The benefits of technology are many but our bodies were designed to move, not to spend long hours seated in front of screens or slumped over devices. Looking downward at laptops, smartphones and tablets, and prolonged sitting with poor posture, can lead to a multitude of physical issues including muscular imbalances, unhealthy movement patterns, disc injury, nerve compression, headaches, impingement of breath and arm, neck and back pain.
When your head is neutral atop your spine, the weight borne by the musculature of your neck and upper back is 10-12 pounds. When the head is tilted forward a mere 15 degrees it adds 15-17 additional pounds of load to support. At 45 degrees, a common degree of head carriage when looking at laptop, phone and tablet screens, an extra 37-39 pounds of weight is loaded! Look around and you’ll notice examples of this extreme forward head carriage everywhere.
Anatomically, chronic forward head carriage results in:
- Tight neck and upper shoulder muscles (upper trapezius, levator scapula, suboccipitals)
- Tight muscles at the front of the chest (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor)
- Weak middle- and lower-upper back muscles (middle and lower trapezius, rhomboids)
- Weak neck flexors (longus capitus, longus colli)
- Shoulders also tend to be internally rotated when using technology, which leads to dysfunction in the rotator cuff, particularly inhibition of the external rotators (subscapularis and teres minor)—if you’re a yogi who’s doing planks, vinyasas and arm balances, you really need access to the external rotators to do those movements safely
- Over time the excess load of forward head carriage may actually cause the body to build bone around the upper thoracic vertebrae to help support the weight.
But there is hope! Yoga provides us many tools we can use to adapt and live in balance with this aspect of our modern lifestyle. Read on and protect your neck—and the rest of your spine—from tech!
Part I: Ergonomics
Part II: Posture
Part III: Salabhasana Variations
Part IV: Self-Massage with Yoga Tune Up Balls
Part V: Therapeutic Corrective Exercises
Part VI: Take Breaks
Gwen Yeager-Stofko is a Hatha Yoga Instructor (E-RYT 500), Certified Integrated Yoga Tune Up® Teacher and Movement Educator based in Los Angeles. She leads intelligently sequenced classes and workshops that focus on mindfulness and self-study, pranayama, anatomical awareness, deep relaxation, and a healthy dose of light-heartedness and humor. Gwen is passionate about the relationship between body, breath and mind, and her classes are a place where students can explore their personal edges and perceived boundaries, slow their minds and move closer to their intuitive, balanced and creative selves. For more information visitgwenyeager.com You can practice yoga and Yoga Tune Up® weekly with Gwen at YogaWorks.