(Please make sure you never push yourself to the point of feeling pain and consult a doctor if you have health issues that might make yoga unsafe for you.)
Here’s an easy habit that can make your work day (and your time home after work) much more pleasant. Take fifteen minutes twice a day to do a quick round of sit-to-stand desk assisted yoga and see what kind of difference it makes for your body after a week. We scoured yoga resources to find poses the relieve neck, shoulder, back, and hamstring tension, all of which tend to build up throughout a day at the office — whether you are sitting or standing. Here are a few options for different areas that may be tense to help you relax and refocus.
Remember that breath is the foundation of yoga. Check in with your breathing throughout any routine to make sure that you are not tightening your solar plexus. Breathe out further than you breathe in, at a natural rhythm, without straining. Breathe deeply but don’t hyperventilate. If you find yourself holding your breath, gently back off of the pose and recenter yourself.
To set the right breathing rhythm before you begin a yoga routine, stand in mountain pose for a moment and take a few breaths at your desk before you begin. Stand straight with your spine aligned and your shoulders relaxed, looking forward with your feet firmly on the ground and your hands turned gently outwards. Mountain pose (tadasana), improves posture and regulates breathing.
What you’ll need:
- an electronic sit-to-stand desk that raises and lowers easily (to keep the flow of the routine)
- an office chair
- yoga socks/gloves, if you prefer
Tension in the neck, upper back and shoulders is a near universal problem for people who work at computers much of the time. Even if you stand, if you monitor is not at the right height, or you have a tendency to slouch, your posture and upper back muscles will suffer. The lower back area particularly can become stiff if you don’t stand to work or don’t move from your chair often enough. Hips and hamstrings tend to tighten when kept in the same place for long periods of time, especially sitting. So, after mountain pose, go through a few rounds of this routine to relax and balance your body, breath and mind.
Keep your sit-to-stand desk at standing height for the moment.
From mountain pose, inhale and raise your arms above your head. Exhale and bend forward towards your toes, aiming to keep your back as straight as possible. Bend your knees if you do not come close to your toes without having to curve your back. Inhale, and with knees bent or straight, depending on what is comfortable, straighten your back and look forward. Now exhale and reach for your toes once again, and then inhale and come back up to mountain pose.
Inhale as you raise your arms above your head again, widen your stance slightly and then bend forward and place your hands on your sit-to-stand desk at standing height. Keep your arms straight and press down on your desktop to flex your upper back. Hold this pose and breathe consciously, alternately lifting your heels to increase the stretch in your lower spine.
Exhale and stand again, keeping your arms above your head and very gently arch your back, inhaling into the stretch in your lower back.
Lower your sit-to-stand desk to at least a foot lower than your usual sitting height, step back one pace from the sit-to-stand desk and bend forward from your hips, keeping your back as straight as possible. If you can’t reach your sit-to-stand desk, raise the desk to where you can comfortably put your palms flat on it, in a modified downward dog position.
Take three even breaths, bending your knees if necessary to ensure your rear end is tilted towards the sky, flattening your back as much as possible.
Stand up and raise your sit-to-stand desk back up to standing height. Place your left hand palm down on the desk top and your right hand at your hip, turned out to grab your foot. Stabilize yourself on your desk and bend your knee so you can grab your ankle (your hand should grasp the inside of your ankle). Bend forward and raise your leg to make the shape of a bow, feeling the stretch in your hip flexor. Switch to the other side and repeat.
Lower your desk to sitting height and sit in your office chair. Put one foot on the floor and cross the other foot over your leg so that it sits on top of your thigh, wherever you feel a comfortable stretch. Take a deep breath and lean forward, keeping your back and straight as possible. Take two breaths here and then switch to the other side.
Now sit up straight in your chair with your back away from the back of the chair. Relax your shoulders and breathe evenly. Tilt you neck to the right side and put your right hand on your left ear, very gently exerting pressure to stretch your neck. Breathe and relax your upper back muscles. Switch to the left side.
For the final pose tuck your feet under yourself in your chair, place your hands on your sit-to-stand desk and carefully lean forward/push your chair back into a modified child’s pose. Do not push too hard if your chair moves easily or you could slip. Relax your upper back and straighten your lower back gently. Let your hips open and breathe evenly.
Congrats! You got your yoga in today. Who knew a sit-to-stand desk could also be a yoga prop. Repeat if you’re especially tense.
Here’s another office yoga sequence from Yoga Journal.
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