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 may eliminate eye strain and block a computer’s blue light.

Couch-master Cycon  that Helps players keep an ergonomic posture from their couch or bed by not resting 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, 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 not beneficial 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 headache 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. That is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember.

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

Sit up at the end of your chair with your back straight and your shoulders blades down, and all three natural back curves (cervical, lumbar and thoracic) should be present while sitting. (if you can 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 and exhale from my diaphragm?

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

Believe it 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.”

Aloha

How Does To Much Time sitting 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. Last time I was out in the ocean snorkeling.

A little back story:

Last year April 2018, Kauai received 50 inches of rain in 24 hours that devastated the island. The north shore communities of Wainiha and Haena were isolated 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, the only folks allowed in and out of the while massive road repairs were taking place were the full-time residents. As a full-time resident living in Haena, I saw with my own eyes the land transform. The locals and I 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. The reefs were coming alive again.

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That happened to be the time 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 to realize how my movements in the water reflected my postures in my practice. Breathing through the snorkel replicated the YogAlign SIP breath. And similar to YogAlign, the activity of snorkeling required full-body engagement and global body perception. The primary muscle groups needed to engage in snorkeling are the Hip flexors, hamstrings, upper and lower abdominal’s, quads, and gluteal muscles. A fair amount of flexibility in the ankle region and 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) helps to create a stable platform. And allows your legs to kick and balances your front and back leg strength.

Here is were the sitting in a chair comes in as none of the core muscle groups are engaged during sitting – it is quite the opposite. (the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting)
Take an average person who sits 7.7 hours a day in a chair put them out in the ocean snorkeling. Chances are they and the ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystem) are going to suffer.

Why? Because they would be expecting their bodies to perform in a way it was not capable. The primary muscle groups they need to fire when they are snorkeling have amnesia. Why? Because they are sitting in chairs all of the time. The flexibility in their ankles and the ability to point their 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. Thus, creating an imbalance between the back and front leg muscles.

How does all of this affect the ocean’s reefs?

On my last snorkeling adventure, I realized I had gained greater endurance, strength, and stamina (all supported by my regular YogAlign practice). When I looked all around me as far as my eyes 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 year’s 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. However, not for the sake of our ocean reefs (fragile underwater ecosystems) or their safety. #getupstandupforyourlife

Aloha

Top 10 benefits of Snorkeling