Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Aching back? Is it sitting posture? Or is it something else?

Aching Back? Sitting Up Straight Could Be The Culprit offers an interesting light on the problem of our aching backs. Some doctors in Scotland use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to study the biomechanics of sitting posture to see if they could determine the optimal posture. They showed that sitting in an upright position places unnecessary strain on your back, leading to potentially chronic pain problems if you spend long hours sitting.

Their observation is that our bodies did not evolve in with a 90 degree body-thigh angle in mind. Instead the optimal body-thigh angle was found to be 130 degrees. In other words those kneeler chairs are pretty close to an optimal body-thigh angle. Another kind of chair that would be beneficial is one whose back reclines easily.

I'm having a hard time imagining a desk and chair arrangement where you can easily work while sitting in a chair that reclines to give you a 130 degree body-thigh angle. The kneeler chairs seem more feasible in this regard.

However let me offer a different consideration, which my chiropractor constantly is drumming into me. Stretching, walking, exercise, etc.

The problem, she says, is probably more to do with sitting for a long time. Modern life has most of us in work situations where we sit for long periods, perhaps in front of a computer. These force us to take body positions that are unnatural and leads to back pain and wrist problems like the carpal tunnel syndrome.

There's a simple solution, she says. Get up every 40 minutes or so, take a break, and walk around a bit. And, she recommends, stretch your muscles.

What I'm learning is, our bodies evolved through millennia to be physically active. Most of our ancestors did not work for long hours in unnatural sitting positions, like we do. Hence our bodies work better if they move around regularly and do strenuous things. So, why not incorporate some of that into your daily regimine?

There are some simple stretching exercises, or Yoga if you prefer, that can help you build strength in your muscles. And these stretching exercises act to loosen the muscles that may be learning to stay tight because you're sitting for long periods.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Choosing what direction you take in life

What is your purpose? Where is your life taking you? How do you decide the life you are going to live?

These are universal questions, ones I've been pondering very much lately. I had an interesting inspiration this morning I'd like to share.

Riding my motorcycle on the way to work I was in a curve I regularly take. Halfway through this curve there is an entrance into a parking lot, and today I was behind pair of cars, one took the turn into that parking lot, and the other did not. Which struck me as exemplifying choice. One went one way, the other went the other way.

Life is a series of choices. Where you end up in life is based on the choices you make. Constantly, choices. Every day you choose to go to work, or whether to call your boss and tell him/her what to do with that stinking job. And the choices are far more continual than that, because every step you walk, every breath you take, every word you say, every moment is a choice. Your life is made of those choices.

Riding the motorcycle exemplifies one aspect of life and making choices. When you're taking a curve on a motorcycle, inertia, centripetal forces, gyroscopic forces, the friction of rubber meeting the road, and more, all go together to place you in a delicate maneuver. On a motorcycle in a curve your choices are pretty limited so you had better look ahead and make your choice before entering the curve.

If we choose to fly, what keeps us anchored to the ground? There is more to life than simply the choices you make. The choices you make occur within a context, and the context acts to shape your choices into the results.

A few years ago I had been having these dreams about jumping off a cliff, and flying. Shortly after I found myself on a trip in Arizona, in a national park, standing at the top of a cliff, and thinking about that dream. If I had taken the dream literally I might have chosen to jump off the cliff expecting to fly. But I suppose if I had chosen that course I wouldn't be here typing this message to you, would I?

The context we live our lives in is this material world. It follows laws which the physicists call Inertia and Gravity which go together to say that if I had chosen to jump off that cliff expecting to fly, Gravity would have grabbed ahold of me causing me to plummet to the bottom of the cliff several hundred feet below.

Another context is our bodies. We inhabit human bodies and the nature of our bodies give us a certain perspective whereas if we inhabited the body of a household cat we might have a different perspective. The perspective and nature of the body we inhabit give our choices room to fly (in some cases, if we inhabit a bird) or they also limit us in some ways (for instance, birds do not have hands or arms).