The Cause. A lot of people's musculoskeletal problems can be attributed to the fact that they sit down for 16+ hours a day. They are "desk jockeys." If you have a job that requires you to sit down at work, you probably sit all day, and then come home and sit some more (at dinner, in front of TV, in front of PC, etc.). Sitting is not bad for your body. Indeed, slouching is not bad for your body. However, putting your body in one position (be it sitting or sitting with a slouch) and then holding it still all day for years–decades even–can and will have repercussions, especially for those who have a genetic predisposition to some sort of musculoskeletal problem, like I do.
Engineering Muscles. I find it's best to examine one's body like an engineer would. Muscles always cross some joint, they always connect to two or more bones. Muscles can be lengthened or tightened on a semi-permanent basis by stretching and exercise respectively. For example, by exercising your hamstrings, you will, over time, increase the resting muscle tone of your hamstrings, effectively shortening the muscles. So think of all your muscles like a piece of rope and imagine your goal is to get those ropes to their ideal length (your tools being exercise to shorten/tighten and stretching to lengthen/loosen).
Muscle Adaptation. Now, complicating the picture is the fact that your muscles and ligaments adapt over time to conditions to which they are repeatedly subject. So, for example, if you slouch all day in front of a computer, the thoracic portions of your erector spinae muscles will lengthen and become weak because (1) they're constantly being slightly stretched and (2) they're not being exercised. It may also be the case, though I don't know for sure, that the ligaments that encase your spine will loosen on the posterior side of your spine from the stretch exerted on them by slouching.
Adaptation to Sitting. So how do your muscles react to sitting down all day? First we have to separate sitting down from (a) slouching and (b) sitting in front of a computer. These are three different concepts. Sitting, even in good posture, is still going to have certain negative effects on your body, so, for simplicity's sake, when reading the following, just conceptualize sitting with good posture as sort of a less-bad form of slouching or sitting in front of a computer. Most people slouch in front of a computer all day, which is worst case scenario, and that's what I'll address here.
When you sit at a computer your body is positioned as follows:
- Your pelvis is tilted posteriorly to a great degree (imagine the end range-of-motion if you were trying to hump something while standing, sometimes referred to as "freaking" on the dance floor).
- Your lower back is in flexion (i.e. your lumbar spine is curved (concave)backwards) to a great degree.
- Your upper back is in flexion (i.e. bent forward) to a great degree.
- Your shoulders are vertically positioned over your thighs, not your pelvis.
- Your head is positioned even farther our over your thighs than your shoulders.
- Your forearms are internally rotated (i.e. pronated) to nearly their end-ROM.
- Your iliacus and psoas are in a lengthened position.
This is the positioning that your muscles and (possibly) ligaments will adapt to over time. Your body will get "good" at assuming this position. Now, everyone has a different body, so everyone's body will react differently to this state of affairs. The following is what's typical:
- The posterior pelvic tilt may contribute to chronically tight hamstrings because it puts your hamstrings in a shortened position.
- The excessive lumbar flexion will reduce the natural lordosis (i.e. inward curvature) of your lower back, giving you a "flat" lower back (i.e. one that's more or less perfectly vertical when standing, rather than curving inward towards your belly). I could write a whole separate article on the implications of this, having experienced it first-hand. Just briefly, this can cause a sensation of stiffness when you rotate your back to either side, can cause chronic back pain in the middle of your back (near where the lumbar spine meets the thoracic spine), and can force your pelvis into posterior tilt when standing, etc.
- The excessive flexion (i.e. forward-bending) of your upper back will give you, well, excessive flexion of your upper back! That means when standing you have excessive kyphosis. Think of Quasimodo, a hunchback. That's you. If you read books a lot, that's even worse than sitting at a PC from the perspective of excessive kyphosis, because you're even more hunched over. Buy a book stand already. Excessive kyphosis brings its own laundry list of injury predispositions and other problems, including shoulder impingement and chronic headaches (via the oft-accompanying forward-head-posture).
- The fact that your shoulders aren't squarely over your pelvis, a position contributed to, and exacerbated by the fact that you've developed a kyphotic posture from slouching for years, brings its own problems. Your shoulders are naturally riding high on your thorax in this position which means that (1) your upper trapezius muscles are in a very shortened position, and are positioned such that they will fire (i.e. contract) when you move your hands/arm around, and (2) a little-known muscle called the levator scapulae is in a lengthened position and is constantly subject to a mild stretch. Again, I could write a whole article on this, but just briefly, the results are that (a) your upper trapezius will get short and strong as hell, and getting them massaged will feel great and (b) your levator scapulae are going to be very angry because they're being stretched all the time; it will also feel great if they are massaged.
- Your psoas and iliacus, sometimes jointly referred to as the iliopsoas muscle,are going to become weak because they are in a relaxed position all the time, but more importantly, your natural tendency to posterior pelvic tilt and/or your flat lower back are going to change your standing posture such that, viewed from the side, your knees and pelvis are positioned way in front of your ankles (ideally they should be directly over your ankles) and your upper body will compensate by leaning back. This new posture actually puts your iliopsoas muscle into a lengthened position in the same way that sitting down does.
