Whether or not they are horns doesn't matter. How to hold the head up matters.
I’m with Dr. Posture. Lately I’ve started making my children do backbends or inversions after they use devices. They’re young, their spines are very malleable, and for the most part, they still do what I ask them to do.
Call me the crazy wellness professional, but as The Washington Post initially reported last week and updated this morning its story with a scary headline on children growing horns, we are only now beginning to understand the broader postural effects that technology is having on our bodies. Several studies first covered in Australian media last year, and then by BBC last month, point to the many biomechanics shifts our bodies are making as we slouch toward our screens.
I started teaching yoga before the widespread use of mobile devices. That’s how, having amassed tens of thousands of hours over the last 18 years watching bodies day in and day out in the yoga classroom, I have observed the exact shifts that these studies point to.
It isn’t only the increase in Extended Occipital Protuberances (EOPs), the “‘head horns’ or ‘phone bones’ or ‘spikes’ or ‘weird bumps,’” it is an entire range of musculoskeletal modifications. Texting neck; texting thumb, which is strikingly similar to carpal tunnel syndrome; elbow and shoulder problems and pains; and disc issues, especially in the low back, are just a few. Bone growths are worrying, to be sure, but it’s what we can’t yet see that should worry us the most.
When the homo sapien frame is slouched in any kind of chair, and there is a forward pitch of the 10 pound skull, the neck bears more weight than it has evolved to maintain. Perhaps this was fine as we got comfortable on our couches and La-Z-Boys and literally went slack-jawed watching television starting in the 1950s. Now, however, with couch posture firmly embedded, the small screens in front of us — which narrow our gaze and functionally require the arms and hands to be forward, further slouching the shoulders — are causing deeper problems.
As an upright species, when we spend so much time curving forward instead of using the normal, natural, and evolved vertebral curves to be erect, we stress the organs of the body, which hang in two sacs (thoracic, or chest; and abdominal) from the spine. If the organs are stressed, they don't function as well as they are built to do. In this way, everyone’s system is breaking down on some level; this leads genetics and other factors to step in, causing disease (defined as: a "lack” of “ease”) that shows up as everything from abdominal distress to circulatory issues to plantar fascitis to, of course, the horns.
Fortunately, there’s yoga, which is the simplest of practices to correct the postural and organic problems that are not going away. While my children are fine in spontaneous drop-over backbends and headstands, the practices that we should be doing as adults, every day after hunching forward, are:
Standing poses such as triangle, side angle, tree, Warrior 2 (lateral), and Warrior 1 (frontal) with the head in line with the shoulders and pelvis
Inversions (taught by an experienced teacher and taken one step at a time)
Upright forward folds
These are the basics. There are many others. Come see me in class to find out more or go to your closest quality yoga studio or even to sites like yogaglo and use keyword searches for classes with words like “better posture.”
Knowing what I know, I want to make sure my children experience from a young age what it feels like to have steady, strong abdominals and back muscles; a lifted and open chest; and, therefore, an upright and aligned head. As adults, we have lots correct because we’ve slid into these deleterious habits over a longer period of time with our new and exciting devices, but there’s still lots of hope. You just have to know how to — you have to prefer to — stand tall, lift up, and look up.