Life is sometimes a whirlwind with a job, family and social life. For the majority of full-time employees, a 40-hour workweek (or more!) is standard. Many of these jobs require an extensive amount of sitting. Prolonged periods of stagnancy over time can create issues within the body. Not moving around makes it difficult for the body to lower blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and other toxic build up. Walking 10-15 minutes a day can help counteract some of the negative effects of sitting, but it’s also important to stretch, as long periods of little to no use can cause muscles to tighten over time. While it’s tricky, if not impossible, to roll out a yoga mat at any job, there are some yoga poses, or asanas, that can be done while at a desk. These poses aid flexibility and will get the blood circulating more which can give a boost of energy.
When in the sitting position, your hamstrings are contracted. The hamstring is the muscle that runs along the backside of the thigh and aids in bending the leg. It connects from the pelvis to the end of the femur by the knee. Tight hamstrings can often times go hand in hand with tight hip flexors, which is a set of muscles in the hip area that brings your leg toward the body and bend at the waist; tight hamstrings and hip flexors can cause lower back pain.
This following asanas are done at a chair and can be done in a sequence if there is enough time, or practiced individually if specific areas are more bothersome than others.
While sitting in a chair, ideally one that isn’t too soft, straighten the back and place hands on knee. Begin breathing slowly and deeply. After a few breaths, begin a few rounds of cat and cow pose. Raise your chest and slightly arch your back on an inhale sending the eyes up and slightly back. Round the back on an exhale lowering your gaze.
2. Sun Salutations
To complete a sun salutation, place palms together in front of the heart, and on an inhale, raise your arms up to the sky, palms slightly apart. On the exhale, put a slight backbend in the spine and gaze backward. Inhale and return hands to heart center. During exhale, interlace fingers, turn palms away, and stretch arms down while rounding the back. Return hands to heart center on the inhale. Exhale and repeat.
3. Forward Fold
Now that the blood is pumping and the muscles are warmed up, stretch the spine by doing a forward fold called ragdoll. Spread the feet and legs a little wider than hip distance. Inhale and raise the arms to the sky, reaching up. Exhale and bend forward, allowing the arms to drape over legs and the head to hang. Hold here for several breaths.
4. Spinal Twist
A spine twist, which aids digestion, can be done by crossing the right leg over the left, and placing the left hand on the right knee. Use the resistance of the left arm on the right knee to gently twist to the right. Repeat on the other side.
5. Seated Pigeon
Seated pigeon is a great asana for tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Place the right ankle on the left knee. Relax and allow gravity to pull your right knee down without pushing it. If more stretch is needed, fold the torso over the leg. Stay here for a few breaths, and repeat on the other side.
6. Seated Eagle
To achieve eagle pose, cross the right leg over the left. Take the arms out in front of the body, and place the right under left. Bend arms and try to touch the right fingertips to the left palm. This helps open the shoulders. Try to keep the elbows out in front and eyes forward. Remain here for a few breaths and then repeat on the left side. Add extra stretch to by slightly arching the back while in the pose.
If completing the sequence, end with a few sun salutations and a forward fold. These movements are not meant to cause more pain. If something causes sharp pains, it is best to stop. These asanas are a great supplement to a workday and regular exercise schedule. Practice these as many times throughout the day as needed to help stretch and get oxygen flowing!