Computer Work and Posture Part II – The semi Supine

Computer Work and Posture Part II

In part I of Computer Work and Posture, I discussed the importance of learning how to take care of ourselves while working in front of computers. Since computers are our new way of life, learning skills of body care and presence while using computers is vital. In order for us to have an upright posture, we need to first know how we define upright and what we mean by it. I suggested that we start thinking of upright less as a fixed straight position, and more as a balanced relationship between your neck, head and back.

A good way of becoming familiar with the relationship between your head, neck and back is to lay down in the semi supine pose with some books underneath your head for ten to fifteen minutes daily. The height of the books you will need underneath your head varies depending on both the shape and the present use of your body. It is best to let a trained Alexander Technique teacher help you determine the height of the books needed, but if you are not yet in contact with one you could use this video as a starting point.

The following instructions and mindful exercise are also available on audio here:

Instructions for the Semi Supine

Lay down on your back with your head placed on top of some books for support (5 to 8cm as a starting point). Put the soles of your feet on the floor with your knees facing upwards towards the ceiling. Place your hands on the belly with the elbows pointing outwards

Mindful exercise while you are in the semi supine.

First let yourself notice how your body feels in this position. For the moment, let your intention be to notice without wanting to change anything. Simply to become familiar with what is.

Some questions to help you in your process:

  • Is my back in contact with the floor? If not, which parts of my back are not touching the floor?

  • Are the parts not touching the floor similar on both the right and left side? Or is one side more lifted than the other?

  • Is it easy for me to have my knees pointing upwards? Or would my preference be to let them drop inwards towards each other or outwards?

  • Are the soles of my feet carrying equal weight? Or is the weight traveling more towards the inside or the outside of my soles of my feet?

  • Do my shoulder blades feel comfortable on the floor? Or are there places where they feel crammed.

At the end of this reflection mentally tell yourself, “this is the relationship that my neck, head and back have throughout the day”.

Now allow for some subtle changes to happen in your posture. Let your intention be to explore an easier relationship between your neck, head and back rather than to “fix” your relationship. As the word “fix” implies, the mentality associated to that is too static and creates a one fit all mentality. We wish for a subtle fluid relationship rather than a “fix” solution.

Some subtle changes you could invite:

  • You could gently lift your pelvis, place your hands on your upper back and caress the back downwards in the direction of the pelvis, while coming back down to the floor. Did that increase your back’s contact to the floor?Creating more back contact to the floor through the semi supine

 

  • You could gently lift your shoulder blades to allow for more space in the upper back, and then place them on the floor again. What change did this movement bring with regards to how much of your back is in contact with the floor?

 

  • If you feel that you wanted to bring the knees inwards, you could try placing your feet closer to each other.  If you feel that you wanted to let your knees go outwards, you could place the feet a bit further apart from each other. Do these changes to your feet make it easier for your knees to be pointing upwards without tension? Did this also bring a subtle change to the pathway of weight distribution in the soles of your feet?

 

  • If your shoulder blades feel cramped, you could gently lift your elbows and place them again on the floor. Did that bring a subtle change or do the shoulder blades still feel the same way?

Once you found the most comfortable place in this position, then do nothing. Allow for 10-15 minutes to pass where you simply enjoy doing nothing. Let gravity do the work for you.

Before you come out of the semi supine position, mentally tell yourself, “This now is the relationship that I invite my neck, head and back to have during my computer work”.

When to do this practice

It is good to do this practice before you begin with your computer work, once in the middle of your computer work and/or at the end of the work. It will help to find  your center during computer work. Do remember, however, that this is a starting point, a step one, if you will, for how to take care of yourself while using a computer.

Tune in for the next blog where we will investigate positions of mechanical advantage while working on the computer.

About the author

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  Due to the corona virus, we are currently giving all yoga classes live online.

Live Online yoga Classes Continue

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.”

— Helen Keller

 

Greetings Yogis,

            Here we are a few months into the Corona virus pandemic, with some time spent in lockdown and getting used to a new way of life. Whether we like it or not, we are going through changes that affect us each individually as well as societally. What this means for our future, we cannot yet say. However,  if distancing truly makes our hearts grow fonder, let’s hope for a kinder, gentler and more just world when we finally come out of this. In the meantime, online yoga is here for a little while longer. Both Juli and Pinelopi continue their regular schedule online through June. With Pinelopi dropping to one class a week through July for summer holidays. Near the end of July we hope to know more about the regulations and peak statuses of Berlin to make a decision whether we return to the studio in August.

