Is there any health benefit in simply lying-down? No meditation, no napping, no active stretching, just lying there for a bit? As it turns out, adopting a horizontal pose can indeed deliver significant psychological and physiological benefits, especially for sedentary, computer-based workers. NapNow Founder Thea O’Connor offers 5 good reasons to change your posture from vertical or seated, to horizontal.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing is easier lying down, according to physiotherapist Jo Keers from the mid north coast of NSW. “Many people who sit down all day at a computer, really struggle to breathe diaphragmatically ie into the lower lobes of the lungs. Instead they breathe into the upper chest.” This pattern of shallow, upper chest breathing is associated with a whole host of health problems, including increased levels of stress hormones… as if we need more of that!
“As soon as people lie down, it’s very rare not to be able to breathe diaphragmatically,” says Keers. “This healthier pattern of breathing switches on the parasympathetic nervous system, so is very calming.” You know you are breathing diaphragmatically if your abdomen rises when you breathe in, rather than your upper chest.
2. Lying down improves circulation. “You get better venous return of blood to the heart, than when sitting, as a result of diaphragmatic breathing. Blood flow to the brain is improved, as well as to the gut, so aiding mental clarity and digestion.”
3. You give your hip flexors a stretch. If you sit down all day, your hip flexors – a group of muscles near the top, front of your thighs that allow the thigh to be drawn upward during activity – become tight, while our bottom and abdominal muscles become weak. This is a recipe for chronic pain, in the hips, groin and/or back.
Lying down on your back gives your hip flexors a passive stretch, and so helps prevent getting locked into this unhealthy muscle pattern.
4. Lying down improves your mood. Research into people who lie down for a nap, but don’t fall asleep, has found that people emerge in a better mood. So if you are a wanna-be napper, but find you simply can’t fall asleep, you can rest assured that it is still time well spent.
5. You can change your relationship with the world. When we change our posture from vertical to horizontal, our relationship to the world is transformed. When vertical, we literally face the world and its demands ‘head on.’ But when we lay our bodies down, the world becomes a place that supports, holds and restores us – how delightful!