Do you spend a chunk of your day or the majority sitting at a desk? Whether it is working in an office or at a desk at home, there’s no doubt that you’ve felt the discomfort that comes up when you’ve been sitting for a long period of time. You know the slouchy feeling that comes from the hours spent sedentary and looking at a screen. Shoulders curled inwards, neck bent down, low back tight and painful, and tightness in your body overall. It has become more popularly known that sitting all or most of the day can be harmful to your health, but there are still ways of moving to benefit your being. Even at your desk.
Your body craves movement, it wants to use your muscles, move among your joints, and circulate blood flow throughout your body and brain. That is what we are meant to do – is move. But, it is quite common for workdays to be spent sitting down at a desk. I understand that in today’s day and age sometimes we don’t have much of a choice other than sitting at a desk and doing what needs to be done. There are some solutions to help the issue of sitting for long periods. You can have reminders to get up and walk around every 30 minutes, a standing level desk, or taking a few minutes to do some office yoga.
Do you ever have those moments when you are craving a stretch without even realizing it? Reaching your arms up and stretching like you just woke up or taking some neck rolls. Is it sometimes because you are feeling pain in certain areas? That could be due to tightness in certain areas and the long periods of sitting. There is hope, though! Taking some time throughout your day, regularly, can help open up your body and decrease pain symptoms.
The curving forward that tightens and closes off the front side of your body also can make you sleepier than you’d like to be, not so alert, and even lowering of your mood. Some studies have even shown that increased screen time correlates with prevalence of depression, in part due to looking downward at a screen, which creates a posture of closing up. This is why taking even just a few minutes during your day to wake up your body, open up, clear and wake up your mind can be quite beneficial for you and your work day.
With an increase in popularity of workplace yoga classes, the many benefits of practicing yoga at work are apparent. These benefits include reducing stress, increasing focus, boost immunity, improving posture, increasing confidence, boost morale, improvement of digestion, increasing energy, improving breathing, and increasing flexibility. Workplace classes are awesome because a yoga teacher comes in and you are able to practice in a class type of setting at your actual place of work. The class setting is helpful for having someone that is guiding you and giving you cues for your practice. Whether it is a workplace class, an online guided sequence, or a short practice at your desk, like the following sequence in this article, the benefits are there.
This is a sequence that doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes of your time. I have a feeling that just those 10 minutes will help your productivity level in the day. You can do it anywhere you’d be sitting in a chair for some time, even at the office. You cak absolutely get creative with these sequences, going in the order you wish, and experiementing with different movements. For timing purpose, you can set a timer for 10 minutes that you will spend doing the postures. If the timer feels too abrupt or restricitve on time, a more fun way coul dbe setting a playlist for about 10 minutes of music of your choosing, or finding a good instrumental for background music on youtube or any site you prefer.
Seated Cat/Cows With Hands on Knees Pose
You can do this seated at your desk by sitting tall, grounding your feet into the ground, and place your hands on your knees. On an inhale, open your chest while bringing your shoulders down your back and accentuating the arch in your back. On the exhale, curl inward by curving your back and dropping your chin towards your chest. Continue these movements for several breaths. You can also practice traditional cat/cow movements on the ground if you’re comfortable on the floor by your desk.
Neck Rolls Pose
Seated with an upright spine and feet grounded, use your breath to guide you through some neck and shoulder movements. For example, inhale to shrug your shoulders up towards your ears and then exhale to drop your shoulders and roll them back. For neck rolls, exhale to drop your chin towards your chest and on an inhale slowly roll your neck to bring your head towards one shoulder. Exhale to roll your chin back down towards your chest, and then inhale to move to the other side. Continue to move through these rolls for several breaths. You can explore tight areas and spend some time focusing on a certain area or interesting stretch that you may find needs the extra time and attention.
Side Bends with Arms Reaching Up Pose
Reach your arms up, stretching them actively toward the ceiling. Keeping your arms up and stretched, bring your shoulders away from your ears and down your back. You want to avoid having your shoulder shrugged up. Inhale to reach tall, and on an exhale bend your torso over to one side, keeping your shoulders in line and chest facing forward. Inhale to come back up through center, and exhale over to the other side.
