Yoga Stretches You Can Do At Your Desk
So, I've been spending an inordinate amount of time in front of my computer these days connecting with other yogis, writing and sharing. While this is loads of fun for me, I have begun to notice its effect on my body. My hip flexors are tightening causing compression in my low back that radiates discomfort up my spine. This triggers a "slouch reflex" moving my shoulders forward and putting excessive pressure on my neck — um, ouch! Then, a silly realization came to me: "Why don't I incorporate yoga postures into my writing/web time?" After all, yoga asana practice was in part designed to prepare the body for prolonged periods of sitting in meditation.
Here is what I have been doing — some stretches you can do right at your desk:
Begin in Mountain Pose … Sort Of
Your posture while you are working is important. Keep both feet on the floor. Try not to cross your legs (trust me on this one) as it can cause imbalance in your hip extensors putting unnecessary pressure on the low back. Think of it as a Seated Tadasana. Draw the the pelvic floor up and the navel and lower ribs inward. Instead of hunching forward, squeeze the shoulders up towards the ears and then roll them back and down, lifting the chest. The neck can get tweaked with the head forward as is common when focused on a computer monitor. Bring the head back so that the crown of your head stacks on top of your tailbone.
Your workplace set up is also important. Click here for more information on creating an ergonomic workplace.
A great stretch to help combat slouching. On an inhale, arch the back, lift the chest and look up toward the ceiling. Try not to bring your shoulders up close to your ears but rather roll them back and down toward your hips and continue to lift the chest. On the exhale, draw the navel inward, round the spine, chin toward the chest, and let your head hang forward. Repeat, coordinating this movement with slow, deep, rhythmic breathing for 3-5 breaths (or whatever amount feels yummy to you).
Neck Rolls, Because They Feel So Good
Again beginning with your feet flat on the floor, bring your chin to your chest first. Roll your shoulders back and down. Slowly roll your head around to the right bringing your right ear to the top of the right shoulder. Then, head goes back and slowly over to the left with the left ear coming to the left shoulder. Bring your chin back to your chest. Repeat this motion moving slowly and noticing at what point you feel tension and want to move through it a little faster. Move extra slowly at these places, breathing through the tension. After 3-5 repetitions, move the head in the other direction for another 3-5 reps.
Wrist Stretching Good Times
With your arms outstretched and palms facing down, flex the fingers of one hand up and back so that your palm faces away from you. You can use the other hand to move your fingers toward your face, deepening the stretch on the bottom of the wrist. Hold for 1-2 slow breaths. Then bring your fingers down, bending the wrist in the opposite direction so that the palm is now facing your body, stretching the top of the wrist and forearm. Repeat with the other arm.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Your already sitting down. Why not add some pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels) to your computer time? You don't even have to stop typing to do these. Pelvic floor support is not only useful in yoga class (also known as mula bandha), helping you get a little higher in crow pose or hold a steady headstand, it also has many health benefits if practiced regularly. A strong pelvic floor is helpful when dealing with incontinence and also supports the bladder, bowel and reproductive organs, preventing prolapse. Click here for more information on pelvic floor muscles and exercises to help strengthen them.
Perched Eagle Pose
Extend your arms out to either side and then bring them in front of you, crossing the right arm under the left, hooking your elbows and crossing your wrists in order to bring your palms facing each other with thumbs towards you. If you are not able to bring your palms together, simply bring them as close as you can or grab your left thumb with your right fingers. From here you can play with the stretch, moving your elbows up and down slowly. I like to bring my elbows down so that my fingertips line up with my eyebrows and I feel a nice stretch on the tops of my shoulders and arms. Once you've settled into a comfortable arm position, you can add the leg/hip stretch (optional). Bring the right leg to cross on top of the left thigh and cross the right foot behind the left calf if you are able to. If not, simply point the right knee to the left and work with the stretching sensation in the right hip. Hold for 3-5 breaths and then switch the cross of the arms and legs and hold the other side for another 3-5 breaths.
Your Chair With A Twist
Seated with both feet flat on the floor, knees and feet are parallel and facing forward. Maintain this position with your lower body and begin to rotate your upper body to the right on an exhale. You can use the outside of your right thigh and back of your chair as leverage to help you twist a little more. Repeat, this time twisting to the left.
That's right – yoga for your eyes. Staring at a computer monitor for prolonged periods creates a great deal of strain for your eyes. In order to prevent future eye-related problems and maintain optimal function, perform these exercises regularly, especially if you are going to be at the computer for any length of time. I would even recommend taking a break ever thirty minutes to do this. Begin by rubbing your hands together briskly until you generate enough heat to really warm your hands. Then quickly place your palms over your closed eyes. Take slow, deep breaths and relax for a minute or two. This relaxes the eyes and surrounding face muscles and is very soothing to the optic nerve. Also, it's helpful in relieving tension headaches. Next, perform these basic eyes exercises. With the same seated position, back and neck straight, keep your head perfectly still as you lift your eye gaze and look as high as possible. Then shift your gaze and look down. Repeat this 10 times and then close your eyes for about 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. When you are ready, open your eyes wide and look as far to the right as possible, and then to the left. Repeat this 10 times, then close and rest the eyes for 30 seconds. Last one, make wide circles with your eyes by rolling them clockwise. Perform at least 10 circles and then repeat going counter-clockwise. Close and relax the eyes.
In addition to these yoga stretches and exercises, pranayama (yogic breathing) can be practiced from a seated position. Alternate Nostril Breathe is a wonderful exercise to bring focus and clarity and it helps to reduce symptoms of stress in the body. Here's how you do it: From your comfortable seated position, place the thumb of your right hand over the right nostril and the ring finger of the same hand over the left nostril, keeping your left nostril closed with the ring finger. Inhale slowly through the right nostril for 5-10 counts (gradually increasing the duration with continued practice). Then, hold both nostrils closed for the same mount of time as your inhale. Next, release the ring finger and exhale through the left nostril for the same duration of the inhale. Your next inhale will be through the left nostril and your next exhale through the right nostril so that you are switching open nostrils on the exhale. Perform 3-5 cycles (or more over time).
Thanks for reading! Feel free to share and comment below. I would love to hear about what you do to combat "desk posture."
Keep on rockin'!