Sh*t your yoga teacher says, "pull your belly button to your spine."
The dreaded metal bleachers - a far cry from the perfectly balanced ergonomic office chair or the blanket/pillow nest you’ve created in Friday Morning’s Restore class…I think each time I stand up from the dreaded metal bleachers I always say “D*mn, I can’t sit on these for long or my back kills me.” But also, what happened to me, LOL.
In a study published by the International Journal of Yoga found that regular yoga practice can significantly improve spinal range of motion and alignment. Yoga also increases core strength based on the research done by the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine - but like, you knew this, because we discuss this all the time. But mostly, we get you to strengthen your core by saying a little something that goes like this: “Pull your belly button to your spine.” We are trying to get you to engage your core. It’s not about sucking in or doing 1,000 crunches, it’s about activating your abdominals.
So, why does my back hurt after sitting on the bleachers? Ergonomics.
The ergonomic chair keeps your body in a neutral position, much like being mindfully aligned in your yoga class. The bleachers - not so much, especially if you aren’t mindfully sitting upright. If you sat like a shrimp on the metal bleachers for the hour-long basketball game, your back, butt, and hips will hurt. My core is stronger because I do yoga and I can turn around easily and congratulate the parent behind me on their kid’s beautiful three-point shot…I still have to mindfully sit upright and control my poster and core. Sitting on a metal bleacher is not comfortable, or safe for my back, and most of the time those bleachers aren’t even that cute.
Here’s the thing, an ergonomic chair is great for your back to sit all day, but what about everything else - like if you’re putting up your groceries, cleaning out your garage, or bending over doing laundry? None of those things use an ergonomic chair. Yoga is ergonomics for your everyday life.
A lil’ bit about Ergonomics: ergonomics is all about adapting the environment to the user. Ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design it to optimize human well-being and overall system performance. (So says the internet.)
Ergonomics has five aspects that it follows: 1) safety, 2) comfort, 3) ease of use, 4) productivity/performance, and 5) aesthetics.
Ergonomics considers the physical, cognitive, and organizational aspects, and as you know, yoga focuses on the mind-body connection. This paired with adaptability makes both yoga and ergonomics go hand in hand. Ergonomics is all about adapting the environment to the user, and yoga is all about adapting the pose to your body - NOT the other way around.
In the Journal of Ergonomics, a study was conducted and found that ergonomic inventions in the workplace significantly improved productivity and reduced discomfort among workers - I can’t speak for certain if that is directly related to discomfort around your boss, but I feel like if you used an ergonomic chair and practiced yoga (though this isn’t a study, just an opinion) you would also have reduced discomfort around your boss. If anything you could take some deep breaths in your very comfortable chair. Yoga is proven to contribute to a reduction in stress, so as a non-scientist stating opinions - seems legit.
So why practice yoga if sitting on metal bleachers is still going to suck? (..drumroll)
It’s about getting out of your head and back into your body. If you are sitting on an ergonomic chair at home AND practicing yoga, you are more likely to realize when your body starts to slump on the bench and correct your posture. Since your core is stronger and your back has a better range of motion, you are more likely to not hurt as bad when you stand up from the bleachers.
Next time you’re at the studio really notice how you move throughout class and notice how you move throughout work and the rest of your day. Start to bring your body awareness off the mat into your everyday life, and start to put into practice the ease of ergonomics.