When your job makes you sit for long hours, and there’s no space for a yoga mat at your desk...what’s a yogi to do? Try my 5 favorite (and discrete) office yoga poses. Or, be like this person…
I admit, I’ve been that person more times than I could count! There’s no shame in practicing your handstands in the middle of the grocery store — or is that just me?
Like many of you, I spend lots of time sitting in front of a computer. I do try to change things up as much as I can when I'm working to give my body a break; luckily I have 3 dogs and a toddler to remind me to get up and move often.
But even with a toddler, 3 dogs, and my office being at Island Yoga or at home, I can still get wrapped up in computer work for hours on end.
When I finally realize how long it’s been since I’ve stood up, my upper body is super tight and my mind is exhausted the rest of the day. What’s a yoga girl to do?
Solution: office yoga!
We all know that sitting for long stretches of time can wreak havoc on our health (sitting too much has been related to both high blood pressure and obesity, among other health risks nobody wants).
But if you lead an overall healthy lifestyle, your main problem could be the fact that too much typing on the computer makes your upper back, neck and shoulders tight. Thanks to yoga, this is totally preventable!
Office changes that can make a big difference are working at a standing desk, raising your computer to be eye-level with hands at elbow level, or using an exercise ball as a chair to strengthen your core (which alleviates back pain)!
If you’re stuck with a regular desk and chair, there’s still hope.
I've created the perfect yoga sequence below for a long day at the office. It includes stretches and poses you can do sitting in a simple office chair — no yoga mat or stretchy pants required — to help both your mind and body feel their best throughout the day. Try it out in front of your computer or wherever you find yourself sitting down! Bonus if you can do it once every hour or two throughout the day.
This sequence below is designed to create space in the neck, shoulders, hips and hamstrings — all without breaking a sweat! You can do these exercises in your office clothes, but take off your high heels and any tight jacket that might decrease your range of motion, if you can.
1. Eagle Arms
- Come to a comfortable position sitting on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the ground. Sit tall to lengthen your spine.
- Inhale and extend your arms out to the sides.
- Exhale and cross one arm over the other, giving yourself a big hug with the elbows stacked.
- Connect the palms of your hands together (or the tops of your hands together, if the palms are hard to reach) in front of your face.
- Relax your shoulders, create space for the neck, and gently lift the fingertips a little bit higher toward the sky while pressing the two palms toward each other.
- Feel this stretch on your upper back, shoulders and the sides of the neck.
- Stay for 10 slow, deep breaths, then switch sides.
2. Seated Twist Variation
- Sitting up tall, ground down through the soles of your feet and inhale to lengthen your spine.
- Exhale and twist gently toward the right side.
- Softly grab ahold of the chair’s armrest (or your outer thigh) and the back of the chair,
- Lengthen up through the crown of your head with every inhale, and twist slightly deeper with every exhale.
- Pause at a depth of your twist where you can still keep your breath deep and full, and gaze over your right shoulder.
- Keep your hips neutral and your SIT bones evenly grounded without allowing one of your knees to poke out in front of the other.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths, then gently untwist.
- Pause with a neutral spine for a few breaths, and then twist toward the other side.
3. Neck Stretch
- Interlace your fingers behind your lower back and, on an inhale, gently extend the arms back behind you.
- As you exhale, move your knuckles over toward the right side of your torso, wiggling them as far to the side as you comfortably can.
- Squeeze the outer elbow in toward your body, and then softly relax your head toward your right shoulder.
- Keep the neck long and, if you're comfortable, move your head side to side to get deeper into the tight parts of your neck. Be careful not to drop your head back!
- Stay for 10 breaths, then come back to center to do the opposite side.
4. Hip Opener, Option 1
- With your left foot on the ground, place your right ankle on top of your left knee.
- Flex your right foot and press the inner border of your foot away from the body (taking the creases out of your inner ankle). Engage your toes.
- Take a breath in to lengthen your spine, then start to fold forward as you exhale. Choose how deeply you wish to move into the pose — you want to feel a stretch in your right outer hip and glute, but you never want to feel any pain!
- Make sure your knees are comfortable, and use your breath to create depth.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths, then do the other side, or move into the deeper variation of the pose (below).
Hip Opener, Option 2
- If you were feeling comfortable in the pose above, you can choose to go even deeper by folding closer toward the earth.
- Connect your fingertips to the ground, relax your neck and keep your right foot flexed with inner border stretching to protect your right knee.
- When you're ready to move out of the pose, ground your left foot to the earth, engage your core and come back up.
- Begin the other side with step 1 above, and only go into steps 6-8 if your left side feels ready (the two sides of the body aren’t always equal!).
5. Hamstring Stretch, Option 1
- Still sitting on the edge of your chair, place the back of your heel or ankle on your desk, on another chair or any elevation that's appropriate for your body. Place a folded sweater or pillow beneath your foot for padding, if you like.
- Flex your foot and activate your toes.
- Inhale to lengthen the spine, and exhale to gently fold forward. You might not need to bring your torso close to your leg at all. Sometimes just sitting up straight makes the stretch in the back of your leg deep enough.
- Stay for 10 breaths, then do the other side, or go into the deeper variation (below).
Hamstring Stretch, Option 2
- If you were feeling comfortable in the stretch above, choose to go deeper by actually folding your upper body over your extended leg.
- Let every inhale softly bring your heart closer to the top of your foot (lengthening your spine), and let every exhale fold you slightly deeper.
- Stay for 5-10 breaths, or as long as you are comfortable to stay, before you come out of the pose.
- Begin the other side with step 1 above, taking it into steps 5-7 if your other leg feels ready.
Doing this sequence in the middle of your day will give you a boost of energy and help you feel focused and centered. If you want an extra touch, try 5 minutes of seated meditation at the very end.
Try to take frequent breaks to move and stretch your body as often as you can, and don't forget to drink lots of water. Your body and soul will thank you!! And who knows, maybe you’ll inspire your coworkers to join you!
How do YOU sneak in #yogaeverydamnday? Share what you do and how it helps you below!