We live in a busy, fast-paced world and for many of us, spending hours of our day sitting in front of a computer screen is our reality. While there is no substitute for leaving your desk and taking a walk, going to a yoga class, or squeezing in a quick workout to escape your day, sometimes there is too much to get done and it is simply not an option. Below are four exercises that can be done at your desk. With these gentle poses, you can break up your day, reset your body and your mind and invigorate your productivity without even needing to leave your workspace.
We hold a lot of tension in our necks. Poor posture, stress and long hours straining to look at screens and electronic devices can lead to tightness and stiffness in the neck muscles. This gentle neck stretch will release tension, helping the whole body to relax and if you suffer from tension headaches this pose may provide some relief from your symptoms.
- Sit tall in your chair with your feet on the floor.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Reach your right hand up towards the ceiling, take it over to the left and rest it gently above your left ear.
- Inhale, soften your shoulders and as you exhale gently press your right ear down towards your right shoulder.
- Stay here for 3 – 4 deep breathes and then slowly release. Repeat on the opposite side.
Tip: Avoid lifting your shoulder up to your ear. Use your breath to help keep the shoulders soft and visualise the muscles in your neck elongating.
Eagle (Garudasana) Arms
This is a seated version of the well-loved standing yoga pose. Poor posture and stress can result in a lot of tension and congestion in the upper back and in the shoulders. This variation can help stretch out the shoulders, open the chest and strengthen the muscles in the upper back.
- Sit comfortably in your chair, inhale and reach both hands up towards the ceiling.
- As you exhale sweep your right arm underneath the left and wrap it around pressing your hands together where they meet.
- Lift your elbows to shoulder height and press the tops of your shoulders down and back.
- Point your fingers straight up to the ceiling.
- Stay here for 3 – 4 breathes then slowly unravel. Repeat on the opposite side.
Tip: Draw your shoulders back and down to open your chest. Keep the muscles in the back of your neck long. Breathe deeply and fully with a soft gaze ahead of you.
Seated Spinal Twist
Anyone who has spent any time sitting at a desk in front of a computer for hours at a time knows the muscles in the back can become stiff, sore, and weak. Spinal twists are a great way to strengthen the back muscles, increase range of motion and release tension. All of this can contribute to a reduction in back pain and an increased feeling of wellbeing.
- Sit up comfortably in your chair with both feet on the floor.
- Place your left hand on the outside of your right thigh.
- Keep your hips facing forwards, inhale and lift upwards through the crown of your head.
- On your exhale open out to the right, take your chest and head over to the right, looking back over your right shoulder.
- Stay here for 3 – 4 breathes and return to centre on an exhale. Repeat on the opposite side.
Tip: Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Try not to let your lower back round. Life up out of your hips and twist from your abdomen, don’t force it!
It is no surprise that we store a lot of physical tension in our hips. As a symptom of our modern, sedentary society our hips can become very tight. Tight hips combined with a weak psoas muscle, core and under developed glute muscles can all be contributing factors to lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain and ankle pain. As well as the physical implications, our hips can store a lot of emotional tension, linked to our “fight of flight” response. This gentle hip stretch can help alleviate some of that tension and provide release and relief in the wake of your working day.
- Sit up tall in your chair with both feet on the floor.
- Lift the right foot off the floor and take the foot over to the left thigh, keeping the right shin parallel to the floor.
- Keep your knee joint closed, protecting the knee joint is a priority in this pose.
- Press down through the right hip and glute to feel an increase in the stretch.
- Stay here for 3 – 4 breathes and return the right foot back to the floor on an exhale.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Tip: Flex your toes back towards your knee to keep your foot active. Play around with the positioning of the foot on the thigh to get the best stretch for you. Visualise sending your breath to your hip, softening and releasing the muscles with every exhale.
As with any physical exercise always seek guidance from a medical professional if you are unsure as to whether the exercise is suitable for you.
This is a guest post from Lesley Tuplin, founder of Twisted Roots Yoga.
Lesley Tuplin is a 200HR Registered Yoga Teacher teaching communities in London, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire. After quitting her finance career in the City of London, she set up Twisted Roots Yoga to share her passion and belief in the healing benefits of the practices of yoga and meditation with people of all ages and abilities.