Between meetings and sitting at a desk most of the day, working in a corporate setting can feel like a lot of inactivity. Like most people, I spend a lot of time in front of a screen. Sitting for long periods is the new smoking bad habit. Long stretches of sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and weight gain, to name a few. And staring at a computer or smartphone for hours at a time has a host of other problems—from tight upper backs and shoulders to vision problems.
It’s important to take some time for you during your day to recharge. We all know that getting up to walk periodically can help stretch the legs and get the blood flowing, but did you know that yoga can be done in the office, too?
(But first, What is Office yoga?)
When done at work, yoga is helpful for stretching inactive muscles, minimizing discomfort and making it easier to focus. The meditative aspects of yoga can be extremely enriching for the mind as it helps us reflect and look inward. Taking a quick pause can help us answer the questions: What are our sources of happiness? Stress? Dissatisfaction? How can we fix them? Yoga and meditation are a good start, and we don’t even have to be in a yoga studio to practice them.
I know how tight my body can get after a long day in front of the computer. Whether you’re a beginning or more advance yogi, here’s a simple sequence you can do from the convenience of your own work station—and without even rolling out your mat or breaking a sweat. You can do these in your office clothes, but remove tighter fitting clothing, such as a jacket, for an increased range of motion.
So, what are you waiting for? Take five and try out this simple yet effective sequence.
Marjaryasana Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose) Variation
Marjaryasana-bitilasana is a gentle flow that lubricates the spine, contributing to greater flexibility. When you’re sitting for most of the day, it can help stretch the back, neck and open the heart chakra. This sequence also helps to develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body. When practiced on a regular basis, it can help correct spinal alignment and prevent back pain.
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Press your hands against your desk, or on your knees, and open the chest to the ceiling. Reverse the movement by curving your navel toward your spine, creating a “C” shape. Repeat this flow 10 to 20 times. Coordinating this movement with your breathing can also help calm the mind and relieve any midday stress (which we all have in some form!).
Indudalasana (Standing Crescent Pose)
Our shoulders and core tend to collapse when working at a desk, creating discomfort in the upper body. Indudalasana targets the obliques so you can return to your tasks at hand with more mental clarity.
Begin seated in your chair or standing, if that option is available to you. Lift your arms overhead, interlace your hands and extend your forefinger. Lean to the right. Hold for a cycle of five to 10 breaths. Repeat on the left side.
Eka Pada Kapotasana (One-Legged Pigeon Pose) Variation
Hip mobility is an issue when you’re glued to a chair all day, but eka pada kapotasana (also known as eka pada rajakapotasana, or one-legged king pigeon pose) is a great solution for opening the hips. If you’re like me and cross your legs while sitting, this kapotasana variation can help restore balance in the hips and lower spine.
Start seated in your chair, with both feet flat on the ground. Cross your right leg over the left at a 90-degree angle. Maintain a flexed foot to remove pressure from the knee joint and maintain balance between the sit bones while staying as upright as possible. For a more advanced stretch, place both hands on your desk and pull forward with a straight spine. Stay here for five to 10 breaths before switching sides.
(More on this popular posture in Pigeon Pose: 6 Variations of Yoga's Popular Hip-Opening Posture.)
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
When your glutes are glued to your chair, these muscles and the hamstrings slowly lose their ability to help you get up and down. We begin to rely on our arms and back to hoist us up, instead of keeping the muscles in the lower body engaged and activated. Utkatasana helps restore strength in the major muscle groups of our lower body.
For this variation, begin seated with your feet flat on the ground. As you press down through your heels, activate your core and come up to standing. From standing, slowly transition back to a chair pose—this time, without sitting in your physical chair. Try not to lean forward or shift weight between sides. Repeat 10 to 20 times while maintaining your breath.
Making this simple yoga sequence part of your work routine can help relieve pain and tension while increasing flexibility and mental clarity. You owe it to yourself to carve out some time from your busy day. Don’t forget to dedicate this time for you, and notice the difference you feel. Your workplace will thank you, too!
(Read on in How Yoga Helps You Keep an Open Mind in the Boardroom.)