This piece was originally published in February 2021.
Even with a percentage of students back on Emmanuel College’s campus this semester a large number of students and faculty are still working from their at home desks. As you stay put and power-up your laptop, The Hub is here to provide healthy tips to avoid pesky back aches.
Dr. Luke Suchecki of Suchecki Chiropractic in Salisbury, Massachusetts warns of poor ergonomics while sitting at the computer.
“The pandemic has forced students and others to work remotely, but their work spaces have not adapted as well to the shift,” says Suchecki. According to Dr. Suchecki, sitting at the computer in abnormal positions puts serious stress on the neck and upper back. He suggests investing in a nice office chair with a high back and good back support.
“Prop the laptop up on something high enough, whether that be a few books or a shelf, to put the screen at eye-level to avoid strain on the neck”, he advises patients. As the pandemic progressed, Dr. Suchecki has seen a surge in patients with headaches and radiating pain going from the neck through the arms. He urges people to take frequent breaks and walk around the room a few times to mitigate the effects of long-term sitting. Some stretches he recommends to combat constant hunching include: Lying backwards on a yoga ball, putting your forearms flush with a doorway and stepping into the doorway with one foot, and laying down on the floor or bed with a pillow underneath the mid-back.
He also highly encourages students to stay hydrated. “The disks in the spine,” he explains, “are something like 95% water, so hydration is key to keeping them healthy.”
Our next piece of advice comes from certified Avita Yoga Teacher, Steve Emmett-Mattox. This style of yoga is truly for everyone as it does not require extreme skills.
“Avita Yoga works by bringing gentle healing pressure into the joints, it also brings relaxation and stress reduction,” says Emmett-Mattox.
These three shapes, held for 2-3 minutes per side every other day, will bring lasting benefits to your mental and physical well-being. No special props are needed. With each shape, move slowly and deliberately, and don’t push through pain or strong sensation. Some sensation in the muscles or joints is good. As with any physical activity, it is important that you pay close attention to the feedback from your body and lessen the depth of the shape if anything feels unsafe or painful.
Yoga is about letting go, so as you practice these shapes, notice where you are holding on in your body (and mind) and see if you can release. And please remember, be kind to yourself throughout the practice and pleased that you are making this time for yourself. (Steve Emmett-Mattox).
Legs up the wall
Emmett-Mattox, Steve. Legs Up the Wall. Jan. 2021, CO.
Start by lying on your back with your hips about 10 inches from the wall and your feet toward the ceiling. Let your legs relax and your heels rest against the wall. Bring your hands together under the bumpiest part of your head and interlace your fingers. Tilt your chin up slightly and turn your head to the right. Don’t go around any restrictions in the movement; where you find a restriction or sensation is where your body needs to work. Close your eyes. After a few minutes, slowly bring your head through center and to the left side.
This shape brings low back relief, helps to gently open the hamstrings, and brings mobility to the neck. The neck turns stimulate the vegus nerve, which signals the body to relax and helps to relieve anxiety. The shape also challenges the heart and circulatory system requiring them to bring blood up the legs to the feet. Some tingling is normal in the feet and will subside as you practice this shape more often. If you want to nap, it is safe, and deeply relaxing and restorative, to fall asleep in this position.
Knee to chest
Emmett-Mattox, Steve. Knee to Chest. Jan. 2021, CO.
With your legs still up the wall, reach behind the right knee and interlace your fingers just behind and below the knee joint, then let your right knee bend as your guide it toward the right shoulder. Let the lower right leg and ankle completely relax, while the left leg remains passive against the wall. You might notice a pinching sensation in the front of the right hip. This is normal. Manage the intensity of this sensation by reducing the amount of pressure in the leg. Don’t get aggressive here, a little bit goes a long way. Stay for 2-3 minutes, then bring your right leg back up the wall and change to the left leg.
This shape helps with low back release, as well as the tightness in the front of the hips that comes from sitting. If you feel your neck straining as you try this shape, place a pillow or bolster under your head.
Emmett-Mattox, Steve. Sukhasana. Jan. 2021, CO.
Sitting on the floor, cross your right leg in front of your left. Now bring your heels out away from the body. The left ankle will be approximately underneath the right knee, and your thighs are moving toward being parallel. We approach this differently than a standard crossed-legs position, where the heels are close in to the body and the knees are apart and open. Changing the shape by bringing the heels away from the body and not letting the knees go wide brings healing pressure into the hips. When you find the right shape, allow your low back to soften and move back (the opposite of arching your back and sitting up straight) and notice how your structure supports you. Now drop your chin toward your chest and slowly curve forward, letting the back round from the head to the tailbone. You might not curve very far, and that’s ok. Just go as far as you can without pulling yourself down. If your hips are tight and curving forward is difficult, try sitting with your hips on a firm cushion or yoga bolster. Your arms should be out in front of you with softly bent elbows. Stay 2-3 minutes, then slowly un curve the spine and change the cross of the legs. Repeat with the left leg in front.
This shape helps with low back and hip tightness caused by sitting in a chair or standing for long periods of time. It also works the ankle and knee joints as well as the spine. It is a very calming and potentially meditative shape. (Steve Emmett-Mattox).
The Hub wishes students, staff, and faculty a healthy and active semester for both the mind and the body.
For more information: Steve Emmett-Mattox is a certified Avita Yoga teacher in Colorado. You can try one of his classes (currently streaming) through www.thehiddenyogastudio.com, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org one on one lessons or if you have any questions.
Ashleigh Litcofsky ’21 is a Staff Writer for The Hub. She can be contacted at Litcofskya@emmanuel.edu
Mary Pociask ’21 is Editor-in-Chief for The Hub. She can be contacted at Pociaskm@emmanuel.edu.