Yoga, the Computer, and You

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I don’t love my computer. I need it…but I don’t love it. It does terrible things to me…

I stand up after working and feel like I’ve been pushing heavy weights. Maybe there’s nothing to be stressed about, but I am stressed – wired, stiff, tense to my fingertips.

Everyone knows the computer has revolutionized our world – how we work, how we communicate, how we function, how we think. Everyone is not so aware of how totally the computer has impacted our minds and bodies – our energy, our ability to focus, our inability to relax – in short, how we feel. I am very aware of it. I see it every day in my work…

Just watch kids playing computer games – frozen and rigid before the screen, oblivious to their surroundings. Look at people crunched over their consoles, staring fixedly, shoulders over their ears, shrinking into themselves, oblivious to all but the screen. Smart phones only extend the reach of this concentrative freeze. I live in New York where the streets are packed with people walking around texting, brows tightly knit, bodies rigid, unrelated to and unconscious of their surroundings.  Talk about tension!

So – what does all this have to do with Yoga?

Nothing.  And that’s the problem.

Yoga is about universal energy – called Prana – as it exists in the individual. As a concept, Prana is huge, mysterious, unfathomable. But Prana isn’t a philosophical concept to think about. Prana is an energy to be experienced. And we experience it, physically, as a flow. When Prana flows easily we feel good, whether or not we realize that’s the reason. When Prana is blocked – even if we’re unaware of the blockage – we feel pain, stiffness, physical and mental fatigue, anxiety – all the psychic and physical indicators of stress.

And the fact is that Prana cannot flow through the barricades of physical and psychic stress that sitting hours at the computer produces.

To keep ourselves sane, optimally functional, and stress resilient, we need to find a way to bring our Prana to the computer and keep it flowing as we work.

We need to create a Yoga practice for the computer.

That means using Yoga skills – not just movement but mind focus and breathing techniques – skills enable us to be self-aware even when concentrating on work; feeling where tension – mental and physical – starts to build,  thus blocking Prana flow – and knowing how to release those blocks and keep Prana moving.

These are practical, user-friendly,  yoga-based ways to release stress and restore energy during your work-day at the computer.

  • Move!  Yoga is a common sense practice – not getting stiff = moving.  That means every so often walk around and stretch out; when you’re stuck, instead of staring at the monitor get up and shake your arms and hands; wiggle your body – anything to free up your Prana and get it flowing.
  • Lung stretches:  Clasp your hands and stretch your arms over your head, moving from side to side, opening your shoulders and ribs, opening your diaphragm and breath. You don’t even have to get up, but you’ll feel like you have.
  • Release neck tension: Gentle – emphasis: gentle – neck rolls, shoulder rolls, head rotations and jaw stretches ease tension from your upper body and clear your mind.
  • Conscious breathing is the most basic stress reducer and energy restorer in the world.  For a few moments observe the flow of your breath, how it feels, where it’s blocked, the difference ( if there is one) between your inhale and exhale.
  • Visualize harmony & calm: See your breath as it flows: give it a color, or a texture – ex: water – and connect.  Or: imagine a place you’d like to be – see it in your mind’s eye –  and spend a quiet moment there with yourself.  
  • Energize your core: Curl (flex) / then lengthen (extend) your spine – either sitting or standing. Spinal flexion/extension is central Yoga practice, releasing Prana through your body and calming your central nervous system.

So, yes,  the computer and Yoga are mutually antagonistic. Certainly they exist at opposite ends of the energy spectrum…

Yet according to Yoga thought all evolution, cosmic and personal, is the coming into balance of opposites.  So maybe, just maybe – the next step in our personal evolution is to learn to relate to the technology we have created in a way that expands rather than constricts, our consciousness,  mental physical and psychic.

Who knows what could happen then?

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