ICYMI – How Yoga Can Reduce the Impact of Your Screen Time
Lauren McLaren recently held a workshop at Pilgrimage about how we can use yoga to ease some of the effects of screen time. The negative effects of screen time have become a bit of a hot topic, so we decided to do a little recap of some of the ways we are affected by our devices and what we can do about it.
First, it’s important to remember that the technology we have is meant to be of service, and for many of us, we have become reliant on it for both work and play. It is equally important to remember that this technology is not meant to be our master, so while we enjoy the convenience and benefits of it, we also want to recognize when we become the puppet instead of the puppet master.
So, what happens when we spend a lot of time in front of a screen, be it big or little? Screen time affects us in many ways. Two of the most significant are the development of back and neck problems and increased stress on the nervous system. Let’s take a quick look at these two issues and how we can use yoga to help mitigate the effects.
What’s the Problem? Back and Neck Discomfort
We frequently lose our upright posture when working on our devices and the resulting slumpasana creates pressure on the low back by compressing the vertebrae in a misaligned way. We also tend toward a rounded upper back which brings strain between the shoulder blades and closes down our breathing space. Finally, we often move our heads forward, jutting out the chin and adding a shearing force to the upper back that will eventually cause us to lose bone mass in the chest and gain it in the back – think Hunchback of Notre Dame.
What can You do?
- Mobilize your spine! Your spine moves in 6 directions, so to relieve discomfort find ways to move it forward and back, side to side, and round and round. Poses like Cat and Cow, Triangle or Gate, and Twists of all kinds are wonderful for rejuvenating your back.
- Release your neck! Turn your head side to side regularly, especially when you are in front of a screen for a long time. Explore the full range of motion by making neck circles and holding in places that are particularly tight for a few breaths.
What’s the Problem? Nervous System Stress
Perhaps one of the most worrying consequences of excessive screen usage is how it sends your brain into an addictive state. The rush of the pleasure-inducing dopamine we get from using our digital devices activates our brain’s reward center and insidiously makes us crave more. The ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ we get keep our SNS in a state of low-grade activation. This can lead to a feeling of burnout, adrenal fatigue, immune system suppression, and even raised blood pressure.
What can You do?
- Breathe with intention! Simply slowing down and evening out your breath will bring you a greater sense of grounded balance, but to really shift nervous system gears, try the humming bee breath. All you have to do is inhale naturally and then exhale with a hum. Four or five rounds of this can be a real game changer.
- Slow down your exhale! When we extend our exhalation, we invite the ‘rest and digest’ side of the nervous system to dominance. All you have to do here is make your exhale longer than your inhale. Try a ratio or 4:6 or 4:8 to get the parasympathetic nervous system going. This is a great practice to take immediately after you sign off.
There are so many advantages to our technologically advanced world, but as with most things in our lives, overuse can bring unexpected disadvantages. Fortunately, we have many practices in yoga that help us cultivate moderation and awareness, so we can be smart about using our devices. And when we need it, the practice is there to help us undo some of the less desirable effects.
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