Sit back, relax, kick your feet up. All of those things sound good in theory, but you know in the back of your head that you just might regret it later when you’re all cramped up and your back is a mess. The whole point of lounging in the first place is to chill out and give yourself a little self-care, but it’s surprisingly easy to screw up your posture when you chill — especially when you’re doing it for extended periods of time — so, we’ve put together this how-to guide on relaxing without wrecking yourself, with a bit of help from Lisa Navarro, the Clinic Director of Egoscue, a clinic specializing in postural therapy.
1. Work Before You Unwind
Daily posture exercises can help to prevent pain when you relax. Navarro says that doing an “airbench” is an especially good one. To complete one, get some shoes on first to prevent slipping, then put your back flat up against a wall with your body in a sitting position and your knees at a bit more than 90 degrees, then hold the position until it becomes difficult to do.
2. Shifty Positioning
When you’re chilling out, don’t stay in any position for too long — this is especially important for your circulation. Navarro says to embrace what feels comfortable, but to also be mindful, so if you always fold your left leg over your right, be sure to swap them later, or if you lean to one side in a chair, switch to the other way after a bit.
3. Put the Phone on Hold
We spend all day hunched forward at our desks and on our phones, so take a respite from the phone during downtime and use the opportunity to lean back and open up your chest and shoulders. Additionally, if you’re someone who’s hunched all day at work, Navarro says prism glasses may help your posture, as they allow you to keep your chin parallel to the ground while reading.
4. It’s Hip to be Square
When you’re sitting, try to make sure the weight on your hips is evenly distributed — this can especially be a problem when you’ve got that one well-worn spot on your couch. To be sure the weight is even, Navarro says you’ll have to be in tune with your body, so focus on the hips and center your weight, or at least shift side-to-side regularly to prevent cramping.
5. Just Your Remote and Your Water Bottle
Don’t worry so much about your spine. If your shoulders are open and straight and the weight on your hips is even, the spine should take care of itself. For good measure though, you should lounge with a water bottle nearby to stay nice and hydrated — that way you’ll further prevent against aches and pains when you finally get up.
6. No Sleep-Slouching
Embracing comfortable positions is good, but if you think you’ll fall asleep in your recliner, you won’t be able to move regularly to prevent cramping. If you start dozing, straighten yourself up and prevent putting too much pressure on any part of the body (i.e. sitting on a leg). Once you’ve done that, feel free to drift off to lala land without nightmares of waking up in pain.