 

Hatha Yoga Classes Live Online

Pinelopi’s regular Hatha Yoga classes continue online through June, and will reduce to once a week in July for summer holidays. Here is how to join.

 

yoga online

yoga online

Sunday Yoga Live Online

Juli‘s regular Sunday Yoga classes from 4-5:30pm continue live online through June and July. Here’s how to join.

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. Stay healthy, stay safe, protect those at risk by keeping a distance.

 

At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

Computer Work and Posture – Part I

The virtual world is here. It has been here for some decades now. It has waltzed into our lives with dizzying speed….with all its charms, promises and dangers. Some promises of connection and closeness were kept. Others were delivered in unexpected ways. Many ended up creating the icy feeling of loneliness in an over-connected world. One thing is clear. The speed in which this digital world has entered our lives has not given us enough biological time to adapt.

We spend incredible amounts of time working in front of computers, absorbed in our social media feeds, or receiving various forms of entertainment. Few times do we stop and become aware of our bodies. We forget about the living body. We increasingly get lost in a cloud of thoughts. Until eventually, the body starts to complain, desperately trying to catch our attention, asking for us to return to the biological vessel that makes our existence possible.

Since computers are here to stay and our use of them is not bound to diminish, is there a way that we could coexist in peace all together: computers, bodies, and presence? We must find one for the sake of our bodies, our mental health, and the quality of presence that we wish to live with.

In the next series of blogs I will suggest a combination of different aspects to become more aware of our bodies and our ability to stay mindful while working on computers. This will include looking at positions of mechanical advantage; bringing variation to the working positions we chose; ways to remember body awareness; eye care and mindfulness practices while doing computer work.

But for today, let‘s start with the preparatory work.

Good posture in front of the computer

We often are told to “sit up straight”, but do we actually know what that means? Many people use excessive amounts of energy to keep their version of “straight” in front of their computers. It is not possible to use such amounts of physical energy for a long time without cramping or becoming very uncomfortable. As a result, they then have to swing to the other extreme of slouching or collapsing while on their computer work. Many continue to swing between excessive tension and collapsing for the rest of their computer time. Both yoga and the Alexander technique are ways that people can use to help them find a middle place where sitting up straight becomes possible without using excessive muscle tension.

What does sitting up straight or upright actually mean?

I believe that the direction of “sitting up straight” or “upright” is confusing to begin with.  Does being straight mean to not have curves in your spine? To flatten out the curves? No. This would be setting us up to failure and to more problems. Rather, I suggest that we look at sitting upright as a balanced relationship between the head, neck and back.

Alternatively, some people may find it easier to think of “upright” as balancing out the three curves in their back. This would mean that not one curve is extreme and out of proportion from the other two. The challenge, though, is to balance out the curves without using excessive muscle tension.

A good way of becoming familiar with the relationship between your head, neck and back is to lay down in the semi supine pose with some books underneath your head for ten to fifteen minutes daily. In  Part II of this blog I will explain the semi-supine pose, a mindful exercise that you can practice to help increase your familiarity with this pose, and the relationship between head, neck and back.

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  Due to the corona virus, we are currently giving all yoga classes live online.

Keeping calm in times of uncertainty

The whole world has been affected, we’re all in this together

Keep Calm in Times of UncertaintyThe COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some unexpected things about our society. In the past, when we’ve imagined through films or literature what the world would look like during a viral outbreak, the current situation is not one we’ve anticipated, one where (unless you’re a medical worker, caregiver, garbage collector, cleaner, bus driver, grocery store clerk, or work in food service or production) most of us are asked to stay home. Those of us with the privilege of comfortable, safe homes, clean running water and access to grocery stores can easily do that. But the crisis is also showing more clearly the inequalities around the world, that most of us live in cramped quarters, abusive home situations, unsanitary conditions, or don’t have access to clean water, a roof over our heads, or are incarcerated. It also clearly shows which demographics have access to proper healthcare. Nobody is as of yet immune to the virus, but we have different positions from which to fight it. In all of this it’s hard to keep calm in times of uncertainty.

