Disclaimer: I am a certified yoga teacher, however I am not your personal yoga teacher. Therefore these poses are for informational purposes only and are also based on my experiences. Exercise good judgement, and, as always, consult your physician prior to beginning any new exercise.
Sitting is a big part of our lives. We sit in our car. We sit on the couch. We sit on the toilet (yes, I went there). And for a good percentage of Americans, we sit at desks while earning a living.
Why is sitting (for extended periods of time) an issue? Because our body is designed to move.
The weight of our body is not evenly distributed when we sit. Instead the weight goes to our spine, which does encourage back pain. We often hunch forward while working on computers, which causes neck and shoulder pain. And because we are not using muscles such as the core (front and back), hips, and hamstrings, they weaken. When they weaken, our range of motion decreases. With a limited range of motion we might find that we lose our balance and fall every now and then.
Yet, sitting is part of our reality. Therefore, we must find a way to minimize the adverse effects of sitting. We can do that by maximizing our ability to move at the desk or in a chair.
Here are 6 yoga poses you can do at your desk.
Seated Pigeon Pose
This pose stretches the groin and hip and also opens up the low back. This pose assists with reducing and preventing low back pain.
- Begin seated upright, with both feet on the floor. Contract the abdominal muscles slightly and relax the shoulders away from the ears.
- Place the right ankle on the left thigh, close to the knee. Slowly and consciously breathe in and out.
- Inhale to lengthen the torso, exhale to fold forward. As you for fold forward, lead with your chest and try to not round the spine.
- Repeat the breath pattern (inhale lengthen, exhale fold forward) until you feel a desired stretch.
- Stay in the folded position up to 10 breath cycles. Rest your palms on your desk or thighs.
- To exit, slowly sit upright. Release the right foot to the floor.
- Repeat on the left side.
Texting, computer use, lifting, and stress can cause neck pain. I'm sure some of you have experienced tension headaches.
This simple stretch at your desk can help alleviate neck pain or that headache. This can also assist with clarity and focus.
- Sitting upright, intentionally relax your shoulders away from your ears. Consciously breathe as the breath will help release tension.
- Gently place your right fingertips on the left side of your head. Guide (do not force!) your right ear toward the right shoulder. Remember, the right shoulder should be relaxed.
- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths or until you feel a release on the left side of the neck.
- Move the chin slightly toward the center of the chest.
- Hold again for 3 to 5 breaths or until you feel a release.
- Move the chin again, pausing to breathe, until the chin and your nose are facing the center of your chest.
- Use your right hand to guide the head upright.
- Gently place the left fingertips on the right side of your head and repeat the stretch.
This is a situation where your seat can support you. The seated twist can maintain or improve flexibility in the spine. It can also decrease stiffness in the low back.
- Sit upright away from the back of your seat, and feel both feet on the floor.
- Please both hands on the right armrest of the chair. If your chair does not have armrests, place your hands on your right thigh.
- Inhale to lengthen the body. Exhale and rotate the chest to the right.
- Inhale again to lengthen. Exhale to twist a little deeper.
- To exist, reverse the twist and place your hands on the armrests or thighs.
- Repeat on the left side.
Make sure your knees continue to face forward when you move the torso.
This pose is just amazing and can be done anywhere! It opens up the chest and shoulders, releases the hip flexors, and improves the flexibility in the spine.
- Stand upright with your feet hip width distance apart. Relax shoulders.
- Place both palms on the low back.
- Inhale to lift the chest toward the ceiling, and exhale to move the torso backwards.
- Press the palms lightly on your low back. This will assist with keeping your hips forward and should prevent the "crunching in" sensation in the low back.
- To exit, first inhale, then exhale to an upright position. Remove your palms from your low back and release the arms to the sides of your body.
As you are adjusting into your backbend, you can let the head and neck release backward, adding a neck stretch element. Alternatively, if you are feeling some discomfort in the neck and shoulders, tuck your chin towards the chest.
You might also find that you have more access to the pose when you turn your toes outward.
You open your chest and shoulders, in this pose, which gives you the ability to breathe a little easier. This pose also assists with stretching the back of the legs and relieves tension in the back and hips.
- Stand behind the chair and place both hands on the backrest. Hands are to be shoulder-width apart.
- Begin to walk backwards, hinging at the hips, until a 90-degree position is achieved (see photo) OR until you feel a desired stretch at the back of the legs and/or chest.
- Anchor down with your feet as you press the tailbone away from the chair.
- Hold the position for 3 to 5 breaths.
- To exit, walk the feet forward, toward the back of the chair, while using the hands to press yourself upright.
If the back of your chair is not high, as pictured, find a wall or use your desk.
Stand Up / Sit Down
Something as simple as standing up can do amazing things for the body! When you stand up, you remove the stiffness from the joints. You also reduce tension and tightness and improve circulation. Take a stand for yourself. Literally!
- Root your feet down and lightly engage your core.
- Inhale to prepare.
- Exhale and sit up.
- Take a seat and repeat.
- Stand up and sit down as many times as you need and want.
To assist you as you sit up, use your hands by pressing down on your desk or arm rests.
For additional questions and/or if you are interested in private yoga and fitness sessions, please contact me. Skype and Facetime are always available when an in-person interaction is not.