I learned to rock star whistle perched on the lofty branches of a Japanese Umbrella Pine. From way up there, you could see Sado Island just off the coast of Kashiwazaki. Lips drawn inward, clamping down on the ring of my thumb and index finger, I practiced and practiced, immersed in a concentration bubble as only a determined 9 year old can.
Looking back, I realize that the greater skills acquired in life are realized through persistent, enjoyable practice. Naturally, there is a goal in mind, but we continue to practice because the process feels good.
As I consider how to encourage my beloved desk jockey friends to improve and maintain healthy posture, I recall all the rehab exercises prescribed and discarded. Knowing that it helps isn’t enough for us emotional, fleshy and odd creatures.
I offer this slider plate of yoga to you. First, a simple anatomy lesson. When discussing shoulder posture, one should probably start at the feet. But for the sake of brevity, let’s start at the base of the spine. The position of your pelvis governs the shape of your low back, which dictates the position of your upper back, neck and head. Since your shoulder girdle yokes the rib cage, their position depends on spine posture and rib ring placement. The following are meant to provide a gateway to postural awareness, and an opportunity to come out of hunched over desk shape.
Weave this practice into the tapestry of your day, at work and after. Please layer each instruction on top of the previous. You may improve shoulder posture and awareness, ‘open your heart’ in yoga language, and perhaps even expand your metaphysical heart.
- The Space Between Thoughts. After composing the email and before slamming send, inhale. Breathe into your back body, as if inflating your kidneys. Stay with the space between inhale and exhale, between thoughts, between compose and send for a moment. Exhale, sink your upper thigh bones into your chair while holding on to the memory of the stillness within that pause. Maintain the fullness in your back. Inhale, broaden your collar bones until you feel the muscles between the shoulder blades engage just a little. Exhale, slide the sides of your throat back and slightly up. Inhale, keep all that, roll your upper biceps up towards the sky without loosing the fullness in your back, or jutting out the front ribs. Exhale, mindfully press send, pianissimo.
- Tea Kettle Meditation. Remove shoes. Exhale, press the boil button and root down through your feet. Inhale, expand, rise up. Hold on to these polar qualities as you press the outside edges of your hands onto the counter (as if to karate chop the counter), shoulder width apart. Walk back 4 feet or so, your feet hip distance apart. Firm your legs and arms. Inhale, imagine pressing your upper thigh bones back into the hamstrings until you feel your low back curve inward. You are in an upside-down L shape. Carve your sitting bones up toward the sky. Press the outside edge of your hands down onto the counter. Exhale, soften the back of your heart through the strong gates of your arms. Continue breathing, 5 cycles or so, as you listen to the gentle rumble of heating water. Remain in the pleasure of sensory perception for the duration of your tea break.
- The Pious Pint. Wrap your fingers around the cold amber beverage. Inhale, expand and grow taller as if there is a sunrise in your heart. Exhale, draw your shoulder blades gently in towards the spine until the glass slides towards you a little. Inhale, roll your upper arm bones in and up as you raise your glass. exhale, make eye contact with the people around you. Inhale, slide your shoulder blades down into your back pockets (but not so much that you feel tension in your neck) as you bring the glass to your lips. Exhale, lower the glass, stay with the sensation of effervescence within for as long as you can before engaging in conversation.
Naomi is an RMT and yoga teacher at Eden Therapy with her fellow practitioners, Dawn the Acupuncturist, Genevieve, fellow RMT, and Ally, a Craniosacral Therapists who also has her masters degree in Osteopathy.