According to Merriam Webster, ergonomics is defined as “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.” I describe ergonomics as setting up the workspace so the practitioner, as well as the equipment and surroundings, are positioned in a way that supports and allows the body to function efficiently and effectively to reduce injuries or work-related pain.
Sitting isn’t easy for the body: our bodies weren’t designed to sit for extended periods of time. Because of the design of our bodies, an increase of sitting/screen time, and the lack of education around a resolution, levels of work-related pain and injuries are extremely high. When your body and your workstation are set up effectively, your body can function optimally. However, when it’s not set up properly, our body has to work a lot harder than it should be.
According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, since 1990, back pain has been the leading cause of disability.
In this article, I share three simple tips for better ergonomics–none of which ACTUALLY have anything to do with your work setup. Don’t worry, that’s coming soon!
Ergonomics Tips #1: AWARENESS!
It sounds extremely simple, I know. But that’s because it is. To improve your posture and ergonomics, you must increase your ability to be aware of your body in space. When there is awareness, there can be change. When there is change, we can create anew. This is one reason I highly recommend yoga to many people. One of the most important principles yoga teaches us is the ability to become aware of your own body–when you sit, move, lay, and breathe. Increasing your self-awareness will help you greatly in understanding your body and the signals it is sending you all day every day, and with this, you build the ability to understand what your body needs and how to nourish it or find the support you need.
Start by setting an alarm on your phone or making post-its in your workspace. The idea here is that the more you notice the reminder, the more aware of your posture you become. Let’s be real–it’s so easy to get caught up in what we’re doing, especially if we have a lot going on. Make it easier on yourself! Set an alarm on your phone or put a calendar event at the top or bottom of every hour.
When the reminder goes up, simply notice:
- What’s your head doing?
- Your shoulders and upper back?
- Arms and hands?
The simple truth is that the more you become aware, the more you can create muscle memory. Our body is designed to go where we tell it to go. Start changing communication with your body to support yourself long-term.
Ergonomics Tips #2: Counterpose
In yoga, a counterpose is a pose or movement that is the opposite of the one you just explored. This is important throughout a yoga class because our body often needs to come back to neutral and stabilize before going into the next one. Like a yoga class, I want you to start adding counterposes into your day.
Sitting for long periods of time tightens the front of the chest and the hip area, in addition to a host of other concerns. Because of this, it’s important to stretch and open that area up to alleviate tension building and creating an imbalance in the body that may lead to aches, pain or an injury.
Standing up and stretching throughout your day, even for 30 seconds, is a great way to bring your body back into balance. You can try this at work with habit stacking. Habit stacking is when you add another habit/task to the one you’re already doing, to save time, money or the energy in remembering. Habit stack by adding in a counterpose stretching with your awareness exercise and WA-LA… your body will thank you!
Ergonomic Tips #3: MOVEMENT!
The movement you do outside of work matters. While ergonomics is largely about setting up you with your office space, it’s important to remember that WHAT and HOW we move our body will affect our ergonomics, too.
Take a moment to think about the exercise you do and ask yourself:
- Are you moving your body in all directions?
- Do you add in a good amount of time for stretching?
- Is the movement similar to the way you sit or does it do the opposite?
The type of movement you do matters. I love helping people find what works for them. In my opinion, stretching and strengthening, in any way, shape, or form, needs to be a part of your routine. That way, on a regular basis, you are countering all the negative effects from sitting.
I recommend yoga therapy–the perfect balance to add strength + stretching into your life. You don’t need a ton of time either, once you learn some poses, you can sprinkle them into your daily life. If you’re looking for inspiration or a safe space to practice yoga, check out Aligned Online. Aligned Online is a monthly yoga therapy membership program that is DESIGNED to help sitting professionals and those with chronic pain and injuries. My mission for aligned is to help you feel your best so you can get back to enjoying your life.
Change Your Posture, Change Your Life
A 5-day yoga therapy challenge to help you improve your posture and reduce pain. Learn the tools your need to bring your body back into alignment – from your office or the comfort of your own home!
Free Healthy Posture Masterclass
Register to join me for a free Healthy Posture Masterclass! I’ll teach you tools to help improve your posture and feel better throughout your daily life!
About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
Curious about the different ways I support Dental Professionals?
Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I was tired of being in pain all the time and had learned about yoga therapy from a friend. I had such bad hip pain, it hurts to sit down, get up, exercise and walk around. The pain moved down my leg sometimes and up into my low back.
Now I feel amazingly strong, am able to actually bend down and reach my shoes so I can tie them! I gained an immense amount of strength in my hips as well as have learned many things I can do on my own to keep going in the right direction. I really enjoyed the one on one time! And the fact that Caitlin came to my house was amazing. I had no excuses to not show up for myself and the results paid off! I have already recommended Caitlin to my friends and will continue to do so.” – Cary
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”