This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Thank you to Deskmate.co and Posture Ellie who have allowed us to republish Ellie’s article on improving your posture. Earlier this month Deskmate teamed up with Posture Ellie to share her top tips for getting the most out of your #WFH routine. Even if you are not working from home, so many of us are spending hours at our computers and so this article is beneficial for ALL of us. Deskmate have many ergonomically designed products to make working from home kinder to your body. I think we all know that sitting at a traditional desk for 8 hours a day is not acceptable any more.
Posture Ellie is a Postural Alignment Therapist trained in The Egoscue Method.
Ellie teaches people how to move pain-free again. When the body loses balance and function (due to muscular weakness) it creates tension and pain in the areas of misalignment. By correcting these issues, bodies that have been in pain for decades can feel very different, very quickly! Ellie works by giving her clients bespoke corrective exercises suited to their body, levels of pain, dysfunctions and compensation.
How long have you been interested in posture and involved in the industry?
I got into posture and movement at the end of 2017 when I took up yoga. I was super stiff and inflexible working in an office job, didn’t really do any exercise and was super lazy. I made a strange pact with myself that I should get flexible by the time I was 30 and so I started yoga one day and then sort of just ended up doing it almost every day since. Yoga helped me find my passion and I left my office job towards the end of 2018, having trained as a Postural Alignment Therapist in-between.
What’s the best tip you could give someone who is working from home and looking to improve their overall posture?
Think of your desk job as a sport you must train for. You wouldn’t run a marathon without any training and expect your body to cope, your desk job is exactly the same. The human body is not designed to stand or sit still for hours of the day, so you must do all you can OUTSIDE of your time being still to prepare your body for the rigours of being stood still. If you move frequently (and move well) outside of your desk job, you will have a body able to hold itself comfortably during the working day. This takes consistent effort, there are no two ways about it.
Are there any specific stretches you should do before you start working?
Each person, depending on their muscular weaknesses (dysfunctions), will need to take a different approach to wake up their body. Sorry that there isn’t a clear cut answer here. Everyone wants to hear ‘the best exercise for back pain’ or ‘knee pain’ (insert body part here) but the reasons why you might have back or knee pain will be different to why the person next to you has back or knee pain, so there’s no blanket approach that can be applied to everyone. Have a look at my YouTube (@posture.ellie) and I have hundreds of different exercises to try on there as well as different routines for working from home etc. Find the ones that feel good for YOU and trust your body’s intuition that, if it feels good, it IS good for you.
What’s the best way to sit whilst working?
The best way to sit is to think about mixing up your sitting position as much as possible and realise that there is no ‘perfect’ way to sit still all day. Sometimes slouch through your pelvis, sometimes sit upright in your pelvis, sometimes cross one leg, sometimes cross the other etc. Get up and move as often as possible. Take a phone call standing or walking. I don’t have a sitting desk and I am lucky with the work that I do that I am able to work however I like, but I mainly mix between using my standing desk, sitting cross-legged on the floor, kneeling on the floor or lying prone on the floor. Mixing up your movement profile as much as possible is the best way to ‘sit’ whilst working!
What are the best shoes to wear whilst using a standing desk?
None at all! I think standing desks in principle are much better for the human body (than sitting desks). There is nothing inherently WRONG with sitting but, due to the amount of time people tend to spend sitting in both work and leisure, standing gives more variety of movement and therefore is better. However, if someone is wearing shoes that are even remotely heeled (most dress shoes or trainers are heeled), this will be shortening the calves and hamstrings, not allowing the hips to extend, putting pressure through the pelvis and lower back and encouraging the upper body/head to move forward of the lower body. This can really negate the benefits of using a standing desk and you may wind up with more aches than if you were sitting.
Really consider your shoes! If you cannot stand or walk barefoot without repercussions, you will need to look into waking up your feet through corrective exercises. The human body is designed to be barefoot and, if you can’t spend time barefoot, something is going wrong. The good news is, this can be changed!
Any tips to relieve any workers suffering from lower back pain and strain? It really depends on why you have lower back pain. Some people will have lower back pain due to a lack of thoracic (upper back) and shoulder mobility, some people will have lower back pain because their hips can’t move and some people will have lower back pain because their feet can’t move or support their bodyweight correctly. Some people will have a combination of all three! If I had to give one tip that universally would help most people is, look at your shoes, seriously. Heeled shoes (most ‘normal’ shoes are heeled) will put too much strain on the lower back. I spend all my time in Vivo Barefoot shoes or barefoot. Some of my clients have decades of issues resolved overnight when they transition to more minimalistic footwear.
Ellie has LOADS of free videos and stuff to try out on her YouTube so that’s a great place to start! She also recommends reading the book ‘Pain Free‘ by Pete Egoscue, which is what her work is based around.