Bad posture is endemic these days, the result of countless hours hunched over a computer and peering into 4 inch smartphone screens. If we take a few glances at our co-workers, neighbors, classmates or really any group of people we see stooped (internally rotated) shoulders, craned forward necks, and humped upper backs. This can be identified as 'upper cross syndrome', one of the three major postural imbalances in the developed world.
Poor posture can create back problems. For every inch a person's neck is tilted forward puts the equivalent of 14 pounds of pressure on the upper back and neck muscles. So the standard neck position for reading on a phone is like strapping four bowling balls to one’s head. It’s no wonder our backs and necks ache.
But the physical toll is not the only issue, recent studies have pointed to the fact that smartphone usage and the associated posture could also be negatively effecting our mood. This stooped posture, with slumped shoulders and craned necks, closely resembles the posture individuals assume when they are depressed and research suggests putting ourselves in this position constantly may actually make us feel depressed as well :(
So what’s the cure? Improving how you stand and carry your body starts with awareness. In many cases people may not realize how out of alignment they have become. Understanding of alignment forms the basis for teaching students correct rowing technique, with an emphasis on the natural curvature of the spine and the head sitting directly over the shoulders. The effort put in learning to row with good form often quickly translates into better standing and walking posture as well.
Awareness is only the beginning though and all the forward hunching has also created muscle imbalances in the chest, shoulder and upper back. The muscles of the front of the body are overworked and the back body underutilized. It is important to activate the small muscles between the shoulder blades, back of the neck and rear shoulders. The rowing motion naturally opens the chest and strengthens the upper back and core muscles. In addition elements from Yoga and other body weight exercises to stretch and strengthen the back body. Working these targeted areas helps your body literally pull itself back into alignment. The improvement in posture can be pretty dramatic and often happens in just a few weeks.