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Teachers’s Day I Online classes need not be a pain in the back

From investing in ergonomic furniture to taking quick breaks between classes, here are some easy ways in which teachers can take care of their spinal health and overall wellbeing

Starting a day with yoga or breathing exercises can set the tone for the day
Starting a day with yoga or breathing exercises can set the tone for the day

During the ongoing pandemic, education has undergone a 360-degree change. Screens have replaced blackboards and home has now become the space for learning and teaching. In such a scenario, teachers, who used to move extensively between classes, have been forced into a sedentary lifestyle. Their days stretch on endlessly, with most slouching over their laptops to create presentations for the next day’s class. This is wreaking havoc on their spines.

In fact, according to a recent study titled ‘Health Hazards faced by Teachers in the Indian Education System’ by the Workspace and Ergonomic Research Cell of Godrej Interio, a furniture and design solutions company, teachers had been facing health problems due to the increasing use of technology even before the pandemic. Out of the 600 teachers surveyed from a mix of government, private and government-aided institutes, 82 percent were afflicted from some form of musculoskeletal disorder while 72 percent suffered from back pain due to minimal breaks and awkward postures during lectures. Bending the neck while using smartphones or tablets was resulting in severe pain, with at least 34 percent adopting improper sitting posture while using desktops and laptops.

The study was released in May, so one can only assume that these figures would have gone up in the past 3-4 months. However, there are some quick ways to offer respite to your spine:

Invest in ergonomic furniture: According to Sameer Joshi, associate vice president, marketing (B2B), Godrej Interio, teachers tend to not just strain their back but their voice as well. “They can put in audio visual solutions with suitable microphones and speakers. We have been helping in setting up ergonomic furniture and such solutions in the classroom," he says. However, these can be replicated on a small-scale at home as well. “Indian homes tend to be very small, so it’s important to create a multipurpose space for all the activities taking place. One can opt for foldable chairs and desks," he adds. The need of the hour is to create awareness about the various health issues that such a style of working can create, and already educational institutions have enlisted the team’s help in conducting webinars for teachers about this.

Restructure your work space at home: While earlier teachers would get to exercise their spine during classroom activities, now their sole tools are the laptop or the desktop. “The pandemic came about so suddenly that teachers could only create makeshift arrangements at home," says Dr H.S. Chhabra, chief of spine service and medical director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Delhi. He suggests using a desktop vis-a-vis a laptop for better posture. Or if one has no option but to use a laptop, then teachers should invest in a detachable screen and place the keypad on an attachment under the table. “Hand should be placed on the armrest of an ergonomic chair. A keypad placed on the table puts pressure on the capillary vessels," he says. The table and chair need to be at an appropriate height so that the feet rest on the ground and the thighs are parallel.

Create a quiet “me-time" in the morning: Given that teachers are caught up in classes and content creation during a good part of the day, it’s important to set aside at least ten minutes in the morning for some quiet “me-time". According to Simrun Chopra, lifestyle and transformation coach, one should avoid the phone in the early hours and set aside 10 minutes just for oneself. “Put a song that you like or do some breathing exercises. Or simply have a cup of tea and coffee in peace. That time is just for you," she advises. It might be best to get some exercise before the classes begin rather than after, as teachers tend to get mentally exhausted post the online sessions.

Take breaks between classes: Speaking non stop during the lessons can be overwhelming. And it’s important to take five minute breaks to rest the voice and the spine. “Put on some music in those 5 minutes and get the kids to dance with you as well. Or have a laughing contest," says Chopra. “It gives everyone a break from the tirade of ‘you are not listening to me’." And it’s most important to give oneself 15 minutes for lunch and not multitask during the time. Simply log off and focus on the meal, instead of getting down to the presentation for the next day. Plan your meals since one is not getting the kind of exercise and movement that one would at school. “Don’t just have carbs like poha, but add some protein and fruit as well," she says.

Get some exercise: Given that a job, which was physically active earlier, has now become sedentary, make sure to get some exercise. According to Navita, senior neuro physiotherapist at Atmantan Wellness Centre, there are some easy exercises that one can do on one’s own. “After every 30-40 minutes, get up, move around and stretch," she suggests. While sitting on the chair, raise the leg up and pull your foot towards you. This offers great circulation to the calf and gives a good stretch. “Follow a 90-90 rule while sitting. The buttocks should touch the back of the chair and the hip, knee and ankle should be aligned. If the leg is hanging, keep something underneath. This way you won’t slouch forward or backward," she says. Now extend your hand and maintain a one-arm distance from the screen. The middle of the screen should be at eye-level. “Without bending or shifting your body, turn to one side, hold yourself for 10-15 seconds. One or two repetitions of this exercise will feel really good and improve circulation," she adds.

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