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The first yogis came thousands of years before the smartphone, yet sometimes yoga feels like it was invented as an antidote to technology. After hours perched over my laptop or just minutes pecking my iPhone, I need more yoga! You know what it’s like, your shoulders feel frozen in an ape-like hunch and the back of your neck ends up in a throbbing knot. “It’s enough that we have to relate to technology because it exists and we have to use it to kind of keep up with culture, but when you consider there are orthopedic risks, it adds a whole other layer,” said Amy Ippoliti in a workshop at Yoga Journal LIVE! San Diego last weekend.
Even this superstar yoga teacher and earth conservationist is no stranger to the troubles of texting. Ippoliti designed an entire iPhone counter-practice after discovering her neck had degenerative discs. “Tech neck,” when the neck droops forward and down as you post a shot to Instagram, send a text, or email the boss, puts up to an astounding 60 pounds of pressure on the upper cervical spine, research shows. That is akin to carrying 12 yoga mats or a small child on your neck.
4 Ways to Counteract “Tech Neck”
Ippoliti suggests doing these poses throughout your day to counteract the effects of phone and laptop use. These poses lengthen the front muscles of the neck, which tend to get shortened when we hunch over a screen or a keyboard. They also realign the shoulders and upper thoracic spine, freeing the lower cervical vertebrae. Restoring a natural curve in the spine also opens the shoulders and may even ease rotator cuff and elbow pain.
1. Gradual Cobra
From your belly, place fingertips over your head, a little wider than your shoulders. Keeping your head neutral, lift your elbows towards the sky. Lengthen your side body from hips to armpits. Soften the heart and pull the arm bones into the sockets. Curl shoulder blades down the back and into your heart. Extend forward to rise up. Lower down and slide your hands a few inches back towards your hips. Again, soften your heart and pull arm bones into the sockets. Draw scapulae down the back and lift up. Slide hands back another few inches and follow the same instructions. Then move into regular Cobra Pose applying the same principles. Once in Cobra, move the top of the thoracic spine (around shoulder height) and the bottom of the cervical spine (around shoulder height) in toward the front body and take chin up for an extra stretch.
See also Shiva Rea’s Cobra Mudra Vinyasa
2. Downward-Facing Dog Pose
From hands and knees, align hands directly beneath shoulders and knees directly beneath hips. Press the index knuckle down to engage your forearms. Lift the armpits up toward the ears. Use gravity to soften and melt arm bones into the sockets. Keeping the arms straight, lift lower body into Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) while the rest of the body stays the same. Keep armpits lifted like you’re taking the inner eye of the armpits forward. Then stretch heels back into the full pose without dropping the armpits. Puff the kidneys.
3. Front Chest Opener
Stand facing a wall and brace yourself with your left fingertips at shoulder level. Place your right elbow and forearm against the wall slightly higher than shoulder height. Take a breath in and lift your armpits and rib cage up toward your ears so the sides of your body get long. As you pull your shoulder heads, head and neck back, curl the upper thoracic spine in and up. Keep your chin open. Maintaining this alignment, exhale and turn your feet to the left, increasing the stretch to the chest. Repeat on the other side.
4. Use technology more mindfully
While, sigh, you can’t spend all day doing yoga, you can become more conscious about how you use your laptop and smartphone. Ippoliti also offered suggestions for reducing the impact of tech use on your body. She also reminds us to stand tall! “Who cares what people think? You’re going to look elegant, you’re going to look fabulous and people are going to be attracted to you.” Sure beats tech neck.
WATCH THE VIDEO The Yoga of Smartphones: How to Avoid “Tech Neck”