It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking. It’s like the cancer of the modern world. And not just on the couch or in the car- the culprit is also long hours spent at a desk. Whether you work long hours from a desk at home or in the office, it is imperative to move and stretch your body during small breaks to keep the body and mind healthy and happy.
Over prolonged periods of time, excessive sitting can cause postural imbalances, weak and tight muscles, and body pains in trouble areas such as the lower back, shoulders, or neck. A forward head imbalance is common these days from straining to see a computer or looking at a cell phone, which can cause a chain reaction of problems.
Additionally, mental health is also compromised by excess sitting. Not to mention, there are higher cases of diabetes and heart disease with a sedentary lifestyle.
If yoga stretches are incorporated at your desk, you can take small steps as preventative measures to avoid these problems.
Now, if you work in a public space, you won’t have the chance to do a full-body yoga routine. Plus, your coworkers may look at you crazy! And no one wants that. You can keep your stretches simple and for the most part seated, but it doesn’t hurt to stand up as often as you can as well.
1. Hip Stretch
Seated on your desk chair, make sure the feet can touch the floor. Pick up one leg and cross the ankle over the opposite knee. Make sure the knee is turned out to the side and the foot is flexed. Place the hands on the leg and gently fold forward. You can let the head hang or rest it on your desk.
For a variation, place your opposite hand on the bent knee and reach the same arm as the bent leg up as you lean to the side. Try both sides to stretch your hips, back, and rib cage. Remember to breathe deeply, too.
2. Eagle Arms
From the seated position, cross one arm over the top of the other as high up the arms as possible. You can take a little fold forward to accommodate this if needed. Keep the arms intertwined and bend the elbow so the hands point upward. Wrap the forearms around one another and clasp hands at the top if possible. Breathe into the back of the shoulders and feel the stretch for several moments before switching sides.
You can also do this one while standing. For example, if you are waiting for something at your copy machine, you can practice this stretch as you wait.
3. Puppy Pose on Desk
Try this one seated or standing! If you have a rolling chair, push yourself an arm’s length away from the desk. Ground your feet into the floor and fold forward, with the hands connected to the desk, as if you could push it away. Feel the chest sink down between the arms for a nice shoulder stretch. Breathe deeply.
For a variation, try it at a shorter distance with just the elbows on the desk and arms bent so the hands dangle back near the neck. Alternatively, you can also stand up and try this in a standing half forward fold position.
4. Leg Stretch
It’s also important to get a nice stretch through the legs and wake up the hamstrings a little bit. The hamstrings and backside of the body tend to shorten over time with prolonged sitting, which contributes to lower back pain.
From the seat, sit up tall and make sure you feel your sitting bones in the chair. Extend one leg straight out as long as you can and flex the foot. Engage the kneecap upward into the thigh and press through the heel. Breathe here and count to 10 slowly. Then change sides.
Afterward, take a ragdoll forward fold with both feet on the floor. Slump over the legs and allow the head to be heavy. Feel the stretch in the back body. Take your time to slowly roll up after taking long, slow breaths here.
5. Seated Twist
Upon sitting up in your desk chair, scoot slightly forward to the edge of your seat. Keep both feet anchored into the floor with the feet in parallel and knees all the way together. Take the left hand to the outside of the right knee and place the right hand on the outside of your chair or behind you. Begin to twist to the right side from the bottom of the spine gently and feel the rotation all the way up the spine, through the rib cage, shoulders, and neck. Gaze softly back over the shoulder and take 5 deep breaths. Look forward and unwind slowly. Repeat on the other side, with the right hand on the left knee.
If you find your body aching in the wrong ways and you are not already living an active lifestyle, consider incorporating these stretches and more movement into your daily routine. Even working at an office does not need to be a sedentary ordeal. A healthy body is equivalent to a happy mind, and this will lead to increased productivity and improved relationships, whether at work or at home. When you make your health a holistic part of your life, that doesn’t stop when you enter the workspace, the benefits will overflow into all areas of your life.