Yoga stretches you can do at work
Whenever I ask my students for a show of hands for how many of them spend most of
their day sitting at a desk, the majority of hands quickly fly into the air. But
unfortunately, if you spend most of the day sitting, you will experience negative
side effects — physically, mentally and energetically.
Physical tension manifests in the neck, shoulders and back after you’ve spent the
day hovering over your keyboard, with your head pushed forward to stare at your
computer screen. Hours of computer work also brings on major energetic stagnation
and mental fatigue.
Get yourself out of the doldrums of desk life with these nourishing stretches that
will help you feel better and more balanced every day.
Opening the upper body to relieve “computer scrunch”
Clear the tension in your neck and shoulders with these simple and subtle stretches.
Bring your head to balance right over your spine and inhale gently. Exhale as you
slowly drop your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold there for 3-5 rounds of
breath, inhaling into the left side of your neck. Allow your shoulders to soften
down from the sides of your neck. Inhale, slowly come back to center, then exhale
and repeat on the opposite side.
Then bring your chin to chest, slowly roll your head from left to right and then
turn your face skyward, drawing a rainbow with your nose. Do 3 rounds in one direction,
and then rotate in other direction.
NOTE: Do these seated or standing, and always when stretching the neck, move mindfully
and slowly to keep the cervical spine safe.
Extend your arms in front of you with palms facing up. Slide your right arm under
the left and, from the elbows, wrap your forearms around each other until either
the backs of the hands or palms connect. Move your elbows up with forearms away
from your face. Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Take 5 rounds of breath into
the shoulders and the back of your heart. Release gently and do a few shoulder shrugs
and rolls, with a big sigh out through your mouth. Then switch sides.
Caring for your back when you’re at the desk
Unsupportive desk chairs and bad posture from computers and cellphones lead to rounding
of the spine. Regain healthy flexibility of your spine with these moves.
You can move your spine through these two classic shapes right in your chair without
getting on your hands and knees.
Plant both feet firmly and evenly on the floor. Place your hands on the edge of
your desk or on your thighs. As you breathe in, send your heart forward and softly
arch your entire spine. As you exhale, press into your hands and round your back,
spreading the area behind the heart. Undulate between these two shapes for 5 or
10 rounds. Afterward, sit with a neutral spine and take a sweet deep breath.
Sit with the feet rooting into the floor or get out of your chair and stand up tall!
Bring your hands to your low back, nudging your tailbone toward the earth. Squeeze
your elbows and shoulders back and unfurl your heart upward. Keep the chin tucked
slightly or open up your throat area, whichever feels safest for your neck. Spend
5 breaths in this backbend. Take a few moments to reset in a neutral position and
then do another round or two.
Twisting frees stagnation in the spinal column and brings strength and flexibility
to the back. Keep your feet on the ground and your seat connected to the chair,
then rotate your body to the right. You can bring your hands to the back of the
chair, or push off from the edge of your desk. As you twist along your spine, try
to keep your chest open and your head balanced above your heart. Take 5 gentle breaths
in and out through the nose. Switch sides. Note: this would be a challenge in a
swivel chair — best to spine in a stationary seat.
Release your hips and legs after hours of sitting
Sitting too much shortens muscles and makes them weak and tight. The following stretches
help create space in your hips, quads and hamstrings.
Ankle to Knee
This seated Pigeon Pose variation is great for hips and low back and can be done
discreetly in your chair.
Anchor your left foot to the floor and cross your right ankle over the top of your
left knee. Flex at the right ankle so your toes point toward your outer right knee.)
Encourage your right thigh to drop slightly. Deepen the sensation in the hip by
leaning your torso forward a bit. Take 5 to 10 rounds of breath and then switch
This standing balancing pose stretches the quads.
Stand up tall and bring a little more weight and grounding to your left foot. Bend
the right knee, and bring your right foot up behind you, then catch it with your
right hand. Point your right knee down (not out to the side) and tilt your tailbone
down as you lift up the front of the pelvis. Balance on one foot or hold onto the
desk or chair with your other hand. Take 5 breaths into your right quadriceps then
Standing Forward Bend
This is the simplest pose and it stretches your hamstrings and back. Just get out
of your chair and fold forward over your legs, bending your knees as much as you
need to. Your hands do not have touch your toes and can land on your shins, the
back of your chair, or the edge of the desk.
Be aware of the consequences of desk work
If you pay attention, you might notice certain tendencies and patterns in your desk
posture and daily routines.
- Tilt your head and scrunch your neck and shoulders when on the phone?
- Cross your legs the same way all day, every day?
- Hike up the shoulders when typing or using the mouse?
- Never rest your eyes and brain by taking breaks and keep going until your head feels
like it’s going to fall off?
Noticing your desk posture can help you discover why you have tension in specific
areas. Kindly guide yourself to break old postural patterns in order to realign
your body and its energies toward balance and freedom.
And remember that it’s necessary to take breaks, stand up and walk around! Pepper
these yoga stretches into your daily schedule. Look away from the computer screen
for a few minutes every half hour. Take a few moments for yourself to just listen
to your breathing.