Afternoon slump? Stressed over your workload? Need ways to de-stress or refocus after juggling work or online learning assistance with your kids?
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According to yoga therapist Judi Bar, it only takes a few minutes to reduce stress and refresh your mind by doing yoga exactly where you’re reading this now. In your chair, at your desk – wherever that may be.
And it’s really good for you. “Stress can make you sick,” she says. “Yoga can help you get through an over-scheduled or stressful day by lowering your blood pressure, increasing serotonin and decreasing cortisol. Yoga also helps you focus and release tension in your body.”
Try these 12 poses at your desk to help you power through with better health outcomes for yourself, your work and your family.
1. Neck Circles
Alignment Points: Imagine a clock right in front of you, and circle your nose around the clock. Breathe slowly, easy in and out. Reverse directions. If you feel any pain, stop!
Benefits of Pose: Softens and loosens neck muscles. Links movement to breath.
2. Fan Pose
Alignment Points: Sit tall at the front edge of your chair with your feet set firmly on the floor. Make sure your back is off the chair. Watch to make sure your spine is lengthened. Your heart is at center with your chin moving forward. Pull your shoulder blades back. If your shoulders are tight or there is pain, keep your arms low on the chair. Take deep breaths here for at least 3 to 5 breaths.
Benefits of Pose: This simple pose works as a heart opener. Stimulates immune system. Opens upper respiratory muscles. Stretches shoulders and arms. Increases awareness of the action of the shoulder blades. Aids in relaxation which can help with digestion. Stretches your belly. Relaxes your mind.
3. Cat Curls and Cow in Chair (or on Floor)
Alignment Points: See video for chair option. For floor option, go to your hands and knees to create a tabletop position. Keeping your back lengthened, align your knees directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders stacked above each other. Look at the floor. For cat pose, exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling and release your head and pelvic towards floor. For cow pose, inhale, reverse the curve on your spine till belly points to floor, lifting your head and pelvis up to sky. Repeat at least 3 times.
While doing cow pose, make sure that your chin is not jutting forward to avoid compressing your cervical spine.
Benefits of Pose: Softens and lubricates the spine and muscles. Creates space between vertebrae and increases circulation. Stretches secondary respiratory muscles to help aid in better breathing.
4. Shoulder Rolls
Alignment Points: Make sure your back is off of the chair. If you have a block to rest behind the chair at your lower back, this can help you support a tall spine. Draw circles with your elbows in both directions. Breathe with each movement.
Benefits of Pose: Softens and loosens shoulder girdle muscles. Links your breath to movement. Warms up the synovial fluid within the shoulder. Helps to release tension.
5. Seated Side Bend
Alignment Points: Make sure your back is off of the chair. Sit tall and place one hand firmly into the seat of the chair for stability. Lift your opposite arm up and over, keeping that arm’s shoulder in line with the other. Watch to make sure there is no sinking in your arm or spine. Breathe in and out at least 3 times on each side.
Benefits of Pose: Aids your breathing. Stretches your rib cage and lengthens the side of your body
6. Seahorse Pose
Alignment Points: Make sure your front foot is on the ground. Drop your outside knee down and allow it to dangle off chair. Keep the top of your foot gently pressing onto the floor, or flex your toes so that the ball of your foot is pressing down for stability. Hold onto the chair and lean back. Take 3 or 4 deep easy breaths.
Benefits of Pose: Stretches hip flexors, psoas, quadriceps and torso muscles. Help support lower back health.
7. Number 4 Pose
Alignment Points: Sit tall at the front edge of the chair with your toes facing forward and feet flat on floor. Keep your ankles under your knees. Cross an ankle over your shin either under or above the knee. Or if above your knee, place a supporting foot under the supporting knee. Lengthen up and hinge forward with a lengthened back, leading with the heart (and chin). Hold for 3 to 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits of Pose: Stretches back and hip muscles, particularly the periformus muscle.
8. Seated Mountain Pose
Alignment Points: Keep your spine in good alignment with head, neck and spine in one line. Tuck your chin in a bit and gently lift your shoulders up, back and down the back. Keep your knees in front of your hips, with your ankles under knees and all 10 toes facing forward. Breathe in and out a few times. Pay attention to your breath as you begin to feel relaxed and centered.
Benefits of Pose: Increases awareness of your posture overall, especially the spine. Strengthens all core muscles of torso and allows more space for better breathing, digestion, and overall allows organs to perform optimally.
9. Knee to Chest
Alignment Points: Sit up straight, firmly on your chair with your feet pressing into the floor for stability. Lift both hands under the right knee up to your chest, and then reverse lifting your left knee up to your chest. Remember to sit tall and breathe with each movement.
Benefits of Pose: Releases tension in back and hip. Gentle squeezing action helps the digestive system.
10. Seated Child’s Pose
Alignment Points: Sit tall and lean forward resting your forearms on your thighs. Tuck chin, head, neck and spine in a long line. Rest an elbow on your leg and use your hand to support your forehead. Inhale deeply and exhale a complete 3 to 5 breaths.
Benefits of Pose: Releases tension in lower back and relaxes the nervous system.
11. Seated Spinal Twist
Alignment Points: Turn to the side of your chair. Keep your feet on the floor with good alignment through the joints. Lift your arms up to shoulder height (think fist bump height) keeping your shoulders parallel, and with a tall spine rotate towards the back of the chair and rest your hands on the chair. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat on other side.
Benefits of Pose: Stretches torso, ribs and respiratory muscles. Massages internal organs.
12. Groin Stretch
Alignment Points: Make sure your back is off of the chair. Watch to make sure the spine is not curled and is lengthened. Move your heart center and chin forward. Hold for at least 3 breaths.
Benefits of Pose: Aligns shoulders. Stretches and strengthens back and core muscles. Stretches inner thighs and opens hips. Helps balance tightness in groin, which impacts the knees and lower back. Increases awareness.
“If you can take a few minutes each day to do these simple stretches you’ll get your body and mind moving towards a healthy balance and promote good health down the road,” Bar says.