by Kyle Michaud | January 3, 2019 2:16 am
It’s no secret that long hours of sitting and poor posture can have damaging effects on our health. A sedentary lifestyle (a type of lifestyle involving little or no physical activity) destroys our bodies both externally and internally. Sitting for long periods of time has a negative effect on our posture, muscles, circulation, and mental health.
Working a desk job leads to limited physical activity and mobility. It’s important to find ways to remain active such as walking to work, volunteering to make a coffee run, or practicing simple yoga moves from your desk to help you maintain mobility.
Long hours sitting behind a computer screen can get the best of you. Before I committed myself to a healthier lifestyle and started what’s now North America’s largest yoga event, The Yoga Expo, I used to have a hard time remembering to remain active and be constantly moving my body while working at a desk. Yoga has been a huge help when it comes to keeping my body in motion throughout the day. I’ve made it a priority to do at least one stretch per hour that I’m sitting at a desk.
Yoga can help you to be more mindful, improve your posture for long periods of sitting, and decrease your stress levels. I’ve found that these five yoga exercises are easily adapted to be done at your work desk:
1) Neck stretch
While deeply exhaling, move your neck in half circles. Start with the right ear to right shoulder, and then reach your chin to your chest, and then your left ear to left shoulder and back. Rest for two to three breaths, allowing the neck muscles to relax. Repeat this exercise five times on the right and five times on the left. The slower this movement is done, the more the neck is able to stretch and explore its range of movement.
2) Spinal twist
Sitting for long periods wreaks havoc on your spine. Spinal twist rotations help bring life back into your spine. While sitting in a chair, place both feet on the ground with your knees and feet together. Twist by taking your right hand to left thigh. While inhaling, you’ll be lengthening your spine from sitz (sitting) bones through the crown of the skull. When you exhale, push yourself to twist a little deeper. Do the spinal twist exercise for three to five deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
3) Cat and Cow stretches
Cat and cow stretches are classic yoga poses that can be easily adapted to do at your desk. This stretch helps to eliminate stiffness in the upper back. Starting with the cow stretch, keep both feet flat on the floor, round the back during an inhalation, drop the shoulders and the head towards the chest. Make sure to keep both hands resting on your thighs. On the exhalation you move in to the cat stretch, arch your back and pull your shoulders back as far as possible. These two stretches can be repeated four times.
4) Seated backbend
Sitting at a desk tends to ruin our posture by making us hunch forward and tighten the front of our bodies. To properly stretch your back, try a seated backbend. Sit up straight in your chair and take a deep inhale while reaching towards the ceiling with your arms wide. Drop your gaze to a point behind you and slowly bend your back, beginning from your upper back and chest area. Hold this pose for a few breaths, release and then repeat. This movement will stretch your chest muscles, help with breathing, and move your body out of the dreaded hunch posture.
5) Seated pigeon
The seated pigeon exercise helps to open your hips and lessen lower back and hip pain. Start by sitting toward the front edge of your chair and plant your left foot firmly on the floor. Cross your right shin across your left thigh and flex your right foot. You can press your left hand against your right foot and your foot against your hand to remind it to flex. Set your inner thighs back and create a broadening in your pelvis and lower back. Repeat this pose on the other side of your body. The seated pigeon pose is a perfect example of good posture while seated at your desk.
Make your physical health a priority
Desk jobs may have the advantages of routine and work stability, but don’t let the disadvantages such as limited physical activity and movement get the best of you. Incorporating these yoga poses and exercises into your daily routine can help to improve the damage from working at a desk all day. Yoga will help you to recharge, release stress, and maintain good posture.
The best part about these exercises is that there is no excuse for not being able to do them. You may not be able to take short breaks to walk or exercise heavily during the day, but these stretches can be done simply from your work desk and only take a few minutes.
Utilize these yoga stretches to take control of your mobility during the day and to offset the health risks of sitting at your desk. Doing a couple of these each day will allow you to be more mindful and increase your energy and well-being.
Trying to get into the habit of stretching is the first step. Before you know it, your body will be craving these yoga stretches, and it’ll be easy to keep going.
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