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How To Keep Relaxed In The Office With Yoga

Sitting at a desk all day can do a lifetime's worth of damage to your body and posture. These yoga exercises can be done throughout your work day and are designed to directly combat the usual wear and tear of office life. Now let's get stretching!
yoga on chair in office - business woman exercising, back view
endopack via Getty Images
yoga on chair in office - business woman exercising, back view

I work from home, and have laptops on desks or tables throughout my home. The worst case scenario is that I am slouched, half-laying on the couch with my laptop balanced on my knees for 10 plus hours a day.

Recently, I spoke with Rachel Scott, Director of Teacher Development at YYoga. Rachel shared her yoga tips for keeping calm at the office and having a healthy posture.

Sitting at a desk can be hard on the body. We usually default to the "slump-asana" pose.

Try these yoga chair moves to unwind your spine and get your body happy:

Spinal twist: Nothing like a little rotation to bring life back into your spine. Use the chair back and the arm rests to leverage your twist. You'll re-energize your spine and give your organs a nice little detox.

Simple stretch: In yoga, we call this urdhva hastasana (upward hands). Reach your arms to they sky like a morning stretch and then take some lateral side bends. Breathe deep into your front, side, and back ribs and unlock any tension that may accumulate.

Seated backbend. Sitting at a desk tends to make us hunchy and tightens our front body. Place your hands on your armrests (or, if you don't have armrests, interlace your hands behind you) and open your heart forward and up. This action will stretch your chest muscles, facilitate breathing, and counteract the dreaded "desk posture."

Seated cat/cow. Bring movement back into your spine through dynamic arching and rounding. These two poses have the added benefit of keeping your spine supple -- a must when we get locked into one position from sitting. Keep your hands on your thighs as you arch and round your spine. Link the movement to breath (inhale slowly as you arch, exhale slowly as you round) to calm the mental noise.

How can you release stress and move into a peaceful state of mind?

Work can frequently get stressful. One bad email can elevate our cortisol levels and send us into a spiral of anxiety and tension. One of the best ways to calm our minds and bodies is through deep, conscious breathing.

When you find the stress mounting, try this out:

  • Sit comfortably on your sitting bones with your spine tall (don't slouch back).
  • Close your eyes if you can; if not, anchor your gaze softly on one object.
  • Focus on feeling your breath.
  • Deliberately begin to silently count your breath (count 1-2-3-4- as you inhale, then 1-2-3-4 as you exhale).
  • Lengthening your exhalation calms the nervous system. And as an added bonus, no one can even tell you're doing it.

Are there yoga props you can use to de stress when seated for long periods?

One of the perils of the desk is our slouchy-rounded-lower-back posture. A yoga block is a great tool to keep the spine awake and aware. If your chair is high enough, put the block lengthwise between your shoulder blades for an instant spinal straightener.

Again, depending on your chair, you could also put the block near your sacrum/lower back to encourage your spine to keep its natural lower back curve (lifting in and up rather than rounding back).

To open your chest and shoulders, hold a strap with your hands a bit wider than shoulder distance apart. Stretch your arms above your head and energetically try to pull the strap apart. The strap helps you get a great heart opener. (Stretching with your arms up and wide is also a "power pose," which if held for about two minutes, starts to change the stress hormones in your body).

Tennis balls can also be great de-stressing friends. Put two tennis balls in a long sock and presto! Your personal masseuse. If your chair has a back, put the tennis balls between your back and the chair. Or you could put the tennis balls under your thigh to roll out your hamstrings.

Any other tips?

Our posture directly affects our hormones and moods, so make sure that your desk and chair are adjusted to give you the tallest spine. Place your monitor at eye height, position your wrists on your keyboard at elbow height, and take the time to make sure that you've got an ergonomically ideal setup. If you can, get a standing desk to keep your legs and core engaged while you work.

And for goodness sake, get out of your chair and walk around! About once an hour, take a stroll to recharge your circulation. And if you feel the stress creeping up and the walls closing in, take a walk. Check out the next cubicle, visit Becky in finance, or get some water. A little movement break can help us get perspective and recharge.

I will continue to practice yoga and will share my experiences. If you have ideas or questions about yoga please leave a comment below and I will do my best to find the answer for you.

Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to enjoy life to the fullest. Let's have the very best year ever!

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