Other epidemics in the past have been isolated to smaller parts of the world, but this is the first one that has spread worldwide. Our world has gotten smaller through international travel, dwindling habitats for wild animals, mass production of food and worldwide shipping. All of this has increased and sped-up human contact. One of my favourite guided relaxations includes a visualization of how we’re all connected through the earth, the animals, plants and each other: the butterfly effect. But thinking about all that inter-connection right now, when we’re supposed to be apart from each other feels counterintuitive. So I’ve been avoiding this visualization these days. But it’s also rewarding to see how neighbours are looking out for each other more, like buying groceries for those more vulnerable or wearing masks in public places to reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection. It shows that people are actually acknowledging our inter-connection.

Panic is about things we cannot control

Even for those with the privilege to work from a safe, comfortable home, and with loved ones nearby, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will hold. Going out to the grocery store and wondering if you’ve touched your face while standing in line, or whether you’ve cleaned your vegetables properly can cause a panic attack. Our enemy is microscopic. We don’t know when it will hit, if it has hit, or if we or those we love will succumb to it. We also don’t know what it means for our society and how we will interact once this pandemic is over, how long it will last, or even if it will end. Who will we be once it is over? How will it change us? What new behaviours will we have to take on in the future? Will everyone go out with face masks and latex gloves? How will we go to events while maintaining distance? What about flights and cramped long-distance bus rides? What about our jobs?

Uncertain Times

Strange Times, Cartoon by Leunig

The future is never something that we could ever predict, but there are certain things we can usually count on that will most likely be there tomorrow or a week from now. With the corona times as they are, our normal everyday routine has been disrupted, and there is the feeling that our support system has been pulled out from under us. This is a panic-inducing scenario. Those who didn’t already have anxiety or panic attacks before this will now know what it’s like for those who have that as a regular experience. One thing we can do to manage it is to learn to observe the things we have control over, acknowledge what support we do have right here and now in the present, and act mindfully. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some tips that can help with keeping calm in times of uncertainty, some of which may work for some, but not others, take care of what you can manage yourself right now:

  1. Meditation or guided relaxation
  2. Listening to Sound Healing music
  3. Breathing techniques, such as the Bee Breath during Pinelopi’s grounding sessions
  4. Practicing yoga, Qi Gong or other calming movement practices
  5. Practicing mindfulness as you walk, noticing your feet on the ground
  6. Chewing food slowly, being mindful and grateful for the food you have available
  7. Taking control of the things you can right now – plant a garden, dive into a new project
  8. Joining a new streaming platform and binge watching obscure movies
  9. Being there for others, helping a neighbour, supporting a friend
  10. Reading about how to overthrow capitalism and planning actions to help re-build a future world
  11. …. What are your strategies to remain calm in times of uncertainty? … post in the comments below …

 


At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

New Year Yoga Standing Sequence

Happy New Year! And welcome to the start of a new decade!

As a thank you for your participation and your readership, we offer you this new year’s yoga standing sequence – asanas you can do anywhere, while you’re on the go, while you’re waiting in line for the Silvester party, or simply for a night in of self-reflection and evaluation. Each pose is accompanied by a question to help guide your process of letting go of what you want to leave behind and make room for what the new decade brings. Enjoy!

tadasana

Mountain Pose:
What is my support / foundation?

chi yoga

Golden Rooster:
What can I peacefully confront?

warrior1

Warrior I :
What are my­­ obstacles?

revolved side angle

Twisted / Revolved Side Angle:
What can I let go of?

warrior2Warrior II:
How can I prepare for surprises?
inverted warriorInverted Warrior:
What are the oppositional forces I encounter?
extended side angleExtended Side Angle:
Where can I find leverage?
forward foldWide-legged Forward Fold:
How do things look from another perspective?
warrior3Warrior III:
How to balance in the face of resistance?
dancer2Dancer:
Can I reach higher?
balanceBalance:
In what ways can I leave my comfort zone?
surrenderSurrender:
In what ways can I give in or let go?

At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes.

Just Breathe


what do we need in times of stress?

There is this one thing that people say when you are in a great amount of stress. They look at you and say “Hey! Just breathe, just breathe!!!”

