Sitting for long periods of time is tough on the body… it can be a real pain in the neck (see what I did there?:). Sitting for an extended amount of time can put unnecessary pressure on the body. After 12 years working as a dental hygienist, and the last five years running my business, sitting for long periods is not new to me. In this article, I want to share some easy tricks on how to sit with good posture.
Is sitting for a long time a problem for your body? The short answer is yes. Here is an article with research sharing some of the harmful health effects that are attributed to sitting. To put it simply, our bodies were not designed to sit for extended periods of time. For this reason, there are a lot of issues that arise physically when we sit for longer periods of time. Plus, the problems that arise
I don’t know about you, but I have such good intentions for my posture when I first sit down to do work. The problem is that after a while, it becomes a lot more challenging to sustain that posture. That’s why I’m here today. I want to share some tips to improve posture when sitting at a desk. That way, you’ll be able to sustain better posture for long periods of time and reduce the rate of injury and pain.
I created another blog post with tips for having good posture when sitting right here for you. You may want to read that one first to build a foundation then come back to this post. Regardless, I hope this blog post helps you feel better when you’re sitting.
If you’re interested in different practices to help improve your posture by addressing mobility, strength and functional movement, you can check out my monthly yoga membership, Aligned Online. It’s unlike any other membership.
The adjustments I suggest below are pretty simple, and for some people, may even seem elementary. My invitation is to increase your awareness of your posture.. Ask yourself, “Am I really paying attention? Am I following these guidelines?” Check them out below and let me know what you think.
Adjustment #1: From Rounding to Shoulders & Neck Aligned for Good Posture
This one is much easier said than done. I don’t know how often I see people rounding their backs, hunching their shoulders and jutting their heads forward. This is one of the biggest issues I see amongst people who sit at a desk often.
Aside from esthetics, it isn’t good for the body to be out of alignment like this. Although it may not seem like a big deal to round the back and hunch the shoulders forward, it directly affects the head, jaw, neck, shoulders, upper back and the spine. I work with a lot of private clients who experienced jaw, neck and shoulder pain, and when we adjusted their alignment, the pain went away.
Tips: In order to sit up without the shoulders hunched, I highly recommend starting with your foundation–your feet and your hips. Make sure both feet are pressing into the ground evenly, and both hips are evenly on your chair. From there, lengthen your spine from hips to the top of your head. I like to imagine a string tied to the top of my head, lifting and lengthening me upwards.
With that, draw your chin *slightly* in towards the chest so your head is aligned over your spine and the back of your neck is long. Then draw your shoulders down away from your ears.
It’s important to note that in order to bring the shoulders back and align the head over your spine properly, you may need some stretching and/or strengthening practices. This is where yoga comes in. You can use therapeutic yoga to target these muscles to help improve mobility and stability so that holding proper posture is attainable.
For classes specific to posture, check out Aligned Online, my monthly membership program. There are tons of classes on there targeted to improve your posture and help you ditch pain for good.
Adjustment #2: From Elbow Out to In for Better Sitting Posture
Making sure your elbows aren’t splaying out to side is a big one. Most people who sit in general, never mind at a desk, tend to let their elbow drift out to the side. This brings the shoulder out of alignment, causing more strain on the shoulder joint and the neck. In addition, it makes it harder for your circulation to move fluidly throughout your neck, shoulder, arm and hands.
Whether you’re driving, sitting on the couch, or at your desk, see if you can bring your elbow closer towards the side of your body. This way, you can focus on aligning the shoulders and neck properly without added wear.
There are specific muscles that help to bring the shoulder back and down the back. When these muscles are active and functioning properly, it makes it challenging to let your elbow splay out. There are plenty of practices & trainings focused on helping you improve posture and alignment in this area on the Aligned membership website, so if you’re thinking, “I need this to learn this” or “I want better posture,” what are you waiting for? Better posture awaits you.
Adjustment #3: Align Your Hand and Wrist to Improve Posture
One thing most people don’t think about is how their hand and wrist are positioned. I see this most often when people use a mouse with their computer. If your wrist is at an angle, and your hand is elevated, or in flexion, when using a mouse, this could pose a problem.
Ideally, your don’t want your wrist in flexion for extended periods of time. Never mind is that not proper alignment, but it also cuts off the circulation to your hand and wrist. When you’re sitting for long periods of time, circulation to your hand and wrist is important. We don’t want tightness, overuse and inflammation all rolled into one.
To address this easily, you can buy a little pad that you’d place behind your mouse pad and under your wrist/forearm. This helps to bring your forearm, wrist and hand in on plane, allowing blood to move through with ease. This may also be addressed by adjusting the way you sit. For example, if your seat is too low, it will be hard to adjust this angle. Try out a couple of these options to see which one is most helpful for you.
Creating Better Habits for Better Posture
When it comes to improving your posture when sitting, it’s important to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. What I mean by that is: it likely took you a long time to form the habits you have now. Don’t expect them to change over night. Focus on one or two things throughout the day until they become habitual for you. Curious to know more about habits? Check out this study on healthy habit formation.
They say it takes 90 days to create a habit that’s sustainable, so again, think about the long-term game, not just the short term wins.
I work with private clients a lot on ergonomics in the workplace. These three tips are almost always addressed with each of my clients throughout our work together. What is most notable to me, however, is the fact that we are ALL different. Because we have different bodies, we have different needs. Don’t hesitate to get individualized support if you think it may be valuable. If you’re interested in seeing if you’d be a fit working with my holistic approach to improving posture and ditching pain, reach out to me here.
These tools last a lifetime. Your health and your posture create a ripple affect for the rest of your life. When you feel good in your body, your feel good in your mind. And good health is invaluable.
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.
Client Success Stories
“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.”