In my experience, there are four important pillars of wellness: healthy diet, exercise/movement, posture, and community. In the general population, posture is the least recognized of these pillars. Gokhale Method aficionados don’t have this blindspot; they understand the importance of healthy posture well. What is sometimes not understood is that you need more than healthy posture to cover your musculoskeletal needs. Healthy posture is a base on which you need to build an active life. Especially in modern contexts, which sometimes allow you to fulfill almost all your duties from behind a computer screen, it takes some reflection on how you can supplement, edit, and weave healthy movement into your life.
I was originally trained in a posture tradition that looked down upon exercise as a juvenile and unnecessary pursuit. I would frequently hear that “sport is for kids” and that I “shouldn’t have time for things like running and swimming.” Though I did not subscribe to the entirety of my teacher’s philosophy, ” I was influenced away from believing that dedicated exercise time is a necessity. In my book, I wrote, “it isn’t that we sit, but how we sit that causes our problems.” Over the past 10 years, in working with students, observing what computer use has wrought in my own life, and keeping up with new data, my beliefs on exercise and sitting have shifted. Given just how little exercise we get, how little variety of movement we have in modern lifestyles, and how compartmentalized to short bouts our exercise is, I now believe it behooves us to introduce movement in our lives in as many ways on as many days as possible.
Though I continue to believe that sitting is not evil — sitting well is restful, conducive to creative thought and fine-motor work, and prevents varicose veins and atherosclerosis — sitting needs to be done in moderation. Standing well provides a good alternative position, and also needs to be done in moderation. Shifting positions doesn’t have to be done frenetically a la “the best position is the next position,” but changing position does put G-forces on the bones, stimulates circulation, and exercises the muscles. Having a variety of exercise forms pushes your limits in strength, cardio, and flexibility, and helps you resist decline with aging.
I find myself increasingly focused on how to introduce more movement into my own life as well as in my students’ lives. Here are some of my practices and aspirations for 2019.
Create more standing stations for when I need to use a computer. I don’t have a standing desk, but it has been easy to find the right size containers to mount on the kitchen counter, the dining table, and the desk. I also sometimes work on my Congolese drum, but it’s not as stable as the other options.
I don’t have a primary workstation or desk in my home office; rather, I adapt wherever I am at the moment to accommodate me.
Take frequent work breaks to move. My fave is samba. We’ve also assembled some equipment throughout the house to encourage variety in movement breaks — our coffee table is a trampoline, we have hanging rings and a recently bought TRX suspension trainer hanging near the dining table, and some dumbbells and a kettlebell adorn the fireplace. Sometimes we even have our ping pong table set out in the living room.
There are many activity reminders around my home office.
Rethink going to the gym regularly. I used to be averse to gyms but since I began thinking of gyms as modern piazzas, I’ve begun enjoying them. It’s fun to people watch, to be inspired by people who are clearly challenged (the cancer survivors group at the Y I used to go to, for example) pushing themselves very courageously, and to admire the gym rats who do things I can only imagine.
Some static poses are good too. My favorites are chair pose (because it preps you for standing well) and Hero 1 (because it preps you for walking well).
The weather in Palo Alto, California allows for posture breaks outside almost year-round.
I’m re-introducing exercise into my social life. Our potluck party invitations used to include the line “Bring your dancing feet.” Step by step I’m ramping up to have those parties again.
What are some ways you weave movement into your workday?