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Reading in Bed:
In Search of the Ultimate Position

by Patrick Clark

If you've had a big day and you need some time to unwind and read a book or watch a movie--chances are it's not going to be sitting at a desk or table. Who doesn't love to cuddle with an interesting book and cup of tea on the bed or couch? And chances are you haven't really found a comfortable position. You can prop yourself with pillows all you want, but at best, some part of your body--neck, back, arms--is crunched and you can't really relax 100%. At the worst, you can develop injuries from repetitive strain.

I found an interesting struggle happening on a reading blog, where serious readers were talking about their favorite positions

1--propping oneself in a sort of lounge position with pillows against the wall or headboard

2--on the side

3--on the back (a--holding the book straight up with arms or b--propping head forward with pillow, bending knees and putting book on knees)

4--on the tummy (a--with elbows propping head up or b--with head hanging over edge of bed and book on floor)

Not a ONE of them felt like they had found it.

I have discovered outside-the-box solutions for this age-old dilimna, by incorporating principles from restorative yoga, Alexander Technique and other modalities. It often looks like I'm not working when I'm busy on the computer, writing, or reading something because I am SO COMFORTABLE. I find myself apologizing sometimes, but there's no reason why anyone can't adopt these life changing habits which bring relief and make reading and writing, and using the laptop more fun.

The blog I reviewed had dozens of comments from frustrated people who could not find a comfortable position for reading in bed. The dozens of comments can pretty much be summed up in this one:

"I read for long periods, so I suppose it's natural I do a combination of all the positions mentioned above. I lie on my stomach first until my lower back begins to hurt, then gingerly roll onto my right side until my arm hurts, then on my back until my hands get sore from holding the book up, then onto my left side. By that point, I'm usually numb enough to fall asleep."

The fact that this person is changing positions is a good thing. But the fact that he is changing positions because not ONE of the positions allows and promotes good alignment, circulation, breathing and comfort is an issue.

F.M. Alexander--in his book Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual--gives primary reading directions.

I wish to free my neck so that
my head can go forward and up
so that my torso can lengthen and
my legs can move away from my torso
and my shoulders can release out the sides.

Mark Josefsberg-Alexander Technique Teacher in NYC further explains:

"When you look down, think of pivoting your head from the top of the spine, which is higher up than we usually imagine. Think of a rod going through your head at the level of you ear holes, and pivot your head down and up from there, without collapsing your neck forward. Don’t forget to use your eyes to look down.

An Alexander teacher will help you understand these, both intellectually and kinesthetically.

Reading and using the laptop for more than a few minutes, while laying down or reclining, can create problems for our bodies. The media loves to promote images of people doing so without props, however, the truth is: props are neccessary to prevent damage to the body. These props can be simple or more complex, but they make a difference like night and day.

Also see: Laptop Ergonomics for a related article.

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STANDARD--Lounge Position
propped up with
kapok pillows with stress on neck, and back.

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IMPROVED--Lounge Position:
On
ECO BACKREST™ with ECO BLOCKS™ for Armrests.

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IMPROVED--Lounge Position--variation #2
Arms propped higher putting book closer to face which is easier on the arms. On
ECO BACKREST™ with BUCKWHEAT YOGA BLOCKS stacked on ECO BLOCKS™.

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IMPROVED--Lounge Position--variation #3:
Using the
YOGA LOUNGE™ set of props which consists of: RECTANGULAR YOGA BOLSTER leaned against two BUCKWHEAT YOGA BLOCKS with knees under a CYLINDRICAL YOGA BOLSTER. Arms are supported by the ECO BLOCKS™. Also the small pillow from the ECO BACKREST™ is being used for the head. This arrangement is not as stable as the ECO BACKREST™ but it's advantage is you have yoga props for doing your favorite yoga asanas.

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STANDARD--Side reading
With stress on neck, shoulders, arms.

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IMPROVED--Side reading with BUCKWHEAT PILLOW for head and ECO BLOCKS™ for arms and hips.

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IMPROVED--Side reading--variation #2 with BUCKWHEAT PILLOW for head and BODY PILLOW for arms and hips.

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IMPROVED--Side reading--variation #3 with BUCKWHEAT PILLOW for head and BODY PILLOW for arms and hips, leaning back for variation.

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STANDARD--Lying on back holding book in air with no props other than a tiny pillow to tip head closer to reading material. Arms get fatigued holding up the book.

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IMPROVED--Lying on back with ECO BLOCKS™ propping elbows and ECO BACKREST PILLOW™

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STANDARD--Lying on Tummy with no support--elbows propping up head.This puts stress on neck and shoulders.

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IMPROVED--Lying on Tummy with ECO BACKREST™--which takes the pressure off shoulders and neck.

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