Categories Archives

You are currently viewing all posts published under yoga model.

If you, like the rest of us, are logging more time than ever in front of your screen and on your phone, chances are, at some point, you’re going to experience tech or text neck—discomfort, tightness, or pain in your neck and upper back. Fortunately, there are quick, easy, and effective ways to release those muscles which are most vulnerable to stress and strain. And best of all, you can do them at your desk.

As a national yoga teacher who specializes in the intersection of yoga and life off the mat, I can tell you that questions about and requests for neck releases are among the most popular I receive, which is indicative that, yes, Houston, we do have a work-posture problem. Whether I’m teaching yoga classes, in-house corporate workshops, or giving talks at events around the country, people often ask how to deal with and heal their chronic neck discomfort. And since nobody has endless amounts of time to follow a lengthy and rigorous protocol, I’ve assembled these 3 effective, efficient stretches for us desk jockeys, myself included.

1: Upper back. This is one of my favorite ways to release the upper back muscles. According to Lalla McHugh, a seasoned physical therapist with private practices in both Braintree and Roslindale, MA, “Eagle arm posture can help counteract long hours sitting at a desk, or using a cell phone. It provides a good stretch for your latissimus, trapezius and deltoids, (muscles of the shoulder and upper back), and can help maintain a healthy length of your rotator cuff muscles.

How to: sit up tall and bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for you, stay here. If you need more, drop the right elbow below the left and twine your forearms. The key to this release is to keep the elbows comfortably lifted–if it feels ok, equal height to the shoulders–and the shoulder blades as relaxed and low as possible. McHugh, who is herself a yoga practitioner, senior meditation teacher, and certified level 10 esoteric healer, advises, “To ensure an effective and safe stretch be sure to sit up straight while performing it, and don’t to push the stretch to the point of pain.”

 

If you need more stretch, press the elbows away from you slightly and let the head hang forward (photo below). McHugh explains, “When you gently bend the head forward, you increase the fascial pull from the neck into the upper back.” Stay for 30-60 seconds, then switch sides if you dropped an elbow, or just do the pose again with the elbows next to each other.

“Lastly, remember,” McHugh said, “if you can’t comfortably do the full posture, ask an experienced yoga teacher well-versed in anatomy and modifications how to best modify the stretch.”

 

 

 

2: Side of your neck. If you’ve been working on your computer or texting on your phone, you might start to notice you feel it in your neck.

How to: sitting tall, try to relax your shoulders down toward the floor and then drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Immediately, you should feel a really nice stretch down the left side of your neck. Stay for 30 seconds, then stay exactly as you are and turn your gaze down to the floor. Now stay here for 30 seconds. These stretches target the levator and erector spinae muscles.

 

 

 

 

To intensify this stretch, lift your right hand to the back of your head and with the pressure of one finger (aka NOT TOO HARD), BRIEFLY (about 2 seconds) try to gently lift your head up, as you also gently resist with your fingertips. So the head won’t actually move, but you’ll deepen your stretch. You can repeat the lift/resist 2-3 times.

Why does this work? Dr. Leonard Kamen, Clinical Director of MossRehab Outpatient (a tertiary rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia, and one of 10 best rehabilitation hospitals in the US), and Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Temple University, explains: “The extensor muscles work to keep your head up. When you work at a computer, and hang the head forward, they become less and less capable of maintaining postural control. The levator scapulae, which connects to the superior medial corner of the scapula bone and then makes its way up to C 2-3- transverse process juncture (in your neck), is a long muscle and tends to fatigue easily. Over time, hunched over your desk or device, it takes a beating. So it’s an important muscle to strengthen.”

When you press your head up and resist with your fingertips, you’re gently strengthening this vulnerable muscle—which is great. But you may also notice, as I do when I try this at my desk after a day of writing, that you’ll also feel a deeper stretch. I asked Dr. Kamen why and how that works.

“When you give yourself this isometric pose, you’re resetting golgi-tendon organs—the spindles inside the muscles that tell you how much stretch you’re capable of,” he explained. “When they’re tight, they’re fully loaded. But with first an isometric engagement followed by relaxation, you’re resetting them.” (So don’t forget the relaxation part!)

In my opinion, the really cool part of this is that you’re not just going to feel better (although that is pretty cool), but you’re actually reprogramming your body and redefining your flexibility—as you also strengthen those muscles! Now, that’s a major win-win-win in my book.

3: Lengthen and release the back of your neck with occipital traction.

How to: Sit up tall. Bring your fingertips to the back of your head. At the base of your skull, where the head meets the neck, you’ll feel two bony ridges—that’s your occiput. Consciously draw your shoulder blades down and relax the shoulders,  then hook your fingertips under the occiput and gently press forward (toward your chin) and lift up (toward the sky). Drop the shoulders again—the goal is to create as much length and space along the neck between the head and shoulders as possible. When you draw the shoulders down and pull the occiput up, you’ll probably feel a really nice release. Hold for 30 seconds as you traction the occiput, lengthening and releasing the muscles that run down the back of your neck, then let it go.

