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February 6, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
As any book lover knows, reading is a total-body experience, and discovering that perfect position is harder than hunting for Ahab’s white whale. The struggle results in one of two things: after flopping around you, end up in either the exact same position you started in, or you find yourself in a bizarre shape that miraculously works for you — for a short time, that is. Although books are great at conditioning and stretching the mind, the body gets bent out of shape when stuck in one position for long periods of time.
Healthy bodies contribute to healthy minds, and Amanda Signaigo, a chiropractor with Tiger Family Chiropractic, encourages readers everywhere to focus on that mind-body connection. “It’s about a conscious awareness of what your body is doing and how your body is feeling,” she says. “Prolonged sitting can result in lower back problems, shoulder problems, neck pain, headaches, reduced energy levels … so much, really.”
Corri Flaker, a massage therapist and yoga instructor at Moon Valley Massage Therapy, says that all readers should take the time to move around. “Take breaks,” she says. “They don’t have to be long ones, but get up, change positions or do stretches. If you stay put, you’ll only make things worse for yourself.”
The type of reader you are can have some serious consequences when it comes to stretching. Learn how to make your body talk by finding your match here.
Your style: It’s a lazy Sunday, you wake up in the late afternoon … oh wait, that’s a "Saturday Night Live" skit. But the same concept applies here. You choose your book, you find your spot, and you only move for bathroom breaks or laser pointers. Snacks are a must, preferably if someone else feeds you.
Your stretch: Downward-facing dog pose
Take a break from your feline pride and tap into your canine side. This yoga position stretches and strengthens the whole body. After sitting tucked away in a cubby, it will feel good to uncurl for a bit.
Your style: You pick up a new book that screams “read me,” and before you know it, you have fallen far down the rabbit hole. Don’t get too lost in the literature, though. Back pain that disappears and reappears can be more frustrating than the Cheshire Cat, especially when you lie on your back the entire time.
Your stretch: Cobra pose
Diamondbacks trump hearts when it comes to spinal health. The time needed to recover from neck and back injuries or spasms is enough to make anyone venomously mad, so help prevent them by stretching frequently.
Your style: I said a hip, hop, the hippie … the hips hurt from staying in this reading position too long. The reason you’re constantly spinning and shifting isn’t because your book is boring, it’s because your hips are feeling the pressure of your body weight. Too much lying on your side and on hard surfaces can really take its toll.
Your stretch: Triangle pose
This one’s not for squares. The sharp angles your body takes help open your hips, and the hamstrings, chest and shoulders get stretched as well. Break it down!
Your style: Your personal mantra is “any book is a good book,” and you repeat it as many times a day as it takes to convince yourself that yes, you can read just one more page. As you slog your way through Crime and Punishment and Atlas Shrugged over the course of a single week, just remember to give your mind a rest and take part in earthly pleasures such as exercise every once in a while.
Your stretch: Pigeon pose
Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the ever-present yet often-overlooked pigeon. This simple move hits all the major areas and stretches the thighs, back, chest and shoulders. Now, see the pigeon, feel the pigeon, become the pigeon.
Your style: When it comes to reading nooks, the smaller the space, the better. Window seat — check. Kitchen cupboard — check. Crawl space — never say never. There is no place too tight for you to squeeze into with your incredibly portable book collection. Just make sure you get your frequent reader miles.
Your stretch: Tree pose
You are great at making yourself small, but now it’s time to spread those roots. Leg cramps are nasty business, so build leg stability and balance with this pose to help prevent that pins-and-needles feeling. Chances are you’ve read something while perched in a tree’s branches, so you’re already halfway there.
Your style: It’s quiet tonight, almost too quiet. Perfect! You prefer the solitude of your specially constructed reading fort anyway, and for some reason your martial-arts manuals and DIY guides read much better upside down. Now where’s Alfred with that hot cocoa?
Your stretch: Plow pose
Even crime-fighting Dark Knights need rest and relaxation. Stretch out in full costume or just the regulation bat yoga pants. Gadget belt optional, but recommended (hello, snack pouches!)