November 19, 2020
If you’re like most people, you’re probably leaning forward to look down at your screen. Your shoulders are hunched forward. Maybe your desk is too low or your chair too high. And after a full day of video meetings? You’re exhausted.
Holistic Movement Coach Johanna Miller knows this all too well. “When you realize that no matter how much effort you put into a good posture and you still feel tense or even exhausted, you are sort of circling forever in the same roundabout.”
Stiff shoulders? Aching back? It’s very possible your posture at work is to blame.
Twice a month, Johanna Miller is running her Relax Your Back Office Hour for betahaus members who are ready to move more freely and feel more relaxed during their workday. If anyone can advise on what makes for healthy posture, Johanna is certainly the person to do it.
Find out how she says you can integrate movement into your day and improve your posture.
Johanna Miller is a self-described “movement lover” and a holistic movement- and body coach trained in the Alexander-Technique. After a back injury of her own, she pivoted from civil engineering to open her own coaching business. Now she helps people discover their individual way to move with ease and be more relaxed.
“Sitting in front of a screen all day makes it easy to forget that we actually still have legs and a backside of our body. That we actually are 3D-beings.
Plus when you focus your attention on a screen, a relatively small area, there is no need to move and take notice from the world around you. Besides the position of your coffee cup maybe.
Your eyes are focused towards the screen. So the muscles in your neck make sure they position your head in a way that your eyes can keep focusing. This can lead to a lot of subconscious tension in your neck and shoulder area. Plus focusing in general easily leads our whole system to focus and stiffen the body.”
“The biggest problem is not knowing what we do actually. Not being aware of your very own movement habits. It really doesn’t matter which particular movement it is about. Only if I realize that I tend to pull my right shoulder up whenever I hold my phone in a certain way, then I am able to stop doing it.
This might not be changeable by the first attempt, as habits are strong and loyal companions. But everytime you consciously notice the pulled up shoulder, you get the chance to stop the pulling up. To release the muscles that were active to create this movement. You will immediately gain more ease, less tension and more freedom to move.
The best thing to serve your posture and your movement is to learn about how you use yourself and to get to know which of these things might harm your health. That way, you are able to avoid these and replace them with movements that more easily support you in whatever activity you are up to.
As mostly our habits are subconscious and are so very familiar to us, we don’t notice them as such. They are just ‘how we move’. So it is helpful to have a movement coach to help you find out about your habits. A view from the outside is helpful here as well. A movement coach can really help you with that!”
“Of course you can integrate the obvious - move your body during your working day, change sitting and/or standing positions. Walk to the window, look outside. These are all wonderful and I highly recommend breaks for these things!
I even recorded a little audio sequence that supports you in a break like this!
But you can even do something while you are working, which is even more effective. It will change the way you use your body while you are doing your work. So there will be less necessity for breaks to “undo” what you did to yourself when working without mindfulness for your body.”
In whatever position you are right now, by using body mindfulness, you invite your body to loosen up, or even prevent it from tightening.
Just try it while you are reading this.
Think of the backside of your head. Just send a thought to this part of your body. Say “Hi. I know you are here as well!” The back of your head and your face are connected.
Think of your back. The whole connection from the back of your head all the way down to your pelvis. Imagine your back being wide and expanding into the room behind you.
Feel your feet on the ground. Let your toes and heels touch the floor.
Realize that from your toes to the top of your head, that is all you. Your whole body is sitting or standing here.
And now, without moving your head, see what else - besides this screen - is in your field of vision. There is no need to see everything clearly. Just realize that there is more to perceive than the screen in front of you.
All these little thoughts only take a couple of seconds but they do a great job for your body. Because they help you to connect with your whole body and be 3D rather than 2D like your screen.
These work really well during your whole working day! Even during a video call. Nobody notices that you are thinking about having a wide back for a second. But your back will thankfully release a bit of tension that might have made it a little tighter than necessary.
The only thing your audience or counterparts might notice is that you have a better presence and are more relaxed.
Most of the movements we do all day long we do without thinking about them too much. Which is a great thing in general. But it can also lead to unnecessary tensions that we are not aware of. And these can get us out of balance and thus have an impact on our posture. Everybody's movement and posture patterns are very individual.
Still there are a few easy things that are applicable for most people. Also, for myself, I use them as very valuable reminders.
1. Let your neck be free.
When you think of your head neck connection as wide and free, your whole body benefits. The head neck connection is located between your ears. This is where your skull balances on the top of your spine. All the muscles securing your head here tend towards over tension. So give this area a little mindful allowance to relax once in a while.
2. Release your weight to the ground.
Use gravity as a friend. Do not pull yourself up. Let your weight go through your feet when standing and through your sitting bones when sitting. If there is an arm or back rest on your chair, use it. Feel where you have support from the ground or from a piece of furniture and do take advantage of it.
3. Only use the amount of force you really need.
Check how you are holding your phone right now or what your fingers are doing on your touchpad or moving your mouse. How much tension is really necessary to do the movement you want to do?
Most of the time, we can level intensity down a bit. This applies to very different things, like holding yourself upright, carrying a bag, cutting vegetables or holding on to the handlebars of your bike.
When you adjust your force, your muscles do not get tired as fast and there is more freedom in your body in general.
4. Use your whole body as an entity.
Pain and tension are usually caused by overloading the affected muscle groups. However, the muscle groups are usually not overloaded because you are moving. But because they take over tasks in the “team body” which they cannot perform - to the extent - permanently. So let your whole body be involved in whatever you do. Like this every part is involved and no part has to exceed their abilities. Which leads to less overload, a better balance and by this to a better posture.
Thanks to Johanna for sitting down with us and explaining posture when working from home! If you have any questions, you can schedule an appointment through her website or at the Relax Your Back Office Hour.
Want more Office Hours and Community Events? Explore the full calendar.