Sitting at a desk all day can wreak havoc on your body. Not only does this type of work contribute to metabolic syndrome, heart disease and other problems, but it can also cause chronic lower back pain. We’re not immune to it ourselves, so we’ve put together a list of six simple yoga poses you can do right from your desk, and in most cases, without leaving your chair.
1. Seated backbend
This is one of our favorite office yoga poses because it looks so natural; it may take your coworkers a while to catch on to the fact that you’re doing yoga. Seated backbend helps release tension in the upper back, giving it a much-needed break and reducing the likelihood of lower back pain.
Keeping your back straight, inhale and reach toward the ceiling with your arms in a V-shape. As you release your breath, let your gaze slowly draw up and behind you. You’ll feel a gentle bend in your upper back and chest. Hold this for a few seconds before releasing your arms and repeating as necessary throughout the day.
2. Seated twist
If you tend to hunch over at your desk, you will love the effects of a seated twist. The pose will also help with digestion when you over-indulge in the office potluck.
Start by sitting tall in your chair. Breathe in and then as you breathe out, twist to one side. Use your abdominal muscles more than your back to twist and grab your armrest, if you have one. If you don’t have armrests on your chair, simply rest your hands on the outside of the leg you twist toward. Remain here for a few cycles of your breath before switching sides.
3. Seated crescent moon pose
Throughout the day, it’s easy for even the most practiced yogis to slouch. Try seated crescent moon to release back tension by lengthening the spine. You might even find that it helps clear your head a bit.
While sitting in your chair, lift your arms overhead. Stretch your fingers wide as you lean gently to the left, keeping both buttocks on the chair. Take three breaths in this position before leaning to the left. Repeat two or three times, or as long as it feels good.
4. Dangling pose
If you can manage to get out of your chair without distracting the entire office, fold over into dangling pose now and then. This pose helps you gently lengthen and decompress the spine, reducing pain in the lower back and hips.
Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale and lift your chest. On the exhale, bend forward at the hips. Allow your arms to dangle toward the ground for a moment before grasping each elbow with the opposite hand. Your arms should be in a square shape. Keep your knees soft and enjoy this pose for one to three minutes.
5. Chair pigeon pose
If you sit in any position other than with your feet flat on the floor, your spine and hips are out of alignment. To help counteract the pain that misalignment can cause, try chair pigeon pose.
Begin in the seated position with both feet flat on the floor. Cross your right leg over your left. Your foot should be flexed, and your right knee should be bent at about a 90-degree angle. Keep your hips level by making sure both buttocks are touching the chair cushion. Twist toward your top knee just a bit to feel a moderate stretch in that right thigh and hip. Hold for up to ten breaths before repeating the pose on the other side.
6. Hip openers
Hip openers from your office chair are similar to chair pigeon pose and can help stretch your hips out after sitting for hours. Begin by placing your right ankle on top of your left knee. As in chair pigeon pose, flex the right foot to engage your toes. Lengthen the spine and fold forward over your right leg. You should feel a stretch in your outer hip, but it should feel comfortable. Stay here for eight to ten breaths before switching sides.
If you want a deeper stretch, yoga teacher Rachel Brathen suggests extending your fingertips to the ground. Relax your neck and keep your foot flexed as you reach your fingers to the floor. Be sure to engage the core when you come back up out of this pose to protect your knees.
Improve your overall wellness at the office by getting up and moving around during the day. Staying in the same place for hours on end isn’t good for you physically or mentally. Take brain breaks, walks around the office and be sure to stay hydrated. When you get home, roll out your mat and practice downward-facing dog, pigeon pose, happy baby and child’s pose to keep your back as relaxed as possible.