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Relieve Stress at Work

Relieve Stress While You Work with Easy Exercises

Take a good look at how you're sitting right now. Are your shoulders slouched? Is your back hunched?

Poor posture is more than bad for your back; it can be bad for your disposition. Better posture allows you to relax your muscles, sit comfortably and reduce stress, movement therapists say.

With some 800 muscles in the body, even the simple act of sitting before the computer screen presents a complex situation.

In an attempt to improve our posture, many of us will sit up too rigidly. We overcompensate with an arched back and strained neck a position that's impossible to hold for any length of time.

The key is to find that neutral position that will bring maximum comfort and the least stress. When you're in that position, you will find it comfortable and easy to sustain.

So how can you tell if you're in that ideal neutral position? When you combine awareness with gentle movement, you encounter stressed areas, which then can be corrected. "When you use movement to get feedback about how you move, that information can then help you move better," says Ralph Strauch, a certified instructor in the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984), who was considered the master of movement therapy.

Based on Feldenkrais' teachings, we bring you three exercises to get your posture perfect without ever leaving your chair.

But before you begin these exercises, first assess your seat and how you sit in it. Shift around on your chair, and try resting your buttocks at different spots on the seat. Experiment with sitting far forward on the chair without using the backrest. You may have to move your chair farther away from the desk.

As you sit upright without use of the backrest, resist the temptation to force yourself into a rigid position. Place your feet flat on the floor. Think about your back. Does it feel arched?

Next, intentionally slump your lower back; round your back and let your head drop forward. Slowly arch your lower back and bring your head up and shoulders back.

You've experienced the two extremes of slouching and arching. Sitting up straight is not about extremes. With feet flat on the floor, try to find a neutral place for your pelvis that lets you sit up tall yet doesn't require you to work hard any muscle group.

Now that you've found that neutral posture, you're ready for this short series of relaxation exercises. Think about your movements as you do them. Go slowly and easily and don't force anything. If you encounter any discomfort, stop.

1. Pelvis Tilt

With your feet flat on the floor, tilt your pelvis forward so your lower back rounds, and then tip your pelvis backward so your lower back arches and your belly protrudes a little. Keep your neck, shoulders and stomach relaxed. Repeat several times slowly.

This will not only help relax your lower body but will further instruct you in finding that neutral pelvic position that is not tilted to either extreme and helps you sit up straight comfortably.

2. Basic Twist

Sit up straight on the forward part of the chair, pelvis in neutral position, feet flat on the floor. Slowly twist to the right side, turning your head in the same direction while keeping your shoulders relaxed along the way.

Observe how other muscles besides the twisting muscles near the spine jump into action. The right shoulder may rise up toward the ear or move backward. As you repeat, create more efficiency in the movement. Relax more of the body each time. Do the other side.

3. Basic Twist With Variation

Do the same slow twist to the right while turning the head all the way to the left. This is impossible to do with hunched shoulders. An excessive arch in the lower back will also make it a struggle.

Sit tall yet relaxed. Observe how the muscles around the shoulders and chest may want to force the motion.

As you repeat these exercises, efficiency and relaxation will improve and you never left your desk!

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