People’s advice

People give this wonderful advice, “just breathe.”  There might be great value in that. Sometimes it can be helpful.  Yet often you can feel a lot of frustration bouncing back at you (or them!).  Sometimes this advice brings out feelings of incompetence for the one receiving it, such as “Am I stupid? Why can’t I even breathe properly now!”

‘Just breathe’ is not necessarily a helpful phrase for someone who is stressed.

The issue with generalisations

When following a recognized prescribed method – the one that states “if you just breathe you will get through it” – you might find out that it actually brings you more pain, because you are breathing in a specific stressed pattern.  Deciding to just change the way you breathe in order to change what you feel might also become repressive.  It becomes a feeling that you are trying to manipulate, rather than a feeling to experience and go through – a potentially problematic approach.

Changing the way of breathing

‘Breathe through it’ might be a more helpful way of framing it.  But what exactly does it mean to breathe ‘through things’? Could it be that it means to change the way you are breathing?  Every emotion has a specific breathing pattern,  so if you change the way you are breathing to long deep breaths, then could it be that you are also changing your emotion? That is a big possibility. That is partly why we are instructed to take long deep breaths in a yoga class.

Observing the way you are breathing

Another way of working with breath through difficult or intense emotions is offered in Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation.  In this case, we wouldn’t necessarily change the way we are breathing.  Rather, we would become aware of the way we are breathing.  We could raise our awareness by observing the breath: is it a short inhalation?… or a forceful exhalation?… is there a pause after the inhalation?.. and a different pause after the exhalation?… which pause is longer? This way, we learn to dettach ourselves from the breathing as it is and we raise our awareness. By raising our awareness, the breathing will eventually calm down without forcing anything.

You can put your hand on your chest to make contact with your heart and your breath

 

Those are two possibilities of how breathing would be able to help in times of hardship. One is in the laboratory conditions of a yoga class, where the teacher asks you to get into a “stressful” position, like upside down and tells you ‘now breathe’. That is an example of practicing breathing under stressful conditions.  The other is to observe your breathing without changing it, while accepting without judgement what is happening to you.

We at English Yoga Berlin offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.”

Terminology Tuesday: Paschimottanasana

paschimottasana

one could think of Paschimottasana as a ‘salute to the sunset’

Paschimottanasana = from Sanskrit, paschima meaning West or back of the body, uttana meaning intense stretch, and asana meaning posture

We are talking here about the seated forward bend.  Traditionally we would be facing the East in the morning doing our Sun Salutations, which is why the back of our body is talked about as the West. 

Paschimottasana in practice

At Pinelopi’s Hatha yoga classes in Kreuzberg, we have explored this pose deeply.  We try through Paschimottanasana to stretch equally the entirety of the back of our body.  Here we have a network of muscles and connective tissue that starts from our eye brows, over the head, down the back and legs, all the way to the soles of our feet.  It goes by the name of backline of the body, or the superficial backline.

Introducing us to an insight she shared with us from the work of Leslie Kaminoff, Pinelopi guides us to become aware to where we feel the stretch most intensely.  For many people it is the hamstrings, and for others the lower back or the upper back.  For some, it is the back of the knees.  We then work with the specific needs of our body, adjusting with props, to get an even stretch all over the superficial backline.  This allows us to experience the grounding, release and surrender that is the core of this asana.

Paschimottasana as an experience, not an ideal shape

A specific example of that is my situation: due to my specific restriction of movement, I cannot get my abdomen in contact with the top of my legs.  Does it mean I cannot stretch the “west side” of my body, my back?  No, it does not mean that. How I stretch the back of my body will look completely different to how you do.  Yet we will both be stepping into an experience of arising and transforming sensations, witnessing life unfolding through us.

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.”

The Puzzle Picture

Avidal's painting on flyer

We believe Yoga to be a powerful tool that helps us assemble the pieces of our Life’s puzzle and allows us to see the big picture.

Ever wondered what the “Puzzle Picture” on our flyers means? Clelia, our Erasmus intern, reports from behind the scenes.

 

The image representing English Yoga Berlin left a deep impression on me from the first time I saw it.  It is the painting of an almost complete puzzle.  The puzzle image is of a person completing their own puzzle.  It’s an image within an image.  A puzzle of a puzzle.  I was curious, and I asked Pinelopi, my teacher of yoga in Kreuzberg.  The story she told me really resonated with me.  I want to share it with you, so here what she said.

