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Is sitting as harmful as smoking?

Remember when smoking was something that was so common, that we never thought twice about sitting in a restaurant as someone's smoke billowed away, maybe even it was your own? Is sitting a harmful to our health as smoking? Is it as hard to change?

Take a view in our cultures lifestyle of sitting for hours at a time in front of a computer, in our cars & in front or our TV's. People are realizing this lack of movement & holding of our bodies in these unnatural, static positions can be just as big a price to well being as smoking. See the article below for some great information on why this is as difficult to change as quitting smoking & how our culture in our work place plays a part in our success or failure of making a change.

Sitting is the new smoking, and it’s time to quit by ALEX HUTCHINSON

Quitting smoking is hard, but is now supported by an environment that makes it more difficult to smoke but also has many support systems & guidance on how to learn how to quit. So less of us smoke & we are better for it.

So just like quitting smoking, saying I will not sit as much is not enough, we need to support each other in our work environments to encourage regular breaks, stretching even if just for a minute or two.

I remember when I worked at the phone company, before I ever even tried yoga, I had an amazing manage who was near retirement. She decided that it was so important to change the culture of the office, that she took upon herself to organize a team building day, that was focused on mindfulness using yoga & meditation. At the time, it was a little strange, this was in the mid 90's, yoga was not in every gym & studios were few & far between. But I remember learning some great things in that workshop that opened my mind to a new way of being.

In the time after our team building, she gave us permission to take what we learned & use it day to day. Since we all went to the class, there was a group dynamic that if we saw someone taking a break & moving their bodies, we didn't assume that they were waisting time, or being lazy, they were doing self care. My manager understood that through that self care, we were able to focus better when we were working which helped her bottom line as well. Maybe over time, doing this mindful movement & breathing even this helped us to become more healthy in other parts of our lives. Is it possible this change helped reduce sick time & that helped the company run better too. So whether her intention was to help us or the company, in the end, everyone benefited.

It was this spark that started my journey with yoga, as I had chronic headaches & pain that I began realizing was connected with sitting at a desk & typing into a computer 7.5 hours/day, 5 days/week.

I began taking classes at a yoga centre, one of a handful in Calgary. The teachers there were amazing & at first I struggled with the yoga poses, but in time I found my way into a restorative style class, using props & meditation as well as postures & started to feel better. I began to take some of these ideas & use them in my work day, as mini breaks & found I didn't feel as bad at the end of the day or week. I began to let go of the "office mentality" & even took some coffee breaks on my own to sit & breath, or walk for a bit, instead of the sitting, eating & being around the gossip & chit chat, that wasn't always healthy.

Fast forward to one day, all of my department was called into 2 offices. When we came out, those in 1 office had jobs & the other laid off (of which I was one). It was a hard experience, as many people are currently having in this economy, but when I thought of what do I do now, I had tools to help me with the stress of it. But what to do now? I had a small severance, but not enough to last long, so I had to make some choices. Was I good at my job? I think so. Did I love my job? Not really. What could I do now? I had been wanting to change careers, but too afraid to do so, but now the choice was made for me. After some time of processing, with the encouragement from a friend Jodi Hope-Johnstone, now owner of the studio I teach at, I began training to become a yoga teacher. I had been doing yoga for about 4 or 5 years by now, but did I know enough to teacher other people about this thing I found that helped me? My family was wary of this unique career choice & I didn't know if I could do it, but I decided to give it a try.

I've now been teaching for 12 years & realize how one simple change that started with a manager that thought outside the box, has changed my life. Now yoga is much more accepted as a thing to do & there is a shift that some companies are now encouraging employees to use a program that stops their computer to take a mini break, or changing the ergonomics of the desk, so you can stand & sit to help our bodies. But the big change comes when each one of us helps change the culture of thinking that sitting all day is ok to do.

So how do you change, starting with you?

Our bodies were not made to sit all day long, our eyes to stare at screens & our minds to be constrained on so many tasks constantly. Not only are we dealing with the physical stress of sitting, life itself is stressful & don’t you deserve some time of doing something that will benefit your body & your mind?

You take time to maintain your computer, why not learn tools for your own self maintenance so you run better too?

During this time as we transition from summer into fall, after holidays & enjoying a different routine, can we choose to do things differently. What if you don't know how or what to do? Find yourself a yoga class or workshop to learn some ways to stretch the body, strengthen it & how good it feels to NOT slouch anymore (once you get used to it). How what we consider to be comfy, that slouching posture, is in the end is causing a lot of our pain & challenges & can sometime lead to injury when we suddenly decide to carry that box from the car to the house....

Go to & see what classes I am teaching this fall that can support you in making a change. Just like quitting smoking, it's hard to do without support from those around you.


Anne Cox E-RYT500


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