Many of us, me included, have a love-hate relationship with technology – our computers, laptops, iPads, tablets and cell phones. We love everything they do for us: that seamless interface that connects us, almost instantaneously, with the world. We use them to get information, to interact with other people, for entertainment; we can produce complex documents, conduct research and solve problems, create images, presentations, videos and much more. What we don’t love, often, is how we feel after using this technology. Excess tension, poor posture, headaches, neck aches and back aches are all too common after hours spent at the computer, not to mention the prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries.
I would contend, however, that it isn’t actually working at the computer that is necessarily the cause of all these problems. Rather, it is the way we work – it is the way we sit, or hunch our shoulders, or the way we grip the mouse for instance. While a sedentary life-style is known not to be the healthiest choice, how we sit at the computer can make a huge difference in how we feel.
This subject dear to my heart, as I spend a lot of time working at the computer myself. I not only teach the Alexander Technique, I also design websites, mainly for other Alexander teachers, actively use the web and social media to educate people about this wonderful Technique, and much more. Indeed the Technique has given me the ability to work at the computer more mindfully, productively, with healthier posture and less tension.
While not a replacement for in-person Alexander Technique instruction, in this series of blog posts, I will be providing pointers to help your experience at the computer be more comfortable.
We can begin by cultivating a broader awareness while we use the computer. We are usually so immersed in our work (or game, or video, or Facebook…) that we forget about our body (until it starts to hurt, perhaps) and the space around us. We are totally sucked into the world on the screen in front of us. As a first step to mitigating this, broaden your awareness to include the room around you. If you have a window – look out! Look around and be aware of what’s behind you and to either side of you, at what’s beyond the computer in front of you. Can you maintain awareness of this, even for a few moments, as you return to the screen?
But how can we remember to be aware when the pull of the screen is so strong? It takes practice! It can be useful to set yourself a reminder or alert every so often. I find this mindfulness bell less jarring than many alarms.
What do you find are the biggest challenges to working at the computer? Did you try the awareness exercise? Did anything change? Was it difficult? Please let me know in the comments below.