Desk Downdog Pose
How about Desk-ward Facing Dog? Stand up for this one and place your hands on the edge of your desk at about shoulder-width distance apart. Keep your hands where they are, step back so that you are folding forward like in a downward dog, and engage through your arms to keep your shoulders away from your ears. You should feel a nice stretch in your arms, back, torso, and backs of your legs. This will feel pretty good after sitting down for a while!
Eagle Arms Pose
This stretch will be wonderful for your shoulders, back, and even your wrists and hands. Sit tall with feet planted. Reach your arms out in front of you, then wrap your right arm underneath your left and bring the back of our hands to touch. If you have more range of motion, you can wrap your arms a second time at your forearms to bring your palms to touch. When you have the interlacing of your arms, bring your shoulders away from your ears. On an inhale slowly bring your elbows upward and following, with an exhale, lower back down. Use your breath to explore the subtle movements and sensations. Continue for several breaths and then repeat on the other side, left arm underneath the right.
Figure 4 Seated Pose
While seated, bring your right ankle on top of your left knee. If you cannot reach the top of your knee, then keep your right ankle in hand to find the place where you feel a good stretch in your outer hip. Keep your foot flexed in this pose, doing so will help protect your knee. To deepen the stretch, if needed, slightly fold forward on an exhale while keeping your back straight, hinging at your hips.
Seated Spinal Twist Pose
ou can use your chair to assist you in this spinal twist. Sit up straight, lengthening your spine up on each inhale and grounding through your feet and hips on the exhales. As you breathe, slowly move into the twist starting to twist from your center, and use the chair to help guide you into the twist. With each inhale, lengthen up through the crown of your head, and on the exhales twist a little deeper while keeping the length in your spine.
Traditionally, a meditation practice is often paired with a yoga asana practice. There are various opinions and preferences of when a seated meditation is held, whether before or after an asana practice. Some prefer to meditate after their asana practice because the postures and movement helped to limber up their body and preapre them to sit well with good posture for some time. Some prefer to have the meditation practice before asana, to help clear and calm their mind. Some do the two at different times of the day, or however it fits into their schedule and works well. You can do the same to find what works for you. It would be beneficial to try and incorporate mediation during your work day, even a short dedication of time. It could be and likely will be harder to meditate during your work day, with to-do lists, tasks, several different matters all on your plate. Sometimes that can be one of the best times to meditate, is when you think you just couldnn’t do it. Imagine though, the moments where all of stuff is jumbling in your brain, and you cannot seem to focus on one thing at a time or get any of it out. That actually tends to make it harder to get anything accomplished, doesn’t it?
Trying to meditate during the work day may be tough at first, but give it a try. Make it a goal for one week to try and devote ten minutes of time to moving around with the office yoga sequence above and also using three or more of those minutes (or added on to the 10 minutes) to meditate. One simple method of meditation is to count down, I like starting at a number around 40, on your exhales. (I find that to be a good number that isn’t too high and still enough for time spent focusing on the breath). The harder part is to try and stay on count without your mind wandering, and if you notice your thoughts go off then going back to the beginning number and starting again. For this case, since you may be shorter on time, try starting with a smaller number of your liking. You can also simply set a timer for the amount of time you wish to sit in meditation, and follow your breath or a mantra. There are many methods of meditation, so take some time for experimenting and finding what works for you. It’ll be fun and completely worth the increase focus, productivity, mental stamina, clarity, and increased abaility to take on the work day with stride.
The office workday can be long and draining, but taking 10 minutes to move your joints and breathe into your body may benefit your day and productivity. With less sick days, decrease in back pain, and increase in mood, I have no doubt that with a practicing regularly your yoga in the workplace will benefit you in more ways than you expect.
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Having been a teacher’s assistant at over 50 yoga teacher trainings worldwide, Rebecca Rebecca has a firm grasp on the fine art of yoga and meditation. In her work, she carefully reflects on a vast expanse of knowledge to help others find peace in both body and mind.