We all know that stiff and groggy feeling after a long day at the office. But what you might not realize is just how detrimental hours of sitting at the computer can be for our health.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time is known to lead to an increased risk of a variety of diseases, and hunching over our desks is terrible for our backs and our posture. Fixing our eyes on such a close-up screen can be harmful to our vision, and micro-movements like typing can take a toll on our wrists and joints.
But even if there’s no way you can escape your desk job, there is still good news. The healing benefits of yoga don’t have to stop when you leave the mat. Working a bit of yoga into your day at the office can powerfully combat the harmful effects of sitting at the office—not to mention provide extra energy and rejuvenation.
Office Yoga: 8 Great Yoga Poses & Stretches To Practice At Your Desk
Note: If your office lends the space to stand for these poses, always opt to give your body a break from sitting. Likewise, take frequent breaks to walk around the office and get your blood flowing, or if possible, stand while you work.
1. Gentle Backbend
Backbends introduce energy to your body and mind, making them great go-to poses when you’ve started to hit that mid-day slump. Even just a gentle backbend can be almost as invigorating as a second cup of coffee!
Begin by sitting tall and strong with a straight back. Inhale deeply and bring your arms out and up to the ceiling, with your palms facing each other. Bend back slowly over your chair as you exhale, being careful not to overextend your neck. Hold this stretch for the length of an inhale, and then come back slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, as you exhale. Repeat as many times as feels right to your body.
2. Eagle Arms
This pose is fantastic for improved posture while also providing a good upper back stretch that will relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.
Begin with a straight back. Inhale deeply and bring your arms up perpendicular to your body with your palms facing upward. From here, bring your arms toward the center of your body, wrapping your left arm over your right arm, with each hand grasping the opposite shoulder. Your elbows should be stacked. Give yourself a big hug, feeling the stretch along your upper back.
Keeping your elbows hugging toward the center, begin to lift your forearms, wrapping your right arm around the back of your left arm with your hands straight up, working the palms together. Inhale and exhale deeply, feeling your shoulders open. Slowly unwrap your arms and bring them up and out to your sides. Repeat with your right arm coming over your left arm.
3. Hands Behind The Back
This practice is fantastic for realigning your shoulders and improving your posture. Begin by clasping your hands behind your lower back with your elbows facing outward. Inhale deeply and slowly raise your clasped hands as far up as feels right. Try to keep the palms squeezing together. Feel your chest opening, and your upper back releasing. Slowly exhale as you bring your hands back down to your sides.
4. Wrist & Finger Care
Working at a computer means potential damage to your wrists and fingers. Taking time to stretch and release tension held in these tender joints can go a long way. Start by inhaling your arms up to the sky. Circle your wrists ten times in each direction. Exhale your arms down to your side. Bring your right hand so that your palm is facing away from you. Use your left hand to apply pressure gently to the fingers of your right hand so that they are brought down toward you, with your palm extended to the sky. You should feel a nice counter stretch. Repeat with the left hand.
5. Chaturanga Variation
Don’t worry, you don’t always have to get down on the floor to receive the benefits of Chaturanga. In this variation, use your desk as a prop for Chaturanga! Begin by placing your hands on the edge of your desk (make sure your desk is sturdy enough first.) Walk your feet out so that your back is straight and in line with your legs. Bring your chest to your desk, with your elbows against your sides. Push back so that your back is again straight and in line. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
6. Arm & Core Strengthener
Who says all you can do at your desk is neck circles? For this pose begin by sitting squarely on your chair with a straight back and your legs crossed. Place both hands down by your side and grasp the edge of the chair. Push down with your hands, keeping your legs in a seated position, so that your bum rises off of the chair. Engage your core and hold this position for a few breaths. Lower your bum back down to your chair and repeat. You should feel strength flooding your core and upper arms.
7. Upward Dog Variation
Begin by standing a few steps away from your desk. With straight or slightly bent legs hip distance apart, bend over with a straight back to grab the edge of your desk with both hands. Make sure your back is straight and in line with your arms. Drop your neck so that there is no tension, and you are looking naturally between your arms. Drop your bum slowly, as you come to your toes and press up to an Upward Dog Position, with your back arched and your eyes looking toward the ceiling. Slowly roll back to the starting position and repeat.
8. Pigeon Variation (Hip Opener)
Sit tall and straight. Bring your left foot up to rest on your right knee. Try to press gently on your left knee to feel a good stretch in your inner thigh. Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to bend over your shin with a flat back, taking the stretch to your hip. Repeat on the other leg.
These eight yoga poses and stretches can be practiced at your desk throughout the day to fight the harmful effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Refresh your mind and body to be more productive. Get creative with your yoga practice, and discover what new yoga poses you can adapt to work into your day at the office!
Have you found a way to practice office yoga? Share your favorite tips in the comments below!