Eyes, Breathing and Posture – What are you, blind?

by | Dec 23, 2017

I had the privilege of working with some folks a few weeks back, helping them individually assess their work environments while providing some strategies they can use daily to feel their best.  I worked with about 15 different people but there was a common theme in their pain-points.  They all experienced deficits in their eyes, posture and breathing. These similarities that I noted during these 30 minute assessments also hold true for most people that spend a large chunk of their time seated and staring at computer screens. A staggering amount of people who are required to be in front of a screen experience some form of:

  • Neck pain, tension or soreness
  • Low back pain (LBP), or tightness
  • Eye strain or eye fatigue
  • Low energy or feeling tired

These signs can easily be attributed to the habits being strengthened daily.  We can’t make improvements until we can bring some awareness to these daily practices. It’s an education thing, you don’t know what you don’t know.  If you don’t know what the problem is, how can you ever make changes? You can’t. Let’s take a look at some of those habits and how we can begin changing them.

What are you, blind?

The eyes are massively important to our ability to function in life.  Unfortunately, we don’t function as well as we could or should.  This can easily be linked to vision (and vestibular) issues. Your eyes are your first line of defense for assessing threatening situations, allowing you to perform daily tasks and overall helps the brain process the most amount of sensory information per second. They are also intimately connected to your vestibular system (balance) so if your brain is processing poor information from your eyes then your balance will be affected as well and vice-versa. The reason I bring this up is because your eyes are meant to see up, down, left, right and everything in between.  They also converge, diverge and track objects.  Because these are all skills that need to be practiced, a lot of times office-working and screen-time watching people, lose their ability to perform these skills.

Habit #1

Always looking down and at a screen.

Why this habit needs to be broken:

Essentially what happens is repetitive strain on the eyes leads to irritation, pain, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, fatigue and more.  The other reason you experience these outcomes is because the eyes just can’t perform simple tasks of assessing threat in the world and send bad signals to your brain. The brain interprets this as threat and then gives you the experience of “pain”.  It’s basically your brains way of telling you to stop whatever it is you’re doing because it feels threatened.  That pain can be manifested anywhere.

How to break the habit:

  • Limit screen-time by setting reminders:
    • Set and alarm or appointment every 50 minutes to get up and do something else for 2-5 minutes.
    • You can also use another person or the need to refill water as a cue to rest those eyes.
  • Pay attention to your spidey-senses  when you begin feeling fatgued or irritated, just stop what you’re doing and reset.  A great exercise is to cup the eyes with your hands while they are closed.  Wait until it’s completely black (1-2 minutes) then open your eys and remove your hands.  It’s a great little visual reset.
  • Work vision skills and acuity by performing eye exercises.  Check out these 2-minute drills we give to desk athletes:

Fighting Gravity

This is a losing battle 100% of the time.  I’m talking about posture here, and not just your standing posture.  Posture is more-so about how you are presenting yourself sitting, standing, walking and performing. Gravity is always working on this planet.  You don’t have enough willpower to fight it for 8-10 hours straight, so you need to fight smarter. What I really mean is that you need to be more educated.  Posture is not just static, it’s more dynamic than you think. Yes, you need to understand what it means to lengthen your spine standing still, but then you need to be able to move with better posture as well. What do you do when I say “fix your posture”?  Most of you will stick your chest out and lift your chin.  While this may seem like it’s better, really what you’re doing is changing the way you are compressing your spine.

Habit #2

Slouching while standing, seated or moving.

Why you need to break the habit:

Slouching causes a lot of spinal compression that eventually can lead to numbness and tingling in the hands and legs, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, back pain and a list of other ailments.  None of these feel good or cause you to be happy. What I’m trying to say is that slouching every once in a while is fine, just as long as you are being intentional about how you’re presenting yourself in life.

How you can break the habit:

  • Set daily reminders to move your body.
  • Change positions often, every 20-30 minutes.
  • Adjust your work station so it’s set-up to keep you from slouching.
  • Practice a lengthened position statically, then dynamically – see below:

Instead, try creating space between your vertebrae and lengthen up through the crown of your head.  Here are some great cues for setup: -“Feet under your hips, toes forward” -“Slightly tuck the tailbone or pelvis until it feels neutral” -“Grow taller through the crown of your head” -“You may need to sightly tuck the chin and lengthen the back of your neck” -Every time you exhale, allow your spine to grow longer while everything else relaxes Practice this first standing, then try to replicate during the seated position (from the torso up).  Once you’ve built an awareness to how this “feels”, then you can begin practicing it as you move through the world, walking, working and performing.

Stop Holding Your Breath

If you just realized you were holding your breath while reading this then you’re not alone. As a society, our breathing is terrible. We live in a predominant state of stress, which forces us into high-stress breathing patterns.

Habit #3

Mouth breathing – you may notice that you breathe through your mouth and into your chest mostly.

Why you need to break the habit:

I mentioned it a little above but mainly breathing is the most autonomous thing you do (don’t have to think about it – automatic).  When you are performing mouth breathing (high-stress breathing pattern) reps all day long, you are teaching and engraining stress into your body. You may know this as the fight or flight response. This will quickly lead to chronic stress and chronic pain.

How to break the habit:

  • Close your mouth and breathe through your nose more often
  • Meditate
  • Taking breathing classes – just google “breathing classes” and a whole host of them online
  • Read deeper into breathing – a great book to pick-up is a book called “The Oxygen Advantage”
  • Check out the video below:

In short, the 3 ares desk athletes want to begin looking at is:

#1 The Eyes

#2 Spinal Position

#3 Breathing

The order can be interchanged but the importance remains the same.  Becoming more aware of the positions your are putting yourself in, or not putting yourself in have detrimental effects to your overall health and performance. Build the awareness, make the necessary changes and reap the benefits of a happier, healthier life.

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