How Screens Affect Posture - It's not just about tech neck


Screen time is a big issue these days. I sometimes cringe when my iphone informs me how much time I've spent looking at it in a given day, or I'll check how many steps I've taken and how many stairs I've climbed on my phone's health app. The 22,177 steps that I took yesterday were all with the company of my iphone. I wasn't looking at my phone during my run, but it was with me "just in case" and I do feel justified as a parent to have my phone on me for that reason even though many generations beforehand seemed to manage without the constant possibility of contact.

I've written often about the relationship between how we use our screens and our posture, but here I'm going to take a slightly less direct approach and perhaps a more candid one. What really interests me about good posture is the way we achieve it and what it means about how we live our lives.

Yes, good posture can make you look more attractive and feel more confident. Standing taller may make you appear to have lost weight. It can reduce compression in the body and help with a pesky back ache or sore neck. It can make you less likely to get injured when you walk and run.

But despite the long list of benefits, the one that really resonates with me is that it improves how present you are. We could also flip it around and say that how present you are affects your posture...and presence affects quality of life and relationships and how you come off of a stressful day at work.

Are we really in the here and now living in our bodies, being our full selves if we're constantly attached to a device. I don't think so...and I'll freely admit that I rely on being online as much as anyone. So what's my point?

I began studying the Alexander Technique and working on my posture, movement, and presence 8 years before smartphones showed up and I had by that time developed a keen sense of how I was affected by what my attention was on. After spending hours working on spreadsheets at a day job, I'd leave feeling discombobulated and like I could hardly walk in a straight line. I've always been a daydreamer and very internally focused and looking at a screen amplified a sense of being sort of simultaneously lost in myself and not in my body. Sounds a bit contradictory, but that's what it felt like.

The thing is that I could feel what was happening and I got better and better about getting out of that state. These days I do rely on my phone and my computer, but I can tell when I start to loose myself in it in a way that takes me out of the present moment. It's like an internal alarm goes off. That internal alarm is one of the skills that I work on getting my clients to develop so that they don't come off of a day of work having absolutely no idea what they were doing with their body all day.

Think about your most recent day at work.
Were you tense or relaxed?
Breathing shallowly or fully?
Were you feet on the ground?
Was your neck strained?
Were you leaning to one side most of the time?

Simply being aware of these things starts to help you to improve your posture because you are starting to be realize you have a body, when otherwise you might have only been aware of your thoughts and your screen.

And what about the smartphone that might be on you most of the day even if you're not looking at it all the time? Does the anticipation of the text, email, or alert distract you in some way? Are you lesson present?

Being away from cell phone service and wifi can seem like an annoyance at first, but I find that the initial annoying feeling soon turns to relief as I start tuning into myself, my surroundings and the people I'm with more fully. Have you had a similar experience?

If you spend some time away from work this summer and even time off-line, notice what changes.
Do you feel more relaxed?
Do you breath better?
Do you stand up taller?

Notice any positive changes and then see if you can consciously take some of your "vacation self" with you when you go back into work mode. We may not be getting rid of our phones, computers, and work stress, but we can learn to meet them with more presence and awareness and be more like our vacation selves during our work days. You can use a vacation to reset your internal alarm to notice whether you're present or not.

This summer I encourage you to work on your sense of presence and awareness of your body to improve your posture.

And if you're in New York City, check out my group class dates (the schedule during the summer is flexible) or take a private lesson.