A few weeks ago I took my son to get a haircut and there was another family waiting ahead of us, a father with three boys ages between 5 and 12. Each one of them was interacting with an electronic device of some sort and each one of them was exhibiting some version of this posture. In fact, some are now calling this body position an iPosture, or iHunch, since most of us fold into it when we use our mobile devices.
It’s pretty obvious that this kind of body positioning can create a lot of stress on the neck. The weight of the head is usually about 10-12 pounds, but the more you lean your head forward, the heavier will the load become. For example, if you lean your head forward 60 degrees (which is quite common), the load on your neck will be about 60 pounds, which equals 5 gallons of paint or 4 bowling balls. In addition to that, your upper back can become frozen in the forward curve and much less mobile, which can lead to a stooped posture.
Interestingly, latest research shows that this kind of posture is not just problematic for the body alignment, but has a great impact on your mental state as well. This recent article from the New York Times emphasizes that “posture doesn’t just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them.” Studies show that the slouchers reported significantly lower self-esteem and mood, and much greater fear; they were more likely to be more negative when they talk, and recall more negative experiences. They also became less assertive. “In fact, there appears to be a linear relationship between the size of your device and the extent to which it affects you: the smaller the device, the more you must contract your body to use it, and the more shrunken and inward your posture, the more submissive you are likely to become.”
Think of the common expression “He walks with his head held high,” which projects confidence and self-assurance. When we droop our heads down we feel the opposite.
Since our electronic devices are not going anywhere, all we can do is be mindful about our body positioning when we use them. We can also try to counteract the iHunch by strengthening the muscles that support the body in the upright position, relieve neck tension and realign the spinal curves to improve the posture. This is what this yoga practice is about. Give it a try and let us know what you think!