“One day I met with my friend and artist Avital Yomdin, and told her I needed to design a flyer for my classes.  We sat and talked about what yoga means to me.  I spoke about what yoga had done for me in my life.  I realised something important as we were speaking: when I began yoga, I knew very little about my physical chronic pain.  Crucially, I also knew very little about myself, for example the space I take, the person I transform into every day.

Through the yoga classes, meditation and mindfulness techniques, I started to understand and accept myself more and more.  I am not anywhere close to knowing myself completely, as that might be, who knows, ultimate enlightenment.  Yet I feel that the process of doing yoga was like finding the pieces of the puzzle of myself, so I could put them together.  Slowly, I could form a picture of  who I am.”

 

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Accepting positive feelings

I love the idea of meditating on positive feelings too – have you ever thought about it? It’s about honouring those precious moments and learn from them.

RAIN meditation

Tara Brach’s RAIN

I have learned about “the RAIN of Self-Compassion” from an English Yoga Berlin class in Kreuzberg.  It’s a particular mindfulness practice that helps us to work through difficult emotions.  It is a Buddhist meditation that was later on tweaked by Tara Brach.  Read more about it here, where you can explore a wealth of resources made available by Tara’s website.

Being present to our feelings

I wanted to share how differently it landed for me one particular evening.  I connected that kind of meditation to difficult feelings only.  But that day in particular, I was feeling so blessed and grateful (for everything in my life) and I was trying to skip those feelings, not allowing them to be, felt awkward – with a thought like life needs to be hard to be meaningful and to make a difference, something like that.  Then I got anxious.

When the meditation found me in the evening, laying in Savasana, I was able to apply acceptance, understanding and nurturing to positive feelings too.  I was able to welcome them and be present to what they were telling me.

When I reflected upon it later, I realised that maybe positive feelings is not necessarily the right word.  We are talking about feelings that are challenging in other ways.  The excitement of anticipation can be tiring or distracting.  The feeling you want to explode from love or tenderness can be overwhelming.  They are all feelings that have that sensation that the cup of emotion being very full and is about to overflow… in a positive way.. but overflow.

Finding out that RAIN works for them too was very comforting. It’s as if the feeling is not out of control and overflowing, but I can sit with it in a steady glowing way. I think it reminds me of a fire. It can be consumed real quick and glamorously fast, or it can burn steady and for a while giving heat for a longer time.

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Anahata Chakra – a personal experience

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Anahata is the emotional powerhouse of your self.  In this chakra we process emotion and feel love, forgiveness and compassion.

 

Here, we learn that the most powerful energy we have inside of us is love.  Alas, this chakra gets strongly affected by trapped anger and the experience of grief and loss.
Anahatha in every day life
I have been struggling with anger, grief and loss for a long time.  I observed that when the teacher asked us to focus on the heart centre, I could not really feel the heart centre like the other centres, by will, by sending focus there.  And yet, spontaneously, especially after a good yoga session, I would feel a clear sensation in the middle of my chest.  It is a similar sensation like when the stomach is empty.  It feels like a call: “hey, I am hungry!”

What do you feel in the area of the heart? Have you ever observed how emotions feel physically in this area?
Anahatha in meditation
In meditation, I visualised the heart: I was following the instructions to bring forth the details of what I could visualize, what I could imagine.  I saw a beautiful yet hard armour around my heart. Then the teacher suggested “what are you not allowing yourself to feel?”.  I knew this was an important question.  I was struggling to keep focused, mind wandering.  The parent voice inside me said She just said ‘what are you not allowing yourself to feel’.  Some kind of energy was rising up, and with it resistance.  I got a glimpse at the energy contained in this powerful chakra centre.
What is your relationship to powerful emotions like rage or wild joy? Where do you feel them in your body?
To explore this part of my body through physical observation has helped me greatly. By grounding in the body sensations, I accepted my difficult feelings and allowed them to be.  It’s as if cracks started to appear in the wall that I felt was insurmountable for so long.  I felt hope for healing, as if I were a plant that is finally getting watered!

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

 

Clelia is an Erasmus entrepreneur working as an intern in learning how to set up a small yoga business such as English Yoga Berlin. We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, private classes for pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.