I also asked Dr. Kamen if he and other doctors in the pain field are seeing a rise in patients with tech neck. He said he tech neck is technically classified as a repetitive strain disorder. And went on to explain, “There’s a long history of repetitive strain disorders (based on the work people do), and over the past 20 years it’s been on the rise for computer workers for sure. It has always been controversial in the medical field because you can’t get a picture—(an MRI, or ultrasound) of it. It’s just a repetitive challenge to muscles because you’re sitting in odd postures for long lengths of time. For practitioners in my field, it falls into recognizable myofascial pain.”

Friends, that’s why I’m giving you these tools to support your wellness in these vulnerable areas. Follow along for more well-focused work series and let us know in the comments how these feel.

All photos by Jenna Blum 

Long day? Long week? When there’s no time to hit a yoga class or head to the gym, here are four easy poses to help you unwind and rejuvenate. Try breathing extended-exhale breaths (exhaling longer than your inhale) to amp up the calm vibes in each pose.

You will need: A pillow or bolster, a full-size bath towel folded into a square, two hand towels, and your favorite lavender-scented body oil, butter, lotion, or essential oil.

#1: Seated Calming Pose. Begin seated on the floor, or in a chair. If you have lavender-scented body butter, oil, or lotion, apply it to your palms and rub together to warm up the essential oil and release the calming scent. If not, you can do this without any scent. Cup your hands over your face, especially nose, and breathe deeply, inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of four or five. Repeat three times. Then cup your hands gently over your forehead and eyes, and take three more breaths. Allow the calming pressure of your hands, blocking out the light, and scent of lavender, soothe and calm you.

 

 

 

 

 

#2: Child’s Pose. Begin kneeling in table pose with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Bring your toes to touch, knees wider than hips, then sit back on your heels and walk your hands forward. If your forehead rests comfortably on the floor, great. If not, place a yoga block or folded towel under it. Stay for 30-60 seconds minimum (or as long as you like).

 

#3: Legs up the Wall Pose. Sit next to a wall, with a pillow or folded bath towel next to you. Swing your legs up the wall, place the pillow or towel under your hips, and extend your arms out to each side. This should feel delightful. If not, you can move to a chair and try “Legs up the chair” variation, letting your calves rest on the seat cushion. You can stay for 5-7 minutes (or as long as you like).

 

#4: Supta Savasana. Lie on your back and place a pillow or bolster under your knees. Fold a hand towel in thirds (or fourths depending on the thickness of the towel and how much support your neck likes), and then roll it. Place the roll under your neck. Fold the other towel in thirds or fourths and place it over your eyes. Stay, practicing extended exhale breathing, for as long as you like.

When you’re ready, roll gently to one side and press slowly up to seated. Bring your hands over your heart and imprint a sense of calm. Gently open your eyes when you’re ready. Enjoy!

 

homework services

uess who got to show off the lovely new Lotuspad yoga mats? Yup–you guessed it! I’m trying to contain my excitement and play it cool, but I can’t–I’m super excited to be involved with this small, start-up company that believes in creating eco-friendly, and, OK yes, beautiful yoga gear.

Being a model newbie, I had no idea what to expect. But working with Annie Pickert of Hazel Imagery was easy and fun. She definitely knew what she was looking for in terms of background, light, angle, and image…which made my part easy. Well, as easy as holding various poses for 2+ hours without a break can be. Let’s just say that after holding any pose for over five minutes, my arm/leg/whatever supporting body part was literally shaking with effort, and I definitely got quite a workout 🙂

Honestly, though, the whole thing was really awesome. I love photography and I love being outside (especially on a beautiful sunny day), and I’ve been known to put up with yoga on occasion…so really, it was a dream come true.

It’s also cool to collaborate with a small, local company whose mission I support and believe in. And in terms of the mats themselves? Check out the stylin’ color combos (I’m especially partial to the orange/pink), the cool imprint patterns, and, of course, the hot yoga model. Even better, notice that Lotuspad yoga mats are made of a super soft (I’ll even go so far as to say velvety) material which is called TPE (thermoplastic elastomer). TPE is a newly developed and patented material that is PVC/latex-free, takes less energy to manufacture than standard yoga mats, and will biodegrade in a landfill or hot compost. Owner and founder of Lotuspad Katy Downey also points out that PVC is a known human carcinogen, is hugely polluting to manufacture and dispose of, and yoga mats made from it never biodegrade.

If you wanted to get all yogic about it, you could see this as an example of the principle of ahimsa, non-harm (the first and most important niyama, or no-no, in Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras,” the foundational text of yoga). These mats create no-harm to the environment or to us. And unlike some other eco-friendly mats (ahem, you know who you are), they are non-harmful to your wallet at $42/each (plus a 10% discount courtesy of moi, use “SaraD” at checkout).

You can read more on the Lotuspad site, but in the meantime, check out some of my favorite shots from the shoot and see more at http://lotuspadyogamats.com

The pink side of the “Radiant” Eco Yoga Mat
Three-legged dog on the blue side of the “Balance” eco yoga mat
Probably my fav! Nice shot, Annie!
Lastly, lest you think I’m getting all greedy and grabby and violating the yoga code (definitely not cool and in direct conflict with the Sutras), I’d like to clarify that I received no monetary compensation for this project. :)