Often we tend to think, the brain and body relationship only goes one way. Our brain tells our muscles how to move and our muscles listen.
But in fact, the relationship between the mind and the body works both ways. Our mind is influenced by the body and its environment.
This philosophy is known as “embodied cognition.”
Have you ever been sitting at your desk, arched over glaring at your computer screen, wondering why you can’t focus on the task at hand?
Our bodily experience can affect our cognitive and emotional state. So, once the brain receives signals with information about bodily posture, it translates those signals into emotions.
While it may not be an obvious connection, if you spend 8-12 hours of your day sitting at a desk, or working on a keyboard (lets face it, majority of us do nowadays), your posture can impact your mood and your ability to concentrate.
Bad posture causes poor breathing patterns, restricted circulation, and repetitive strain injuries, all of which can drain your energy (as negative patterns of muscular use, use more energy than positive ones) and in turn limit your capacity to concentrate.
Our opinions and cognitive ability are subconsciously influenced by our physical behavior. Sitting up straight for example leads to a positive emotional state and increased concentration, even making us feel more enthusiastic about the task at hand.
A 2012 study suggested that since posture affects our mood and thoughts so much, the increase of collapsed sitting and walking may have an affect on a rise of depression in recent years.
Whilst this study was looking at our emotional state, rather than concentration, it demonstrates the link between the mind and the muscles, and how posture can influence our thought processes.
However, for most of us, sitting has become a fundamental aspect of our daily lives.
So, here are my two absolute favourite stretches for eliminating tension in the upper traps (neck), improving anterior shoulder mobility, increasing blood flow to restricted areas, and ultimately improving posture.
A) Using a standard doorway, place a hand either side, around the height of your arm pit to use as supports for your body weight. From here, begin leaning forward taking more and more weight through your arms and forcing a stretch where your biceps meet your pecs. Spend 40 seconds in this position gradually increasing the tension. Complete a few reps of dynamic arm swings across and around your body to promote blood flow and cellular regeneration.
B) If you are restricted to your seated desk, you can stretch your upper traps by sitting on one of your hands and extending your neck to the opposite side. E.g. sitting on your right hand and trying to get your left ear to touch your left shoulder. Hold each side for 40 seconds. You can use your free hand to gently massage the neck as you do so to replicate an active release technique, which allows the neuromuscular system to promote recovery. If space permits and you are a little more daring, you can check out our range of stretches and mobility drills at bodybybrando.com
My absolute recommendation would be to increase your ROM and therefore your concentration through active movement. The perfect scenario involves setting a 1 hour timer for each hour you’re at work. Each time the timer goes off, you perform a quick 30-60 seconds of a designated exercise. Ranging from squats, push ups, mobility drills, stretches etc. Over the course of the day it may only be 8 minutes of exercise, but it will ensure your body is receiving blood flow all day, improving your physical function and ultimately your cognitive performance.