How do I Fix all this? Whoa, easy there. Don't jump the gun. Remember, this article makes vast generalizations about how a typical person's body reacts to a seated lifestyle. You're not the typical person. You may play a sport, you may be fat, you may be old, you may be young, you may have a joint disease; you could by anyone. Before you start googling "posterior pelvic tilt" and "excessive kyphosis" and "flat back" you need to figure out whether you have any of these problems. Would it give you pause if I told you that some people's bodies react in the exact opposite way to what I described above and that doing corrective exercises and stretches for the conditions I described above could actually make your problem worse? The last thing I need is my readers going to some screwball website and hurting themselves. Been there, done that.
Some typical yoga poses that help you overcome this problem are as follows
Benefits : Pawanmuktasan relieves chronic constipation, increases digestive power, helps in relieving gaseous accumulation and also strengthens the lower spine
- Legs together hands by the side of your body.
- Bend your left leg and grip it with both the hands.
- Interlock your fingers and press your thigh against the abdomen.
- Breathe deeply (at least five breaths).
- Come back to Shavasana.
- Now repeat the same process on right side.
- Then with both the legs, pressing your thighs hard against the abdomen.
- Breathe deeply (at least five breaths).
- Come back, straighten your legs and relax
PawanMuktasana Video 2
PawanMuktasana Video 3
The Cobra Pose is a great exercise for people with lower back aches. This posture decreases stiffness in the lower back, enlarges the chest, and strengthens the arms and shoulders. This Asana is also good to combat menstrual irregularities, and it helps relieve stress. Learn how to perform the Cobra Pose in this section.
- Lie on your belly, while your head rests on your lower arms.
- Raise your forehead, look upwards and stretch your hands backwards. Let your weight rest on your chest.
- The head falls a little backwards towards your back and the backward movement proceeds from the neck and the chin. Move your belly further backward as if someone is pulling your arms. The weight is more and more shifted towards the belly and the lower back does the real work.
- If you cannot raise your chest any further, put your hands and arms next to your chest on the mat without losing the bend. Stretch your arms so that they stand perpendicular on the floor and at the same time turn your arms a little inward. Relax your lower back and bear your weight with your arms.
- The buttock muscles remain relaxed during the exercise. Move your chest further upwards with every breathing out. Do this in a relaxed way instead of using force. You can tilt your head back. The shoulders are broad in front and the shoulder blades remain low.
Build up the exercise in a quiet way. When the lower back is stiff, this exercise may cause the lower back to feel a little painful and uncomfortable. This is normal and will pass away as the stiffness decreases. In spite of the uncomfortable feeling that you may sometimes experience, this exercise is highly recommended for people with a stiff lower back or pain in the lower back.
Posture In this asana both the legs are raised upwards and so is called Dwipada(both legs) Uttanpadasana.
Pre position Supine Position.
- Exhale and inhaling start raising both the legs upward and stop when they make angle of 90 degree with the floor.
- Keep the sight at the toes of the feet.
- Continue normal breathing and try to maintain the posture steady.
Position While raising the legs, it is necessary that the legs be kept straight and close together. Keep the toes together and stretched towards sky.
Releasing Inhale and exhaling, bring both the legs down, back on to the floor.
Duration Though this asana appears to be simple, it is difficult to maintain the posture. To start with try to maintain this for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not take unnecessary strain, if you feel uncomfortable then release the posture immediately.
Internal Effects In this asana, thigh muscles and stomach muscles are stretched. The strain reaches inner organs like small intestines, enzyme producing glands and other organs and helps increases their capacity. The vertical position of the legs help improve the blood circulation.
Precaution One should avoid movement of legs with jerk or speed. The movements should be controlled otherwise this asana can strain muscles.
- Raise both the legs at 90 degrees to ground keeping them straight in knees with toes pointing to the sky.
- Keep the back & buttocks on the ground
- Arms straight with palms resting on the ground close to the body.
- Head straight and eye sight fixed on the raised toes.
- Do not bend the legs in knees.
- Do not lift the lower back or buttocks.
Shavasana (sometimes written as Savasana) is perhaps the most important part of a yoga practice. It serves many purposes: physical, spiritual and philosophical.
After the exertions of the practice, Shavasana allows the body a chance to regroup and reset itself. After a balanced practice, the entire body will have been stretched, contracted, twisted and inverted. These means that even the deepest muscles will have the opportunity to let go and shed their regular habits, if only for a few minutes.
Furthermore, the physiological benefits of deep relaxation are numerous and include:
- a decrease in heart rate and the rate of respiration.
- a decrease in blood pressure.
- a decrease in muscle tension.
- a decrease in metabolic rate and the consumption of oxygen.
- a reduction in general anxiety.
- a reduction in the number and frequency of panic attacks.
