Your day is getting crazy. You have a long list of work tasks to be completed, but the phone keeps ringing and your ailing parents need you to help them organize their shopping and tell you about their latest mishap, and your son just texted from college asking for money…. In the meantime your inbox is filling with emails insisting on your attention, and the report you’re trying to write is due in half an hour.
Have you ever had this sort of day? I have. Thankfully not often, but enough.
If you’re like me just reading (or writing!) those words can make you feel anxious, and yet this is the mode we’re often in when we sit down to work at our computer, which not only affects us emotionally, but also physically, including our posture. And if we’re not careful we can start to “lose our head” in more ways than one.
Where’s your head?
Take a moment, as you sit reading this blog, to notice your head! Is it lightly balancing on an easeful neck, or is it pulled forward toward the computer screen, distorting your neck, and most likely your back and the rest of your body too? For most people I would bet on the second option, especially after reading that intro, but it’s all too common even at the best of times. You can see it everywhere in various manifestations. And where the former infers confidence and competence, the latter brings stress and strain, and even anxiety and powerlessness. Let it be a reminder that posture is important.
Last week we explored balance as we sit at the computer, and I encouraged you to get to know your “sit bones!” Now let’s see what’s happening at the other end of the spine – at the head! The sit bones are part of the pelvis which sits at one end of the spine. The head is at the opposite end, in counterbalance you could say, to the pelvis. If either end is off-balance our whole structure is compromised.
Your head and neck are key
The relationship of the head, neck and back is a (if not THE) key factor influencing our overall coordination. If they are not in balance, no doubt you will be suffering in one way another as you sit at your computer. Learning to better manage the head-neck relationship is a vital part of being more comfortable and productive as you work.
As usual, awareness is where we start, and it’s important to know where the head actually balances on the top of our spine (the atlanto-occipital joint). It is not at the back of our head, where we can feel the change from neck to head. It is more central – approximately between the ears and behind the nose.
Head balance: TRY THIS!
When introducing this concept to my clients, I often use this little exercise to help them explore the balancing point:
- Sitting (on your sit bones of course), put your fingers in your ears and imagine you have a rod going through the middle of your head (a beautiful mind-body image, I know!) and see if you can very gently nod your head forward as if around the “rod” – as if you were very lightly nodding “yes” in agreement with something. You are now accessing the point where the head balances at the very top of the spine (the neck).
When we lock onto the computer screen, head jutting out, neck tense, we lose this poise and the possibility of movement at this very top-most place – not a good thing for long-term comfort while we work, nor for our productivity or self-confidence.
Do you really know what you’re doing?
This tendency can be tricky to resolve, as we’re often not aware that we’re doing it. The habit of jutting the head forward ends up feeling normal, unless it’s more excessive than usual. The help of a teacher or coach can be invaluable in helping us sort this out. Failing that, a conveniently placed mirror can help, or ask a friend to observe you and give you some honest feedback. And remember we are going for balance and ease, not a forcing ourselves into a different position, which simply layers on more tension. Rather it’s about letting go of the tension that is pulling us out of shape.
As you look at your screen, can you tell if your head is jutting forward?
TRY THINKING AND AWARENESS
Instead of directly trying to fix it, expand your awareness to the space between you and the screen and all the space around you, notice your sit bones supporting you, and think of allowing your eyes to receive these words so your head can be balanced (not held or pulled forward!) at the top or your spine. Remind yourself that you do not have to hunch down and thrust your head forward to actually see the screen. Allow yourself the possibility of freedom and poise.
Do you know what you do with your head when you use your computer? I challenge you to start noticing when your head pulls forward toward to the screen. Can you decide not to do that? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Top Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.