I’m not sure about you, but I spend majority of my day at work seated (okay, slumped) over my desk. I leave each day a little more crooked than I arrived wishing I did some desk stretches to counteract the hours upon hours of sitting. I did a yoga class recently and I could feel my tight shoulders struggling to complete the simplest moves – my hands even struggled to stretch out because my poor fingers were so tight (please tell me someone else has experienced this!?)
To solve our problems, we spoke to Kelly Watt from TRUE food and Yoga to find out the best yoga moves you can do at work to make your body and mind feel better.
First things first, whether you do this after a long, stressful meeting or do it on a regular basis focus on your breath.
“The breath is the bridge to the body and mind”, so where ever you are, breathe. It will bring your body and mind into the present,” Kelly said.
While seated at your desk, place both feet firmly on the floor. Bring your awareness to the grounding qualities of the earth, sit bones and your left and right seat. Inhale through the nose, lift the chest and the collar bones, imagine the spine is long and take your awareness to the ribcage. Take a big, bold expansive breath into this space, imagining the lungs filling with air like a balloon. Open the mouth and exhale, soften and relax the ribcage and the shoulders. You may like to close your eyes.
As you inhale, count to five. Pause for five at the top of the breath, then exhale for five counts.
Repeat this five times. This breath can be taken to the next level by breathing into the belly, the rib cage, the chest, perhaps lengthening the count to eight, however the length of the count isn’t as important as the steadiness, ease and rhythm of the breath. Close your eyes and imagine the waves in the ocean, rolling in and out in sync with the breath. Inhale and imagine the breath travelling through the front body; exhale all tension out through the back body, imagine the stress and tension is washing away.
If you sit for long periods of time in an office based job, Kelly also recommends the following desk stretches.
Neck rolls: Inhale. As you exhale gently roll left ear to left shoulder, chin to chest, inhale as you roll your right ear to right shoulder. Exhale and look to the ceiling or sky, in a gentle circular movement, following the breath as it feels natural and slow. Repeat 5 times alternating clockwise and anticlockwise.
Shoulder rolls: Seated with your hands on your lap, inhale and roll both shoulders toward the ears, exhale and roll the shoulders back in a circular pattern. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and hug your elbows in towards your waist as you do so.
Seated side body stretch: With your feet grounded as above, breath smooth and steady, inhale and exhale through the nose with your mouth gently closed. Inhale and reach your arms up over your head, interlace your thumbs and lengthen through the spine. Draw the belly in towards the spine (this is known as a bandha, which in Sanskrit means to lock, to hold or to tighten), exhale lean to the right, keeping the arms active and engaged above the head. Inhale back to centre, with the arms still above the head and repeat on the left side. Repeat 5 times on each side.
These seated moves will keep you going through the day, while making sure you don’t leave the office stiff.
If it is possible Kelly recommends trying some standing moves. Whether it is the break room or the hallway make some space. “Movement is medicine!”, Kelly said. ” Stand up walk around the office space as often as you can and stretch in any way that feels natural to you. If you’re wearing the appropriate clothing and can find somewhere suitable in the office, get your down dog on!”
Starting from standing (mountain pose or tadassana traditionally named) inhale and reach arms over your head. Exhale and fold forward hinging at the hips, heart leans forward, engage the belly in towards the spine, bend the knees as much as feels good in the body and move into the forward fold position (uttananasana). Drop the head chin toward the chest, enjoy the release in the neck, one vertebrae at a time unfold back up to a standing position. Inhale and reach arms over the head, exhale repeat the forward fold taking three breaths. Place hands in front of your feet below the shoulders and step your feet back into a downward dog position. Press the knuckles and the palm of the hands firmly into the floor, roll shoulders back, shoulder blades hug in towards the spine, inhale bend the knees, press the sit bones to the sky, exhale and lengthen the heels to the floor stretching the hamstrings and strengthening through the upper body. The arms stay actively pressing into the ground. Hold for three – five breaths.
Lower back release:
Drop the knees to below the hips, hands below the shoulders. Press into the hands, keeping the arms strong inhale, lift the chest and look up to the sky. Push the tailbone in the opposite direction, exhale and tuck the tailbone, chin toward the chest. Puff out the back ribs like happy cat angry cat – this pose is known as Cat Cowls, a great way to release lower back after long periods of sitting. A gentle awakening of the spine.
Upper back release
Find a seat on the floor or at the desk for a final upper back release. As you inhale, take your arms above your head, exhale and place arms long in front of you at shoulder height. Cross arms at the elbows or close to (right arm on top, left arm under), then interlace the palms (prayer) (or as close as your body is able to reach), roll the shoulders back as you hug in the shoulder blades in the back body, lift the elbows to shoulder height and stay in this bound eagle pose for three to five breaths. Repeat on the other side (left arm on top, right arm under).