- an increase in energy levels and in general productivity.
- an improvement in concentration and in memory.
- an increase in focus.
- a decrease in fatigue, coupled with deeper and sounder sleep.
- improved self-confidence.
An intelligent yoga practice will furnish the nervous system with a host of new neuromuscular information. Shavasana gives the nervous system a chance to integrate that in what can be thought of as a brief pause before it is forced once again to deal with all the usual stresses of daily life.
After so much time being bound to the actions of the body, the practitioner's awareness is hopefully turned inwards and purified of sensory distraction. Shavasana then becomes the beginning of deeper, meditative yogic practices. In state of sensory withdrawal it becomes easier to be aware of the breath and of the state of the mind itself. Though not the best position for prolonged meditative contemplation – the reclined position dulls the mind too much for the kind of discernment necessary to achieve deeper meditative states, this can be a successful introductory practice for those not yet ready for formal meditation.
Second week and on wards:(Add the below exercise to your routine)
To derive the maximum theraupetical and physical benefits from Shalabhasana, one should practice Shalabhasana only after completing the Ardha Shalabhasana cycles. Shalabhasana is complementary to Bhujangasana. Hence, both the Shalabahasanas should be practised immediately after Bhujangasana.
- Don’t practice Shalabhasana if you are pregnant, and also if you are suffering from cardiac ailments, asthma, hernia, and blood pressure.
- Shalabhasana is a rather strenuous asana and requires dedication and strenuous practice.
- Shalabhasana also requires controlled breathing.
- Shalabhasana should always be practised on an empty stomach.
- Before proceeding with Shalabhasana, you must gain mastery over Ardha Shalabhasana
- Besides, proceed with Shalabhasana only when your body relaxes in Savasana (after the Ardha Shalabhasana cycles).
- Both before and after beginning Shalabhasana, ensure that your breathing has resumed its normal rhythm.
- So, don’t commence Shalabhasana immediately after Ardha Shalabhasana.
- Beginners besides corpulent and aged persons may find Shalabhasana difficult as it entails sudden lifting of both the legs.
- Such persons should slowly proceed with the asana and with caution.
- They should also not strain themselves trying to lift the legs too high.
- Pause for some time when you find you can go no farther.
- The beginners can, of course, tuck their fists under their thighs. This will help them in easily lifting their legs higher.
- The novices can also keep their palms and hands on the floor and under their thighs while keeping their fingers pointing towards their feet.
- To commence Ardha Shalabhasana, you will have to first lie flat on the ground with your abdomen, chest and chin touching the ground while your arms lie flat on the ground.
- As you place your fingers on the floor, clench them into fists and keep them upward facing.
- Slowly inhale deeply. Complete the inhalation in about 10 seconds.
- Don’t inhale fully. Fully filled lungs can interfere in your attempts to lift the legs.
- Start breathing out. You will have to complete the asana as you hold on to the breath. The exhalation should be concluding only after your legs reach the ground slowly and in a controlled manner.
- Use the hands, and palms (for the beginners) or the fists ( for the experienced yoga practitioner) to balance and also to leverage your body.
- Slowly lift both your legs to the highest level.
- The upper portion of your trunk above the navel should closely touch the floor. It should also not move.
- The trunk must be kept straight.
- To lift the legs, raise only the portion that is below the navel.
- Your abdomen, chest, hands, elbows and chin should firmly rest on the ground throughout the asana.
- It is important that you lift your legs exactly above the place from where they were originally placed.
- Both while raising the legs and even when you bring them back to the resting position, do not bend the knees.
- Your chin should be pressed to the ground as you attempt to lift the legs.
- Don’t pop up your head during the entire course of the asana.
- Keep the heels together.
- The toes should be pointed backwards.
- The legs and the knees must be straight and stiff.
- The legs are to be lifted up from the hips and not at all from the knees.
- As you gain expertise, slowly reduce the dependence on the hands to raise the legs.
- Actually, the legs have to be lifted up with the aid of the back and hip muscles.
- Lifting the legs accurately and maintaining the position as recommended is more important than the distance to which the legs are raised.
- Don’t lift the legs too high. Approximately, 45 degrees from the ground is the most ideal and the required height.
- The pressure of the raised legs should be felt on the chest, chin, fists, and wrists.
- But don’t strain the lungs and the chest. So, don’t unduly prolong the posture.
- The maximum weight of the legs must be on the abdomen.
- So, the beginners must not despair if they can lift the legs only a few inches from the ground in the initial stages.
- Only the experienced yoga practitioners should attempt to stiffen their back muscles while lifting the legs and while maintaining the legs in that raised position.
- Return to the starting position slowly.
- Avoid abrupt movements or jerks.
- The movements must be controlled and in a continuous flow or rhythm.
- Bring them down as you complete the exhalation uniformly and slowly. Don’t force out the air from the lungs!
- Shalabhasana has many therapeutical and physical advantages. Shalabhasana has special benefits for women. Here are the lists of the advantages:
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