In modern day society we live with all the advantages that the world has brought us, including big screen TV’s with countless channels to choose from; easily accessible transport allowing us to commute and travel extensively for holidays or work; computers, smartphones and tablets help us manage both our personal and professional life, while the internet provides us an immeasurable source of knowledge and entertainment at our fingertips.
These elements alone have improved our lifestyle tenfold, they have become a huge part of our everyday life. The negative result though is that we are far less active, we are often seated for long periods of time, spending hours sitting on the couch, watching television or playing on our I-pad, or possibly locked in our seat during our regular commute. These are now an everyday fact in most of our lives.
The key word here is sitting. From a young age we enter school and are put behind a desk for a large portion of the day. Many of us go on to college and spend long hours studying at a desk and a great proportion of us go on to sit at a desk, spending most of the working week sitting in front of a computer. This has an adverse effect on our posture and can over time literally change your body shape.
Upper and Lower Cross syndromes are prevalent in today’s society and nine out of ten people can be seen to suffer the effects to some degree. Being seated all day causes the hip flexors to shorten, abdominals to weaken, lower back muscles to tighten and hamstrings to become weak and overstretched. This is known as lower cross syndrome and while it is not necessarily a dangerous affliction, if left unchecked it can lead to low back pain. If left untreated eventually it work its way up the kinetic chain causing similar posture and pain patterns in the upper body; upper cross syndrome mirrors the muscular effects of the lower body causing tight chest (pectoral) muscles, a weak upper back and forward head posture, often leading to chronic neck and shoulder pain.
And so that leaves us with the question: “what can we do to counteract the negative effects our lifestyle is having on us?”
Well the answer is not all that complicated; we simply need to dictate some time to counteract the effects of our lack of movement by learning to move more! We need to strengthen those muscles that are weak and stretch muscles that are tight. What we need is a formulated plan or series of exercises and stretches to counteract the daily stresses put on our body.
Thankfully there are many forms of postural and movement based training readily available to you. Pilates and yoga are both very popular methods of movement and you should be able to find a class close to you or you can use an online program to do it at home.
Pilates is a series of exercises that helps to strengthen our core muscles – that is the deep muscles of the abdomen and lower back. These muscles are often weak and in need of a workout. The deep core muscles are the support we need for a fine and upright posture. The Pilates method also helps stretch tight muscles that can become chronically shortened and often cause us to feel deep muscular pain when we become tired. This is why Pilates, while a relatively new method of exercise has seen such an explosion of popularity in the last few years – It tackles an ever increasing problem for our society, the effects of our modern day living. The beauty of the Pilates technique is that all you need is a little bit of floor space and some free time making it a very practical form of exercise and as an added bonus Pilates teaches deep abdominal breathing which helps to relax and relieve tension leaving you feeling more positive and energised a sure fire way to improve your posture and general health.
Yoga is a very ancient form of movement thought in line with breathing and meditative practices. Yoga classes in the west have grown with increasing popularity in the last 100 years or so, since they were first introduced to the west. Yoga poses tend to be multifaceted, they work with many different lines of stretch and areas of strengthening through a combination of isometric contractions, static stretching and transitioning patterns, moving from one posture to the next. This combination of movement allows the hips to open from their deeply restrictive posturally induced prison. The encouragement of deep back bends allows the frontal line of the body to open while the back line of the body increases in strength. A great method to combat the effects of upper and lower cross syndrome. Like Pilates, the breath is considered vitally important in yoga, it is considered to be the bridge between the mind and the body and deep breathing is encouraged throughout its practice.