Recently, I have been listening to an interview with Erik Peper, PhD. Erik Peper is an international authority on biofeedback and self-regulation and a professor of Holistic Health Studies at San Francisco State University. He has some great information on biofeedback and how it can help with pain management and healing in the human body, which I found fascinating.
Erik tells us that "Tension headaches, migraines, neck and shoulder pain, are endemic. They're common. Biofeedback is a remarkable tool that can be used to develop voluntary control. In terms of tension headaches, specifically, this goes all the way back to the work of Tom Budzynski who used muscle feedback from the forehead to teach people to relax and then also practice at home.
Now, people probably record more the muscle tension of the neck and shoulders because most of us unknowingly, when we feel stressed, or when someone is behind us, we slightly raise our shoulders without knowing."
Funnily enough, this is a conversation I have with many of my massage clients. We often hold much of our stress and tension in the shoulders, and sometimes, we don't even realise how much tension there is until we receive a great massage.
So, can bringing a new level of awareness, moving more mindfully, help you with your posture, releasing unnecessary physical tension, and allowing our bodies to function better as a result?
Pay more attention
Your body is in perpetual motion, constantly changing and adapting to the needs of your current activity. Your body regularly shifts to support you.
When I first started in the gym, it took me a while to get over my lower back issues. But when I move more mindfully, engaging my core, I find my body can do so much more.
And while there is no one "right" way to sit, hunched and sluggish posture constricts your breathing, thereby reducing your energy and your ability to focus. However, reversing this effect is simple when you bring mindfulness into your day.
Rather than slouching in your chair, bring the same mindfulness you would have in a yoga or meditation session to work. Feel the pressure of your feet on the floor and notice how contact with the ground lengthens your spine. Relax your jaw and feel your shoulders drop while your breath deepens.
This practice isn't about "doing" posture—engaging your core or pulling shoulders back. Instead, it's a playful practice of using mindful body awareness to find ease so that you can sit comfortably without stressing your muscles.
Corrective stretches and yoga classes are a lovely way to untangle your knotted muscles. However, don't make the mistake of just going through the motions. If you follow your instructor and just complete the poses or stretches, you don't experience being in your body through the movement.
Pay particular attention to sensations that feel good in your body. Focusing on pleasurable sensations calms your nervous system and relaxes your muscles without you even having to do anything.
Mindful movement starts with paying attention to where and how your body would like to stretch and for how long. Soon you'll begin to notice that you don't need timers and reminders to adjust your body position or take breaks from work. Your own cells will send you the message, and your brain will be ready to receive it.
Dynamic Seated Position for a Healthy Posture
Want to give it a go? Here's a simple exercise you can repeat to experiment with cultivating mindfulness while moving:
While sitting, it's important to balance the body to maximise muscle commitment and minimise fatigue. This movement sequence explores the intelligence of our nervous system and its ability to adjust.
Sit on the edge of your chair and have your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Bring your attention to your pelvis and notice where you make contact with the chair.
Take a breath, and as you release, tilt your head to the left, bringing your left ear towards your shoulder. Breathe in and return to the centre. Repeat this 10-20 times, resting for a few breaths before each repetition.
Connecting to your body, notice that the ribs on the left side of your chest come together and close as you tilt your head. Feel the difference. Does this alter your breathing? Are there any other sensations in this movement?
Pause and sit neutrally on your chair.
From the starting position, repeat this exercise about 10-20 times on the right side. Go slowly, with a relaxed breath, and notice the ribs as they close together on the right side.
Come back to the starting position, shift your weight to the left side of your pelvis by pushing your left foot into the floor, tilt your head and see if you create a 'C' shape while you move. Stay tuned to your breath and any sensations that may arise.
Pause and return to the first sequence and see if you can notice a difference between the left and right sides. Then repeat this same sequence on the right side.
Focus on mindful movement that works for your body.