For the majority of human existence we have sat at desks, inside, typing on computers....said no one ever. Sedentary lifestyles typical to modern Homo sapiens only evolved in the last few decades, and somedays my body be like, "WTF. This is messed up." We're animals, after all. Our bodies need movement, sunlight, fresh air to feel alive .
But since most of us can't spend as much time getting freaky in the woods as we would like, we've gotta evolve with the 21st century office. As one of the billion people out there working at a desk, I've made it part of my job to be a student of healthy habits while working.
Here are some ways I've managed to make office life a little more bearable.
Sit, Stand, Kneel
Standing desks are so hawt right now...and for good reason. When built correctly, they can offer proper alignment for the body. Often times our sitting desks cause us to lean forward towards the computer screen, pulling our neck, shoulders, and back out of alignment. I kept my sitting desk for editing photos, but I mostly write at my standing desk.
As you can see, I made a little desk for my computer on top of the standing desk because I love my computer that much. It also allows the computer screen to be at eye level so I can keep my neck straight, although I'm still going quasi-Quasimodo here. Alas, it's a work in progress. I bought a bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I could keep my elbows at a 90 degree angle, which will hopefully prevent wrist issues endemic to typing.
And yep - you read that right. I made this standing desk - and you can make one too. Seriously. I'm not a skilled wood worker.
I took a couple sheets of plywood and had them cut to size and I took 2X4s to make the legs. I drilled two 2X4s between the front and back legs of the desk for support. I measured the distance from the ground to my elbows for the main desk, and the distance from my elbows to about my nose for the computer's desk. I then cut the 2X4s to size, and measured the distance between legs for the two supporting 2X4s.
Standing desks, though, aren't necessarily the end-all solution to the body-at-work dilemma. If we stand for too long, our legs can become tired and we begin to compensate with some funky posture. The key seems to be variety so we don't have our bodies in on position for too long and thus prone to weird counterbalances.
In addition to my standing and regular desks, I made a desk where I could sit on the floor. This way I can sit cross legged or kneeling on a pillow. Again, I went for alignment and tried to measure the distance between the floor and my elbows when I'm sitting. And when I sit on my little butt pillow, my quads can relax down to the floor - which helps lengthen the hip flexors.
It was super cheap to make these desks - maybe 40 bucks total - and I've already noticed a big improvement with how my neck and shoulders feel following a work day.
Stretch It Out
Those hip flexors though. After teaching yoga for a couple of years, I realized I wasn't the only one with crazy-tight hip flexors. Far from it. When we sit on chairs for too long, the muscles around our nether regions get shortened (i.e. the psoas major). So let's get weird at the office and do some impromptu stretching.
This pose helps stretch out the flexors. I'm using the wall for support and pulling my foot towards my butt in typical quad-stretch fashion. But here's the kicker: keep the tailbone tucked to help get into the psoas and friends.
This pose feels divine. I lined up a roller length-wise along my spine and used my butt pillow for my head. My arms relax at a T or Y or whatever feels good. The long roller is a seriously smart investment, and if you're tall like me, you'll want a pillow for your head so you can totally relax.
And for the real money stretch for tight shoulders and pecs from some inevitable hunchbacking, this pose is IT:
With your arms behind your back, grasp your hands together and take a wide stance with slightly bent knees. Bring your belly to your spine and hinge at the hips, lifting your hands overhead. AHHHHHHHH! So good. Going invert with the head also helps get some extra blood--and thus oxygen--to that grey sponge up there.
Double Fist It
Caffeine. Got.to.love.it. But sometimes coffee just doesn't love me back, and my stomach feels wreaked from too much acid. And if I'm gonna be honest, it's not just the coffee: my diet isn't exactly packed full with alkaline foods. There's a lot of cheese involved. (Cheddar forms the bottom of my food pyramid, to be exact.)
So we're suppose to drink water. Check. But here's a little life hack I've gleaned from the streets of the interwebs: apple cider vinegar and lemon are both alkalizing. (Yes, I realize how white-girl that sentence is.) So, at least once a day I make a little apple cider + lemon juice water concoction. A splash of the vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, and a couple drips of maple syrup later and I'm making moves towards a less acidic stomach (and thus better skin, less inflammation, yadi yada).
Smell It Up
And I'm not talking about your own brand of stank here. Armotherapy is LEGIT. Our sense of smell is the strongest, and with a whole army of oil essence out there, you can create a bodily response through scent that serves your current needs. If you need to chill the f out like I do most the time, lavender usually does the trick. For those days I need an extra pick-me-up, I'll drip lemongrass into my candle diffuser. There's all sorts of oils with particular effects, as well as a variety of diffusers.
Bring the Outdoors Inside
Plants offer cheap and immediate services to a room. They can be a pain to remember to water, (sorry, graveyard of houseplants I've killed), but the benefits they offer are worth the effort it takes to pour the water in the soil. They detoxify the air and can literally make you more productive by reducing stress and improving concentration. Also, the color green proves to help human eyes rest and can also help stimulate positive thinking.
I've found it's the the simple things, really, that can transform a blah workday into a BOOM one. So I try to do little things for myself and my office that help me stay focused, relaxed, and inspired, like going for a quick, midday walk or taking a few deep breathes. I figure since I've got this one life, I want to feel as good as possible while I'm working it.