While the 60 to 90 minutes you spend on your yoga mat a few days a week certainly helps, it is no match for the chronic stress and tension you place on your body during the rest of the day in your desk job.
Sitting at a desk for hours on end places unnecessary strain on the lumbar spine, overstretches the mid to upper back, and shortens the chest and hips—leading to neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Try this simple office yoga sequence when you cannot get to your favorite class.
1. Seated Crescent Moon Pose
The side body tends to collapse when hunched over a computer, contributing to neck and shoulder discomfort. Seated Crescent Moon fixes that so you can return to your seat with a taller spine, a clearer head, and sharper focus.
Lift your arms overhead and stretch your fingers wide. Lean to the right, taking 2 to 3 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side for another 2 to 3 deep breaths.
2. Wrist and Finger Stretches
Desk work builds up tension in the muscles and tendons in the fingers, hands, and wrists, so extra blood flow to these areas is always appreciated. Try these stretches every 2 hours.
Extend the arms to the sides or overhead and draw 5 to 10 circles inward and outward through the wrists. Next, quickly spread the fingers and close the fists, repeating this 5 to 10 times to shake off any excess tension.
Place the hands one on your desk, palms facing up and fingers towards you, putting gentle pressure to counterstretch the wrist and the forearm. Alternatively, you may stretch each arm out and bend the wrist inward then outward, counterstretching with your other hand. Hold each side 5 to 10 breaths.
3. Chair Pigeon Pose
Crossing our legs while seated, especially when done on one side more than the other, can create imbalances in the hips and lower spine. Bring balance back with Chair Pigeon.
While seated in your chair, both feet flat on the floor, cross your right leg over the left at a 90-degree angle, keeping the foot flexed as to not place pressure on the knee. Maintain equal weight distributed between the sitting bones while staying in an upright seated position.
You should feel a gentle to moderate stretch on the outermost part of the right thigh. Hold 5 to 10 breaths before switching sides.
4. Sit and Stand Chair Pose
Begin seated with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat. Press down from your heels, trying not to move the feet in toward your chair or use your arms, and make your way up to standing.
From standing, slowly sit straight back down, refraining from leaning forward and/or from shifting the hips to one side or the other. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
5. Desk Chaturanga
Your desk can support your yoga pushups! Blasting out a few of these strengthening movements throughout the day reminds the muscles around your neck to relax, while energizing the arms, which tend to go soft during the majority of the day. Get up out of your chair for this!
Rest your hands about shoulder width distance on the edge of your sturdy desk, and step your feet back so your torso is a diagonal line to the floor. Your feet firmly placed, inhale as you bend the elbows to a 90-degree angle, hugging the elbows in towards the ribs.
Exhale and press your chest back up to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
6. Desk Upward Dog Pose
After the above pose, opening the chest and shoulders is a MUST! You will also reap the benefits of ironing out the rounded upper back posture seen in those of us who spend most of our time seated across a computer screen.
Set up the same way here as you did for Chaturanga above. With your arms straight, lower your hips toward the desk, refraining from sinking in the lower back by using the strength in your legs.
Stretch your chest between your shoulders and gently tilt your chin upwards while sliding the shoulder blades down the back. Hold 5 to 10 breaths.
7. Desk Plank Pose
PLEASE DO NOT climb all the way onto your desk and start planking! Instead, use your desk to support this spine-lengthening and hamstring-stretching final pose.
Place your hands shoulder width distance or wider at the desk edge. Step your feet back until your feet are directly under your hips as you create a pleasant feeling traction for your spine. Hold 5 to 10 breaths and let this pose help you undo all the negative effects of sitting.