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Using Pilates to disconnect the body from the screen

Selena DeLeon

Sunday, September 09, 2018

BEING literally “wired” all the time can wreak havoc on your neck and shoulders.

Consider that your head weighs 10 to 12 pounds, and the network of muscles that hold this ball upright are relatively small, designed to work synergistically as a team to keep the blood flowing up into the brain. The intricate design of your neck, with its scaffolding properties of vertebrae, ligaments, nerves, and small muscles that layer along the spine acting as pulleys and frames, ensures that the intervertebral discs provide cushioning to protect the spinal cord from compression.

With the level of complexity in our bodies' design, it is an engineering wonder that we can even keep the head upright!

Add to this a constant repetitive action of dangling the weight of a bowling ball as a shear force on that tower of neck support, forward over our chest, and think of the tension that we put on the system given of our neck and shoulders. It is a balancing act and the strain can only be ignored for so long as we are out of pain, but given enough time and neglect, the body will eventually tell us when enough is enough. You and everyone you know need an alignment makeover.

The human body, throughout evolution from the primate era, has never before now encountered this degree of widespread repetitive anatomic configuration, and its effects on this generation will stand to be seen over the next few decades, with an increase in neck and shoulder dysfunctions.

Until there is a device invented that places the screen directly in front of our eyes with the eyelashes level with the floor, the cost on our addiction to the screen will continue to plague us as a society and a world.

There is a two-way approach to combating the problem.

First, we could look at the idea of addiction to the screen and bring mindfulness and abstinence to the equation, which will limit our engagement. The second is to create more ergonomically friendly spaces to meet our on-screen needs, such as sitting on a physioball as opposed to a chair, lifting the height of our devices, moving into more friendly postural arrangements to get the job done, and finally, backing these practices up with some good old Pilates to stay strong as we fight to survive our screen obsession.

 

The mechanics

Pilates offers an extensive programme to strengthen the muscles that hold your head up, as well as focuses on stretching and releasing the muscles that are overworked. It brings awareness to the areas that are stiff, and helps to organise the head, neck and shoulders in their best placement, working the muscles that stage that placement, so that it becomes effortless to hold it all together without thinking too much about it. It is important to work in opposition to how you normally hold your head.

We are still witnessing the long-term effects of our newly adopted screen culture, and the fundamental advice is in one word: Awareness.

If you can catch yourself hanging your head over your chest, it is a good starting point for correction. The small changes in what we do as a daily practice, go a longer way than an hour in the gym or on the mat. Take an inventory of the position of your head and go about reminding yourself to place the back of the head in line with the back of the shoulders.

You can also visualise the hair on the crown of your head being pulled upwards, imagining that your head is floating up off of your shoulders, to literally take the load off.

Pay attention to your habits, as the list of problems that go with a neck that becomes unmanageable far outweigh the cost of putting in healthy practices that support your best self and centre. And last but not least: Do more Pilates!

 

Selena DeLeon has been a personal and group fitness trainer for 16 years. She recently transitioned into the world of Pilates and has a studio in Kingston called Core Fitness, where she helps people to move and live better.