Working for long hours without moving or stretching can take its toll on your body over time. Especially now that many of us work from home, there are numerous challenges we face in maintaining an ergonomic and comfortable workspace within the limitations of our sometimes small living arrangements. Lack of movement can lead to weight gain, lower metabolism, loss of flexibility, and more.
But there’s good news! Even with limited space, there are simple ways you can combat these negative side effects of a monotonous desk job. One increasingly popular practice both at home and in a corporate office setting is desk yoga!
You might think of yoga as something you do in a large studio, wearing stretchy pants and (in my case) sweating profusely. Yet the principles of yoga can be applied to even the limited confines of your office to increase your blood flow, flexibility, and energy throughout the workday.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga can benefit your entire body, from blood pressure to posture, to boosting clarity in your thinking and your mental health. The Yoga Journal Study estimates that over 20 million Americans practice yoga every year, and that number is steadily rising as more and more working professionals tap into its benefits not only for their professional lives but their personal lives as well.
Here are 10 simple desk yoga exercises you can use to give your body a health boost and take your productivity to the next level at work. They’re also a great way to unwind and feel relaxed amid the stresses and pressures of the workday.
1. Seated Crescent Moon
In your desk chair, take your arms and raise them high. Bring your palms together and stretch out your fingers. Inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly, gradually bend from your waist to one side and maintain your position for 2-3 breaths. Then repeat this process on the other side. Do this as many times as you like! It’s easy and a simply way to give your upper body a much-needed stretch.
2. Chair Pigeon
Maintaining an even balance while seated, lift your leg up and across the opposite knee, keeping it at a 90-degree angle. To avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your knee, be sure to flex your foot as well. You’ll feel a moderate stretch in your upper thigh, and feel an opening in your hips as well. Hold this position for a few breaths, then switch and do the same number of breaths on the other side.
3. Sitting and Standing Chair Pose
Keeping your feet flat and your legs at a 90-degree angle, activate your leg muscles to slowly rise to a standing position, then gently lower back down to a seated position. Avoid moving your hips and try to keep your body as straight down the middle as possible. This activates your leg muscles and energizes them as they tend not to be used in jobs that require sitting for prolonged periods of time.
4. Standing Seal Pose
As you stand, spread your feet to slightly wider than shoulder distance, and extend your arms behind you, joining your hands together by interlocking your fingers. Then squeeze your shoulder blades together as you slowly fold the upper half of your body and extend your arms out in front of you. Hold this position for a few breaths and then slowly return to your starting position, remembering to squeeze your shoulder blades.
5. Wrist and Finger Stretches
Raise your arms and stretch them while rotating your wrists and slowly making a fist and releasing your fingers. Then place your arms down in front of you and slowly pull your wrists back to give them a good stretch. This is especially important for typists and people who make repetitive motions with their hands.
It may sound like a strange or complicated yoga move, but it’s actually quite simple! Begin by standing and grabbing the edge of your desk with your arms aligned with your shoulders. Then walk your feet back until you are leaning on the desk at a diagonal angle, and slowly push to lift and lower your body a few times. This activates your arm muscles and gives your upper body a much-needed awakening.
7. Upward Dog
Keep the same pose as Chaturanga, but this time you’ll want to bring your hips toward your desk and accentuate the natural curve of your spine. Be sure to keep your leg muscles activated to avoid drooping your lower back, and don’t push this pose too far to the point of overextension. Keep your pose steady and breathe 5-10 breaths before slowly returning to the starting position.
8. Eagle Arms
You might think this move means extending your arms out to fly like an eagle, but it’s quite the opposite! While sitting upright, bend your arms straight up and cross one over the other, interlocking them and bringing your palms together. Stretch your fingers upward as you lift your elbows, and maintain this position for 5-10 deep breaths. Then cross your arms the other way and repeat. This is a great stretch for your arms and wrists, which is a good way to combat carpal tunnel.
9. Seated Twist
This one is as simple as it sounds! While sitting upright, grasp the seat back and slowly twist your upper body to one side, hold your position, and breathe a few deep breaths. Then, twist to the other side and repeat.
10. Restorative Pose
You might be tempted to call this one the “bad student” pose...because most of us have had moments in school where we put our heads down on our desks for a quick snooze. In this case, doing so consciously can have great benefits and is a great way to rest and relax for a few moments during the day. Cross your arms on your desk and simply lower your head down and take a few deep breaths, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Do this for as long as you like, but be careful not to fall asleep!
These poses are adaptations of real yoga poses, some of them which are commonly practiced almost exactly the same way in a yoga studio. These tried-and-true stretches and breathing exercises are sure to give your mental health and bodily energy a much-needed boost throughout the day. Yoga can transform the way you work and combat some of the common health issues office workers face from hours of sitting motionless. How will yoga fit into your work schedule?
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