by Adele Sales: Offices can be awesome, fun and inspiring places to work…
However, they can also sometimes be draining and highly stressful! High levels of stress intertwined with a large majority of the day spent in a seated position can understandably cause a lot of tension in our bodies and in our minds.
The antidote? Office Yoga. That’s right – Yoga in the office. Sitting for prolonged periods of time (especially with poor posture), can cause many misalignments and pains in the muscles and joints. To help keep our bodies supple and our minds calm, office Yoga is the perfect sitting solution for relieving tension and restoring balance.
The normal office worker spends around 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen. Calculated, this can mean that a lot of us spend over 2,000 hours a year sitting at a desk – and that’s without accounting for our free time. That’s a lot of sitting! There’s no wonder that over time, tightness can creep into many areas in the body – including the hips, shoulders, neck and lower back. The following Yoga stretches and techniques will help squeeze out the tension and encourage mental clarity in order to bring more awareness and energy to the working day. No matt or kit required!
Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrāsana)
Long hours sat in front of a screen can result in lots of extra pressure put on the vertebral discs. These discs in the spine are meant to expand and contract as we move – helping them to absorb blood and nutrients. When we are sat down, the discs compress and can cause flexibility in the spine to become restricted. The spinal muscles can also become tight, leading to immobility, discomfort and pain. Twisting postures stretch and strengthen the spinal muscles, helping to reduce back-pain. In addition, spinal twists encourage fresh blood flow to the digestive organs and are also wonderful postures in helping to improve mental state. As they open up the front of the body, twists can reduce feelings of stress that we can hold in the chest, upper back and shoulders.
Sit tall on your chair with your feet firmly planted into the floor and take a deep breath in to lengthen the spine – imagine there is a string going from your head to the ceiling and you’re being pulled upwards. Keeping your hips facing forwards and your sit bones grounded into the chair, slowly breathe out as you twist to the left side. Take hold of the left arm rest with your right hand and the back of your chair with the left, gazing over your left shoulder. Stay here and take a couple of breaths – lengthening the spine on the inhale and then squeezing the twist a little further on each exhale. Slowly return back to a neutral spine before twisting to the right side.
Hip Opener – Pigeon pose (Rajakapotasana)
When we stay seated over time, the muscles in the hips can become shortened and tight due to being in a constantly flexed position. This can lead to various discomfort and painful movement restriction in our day to day lives. It has also been said that we tend to store a lot of emotional tension in our hips – meaning that if we’re stressed or have a lot on our minds, our hips can really tighten up. Hip openers help to do exactly what they say – open our hips to help the tension escape and stretch the surrounding muscles.
How to: Sitting tall in your chair away from your desk, take your left ankle and place it on the top of your right knee, flexing your foot so your toes are pointing towards the knee. Take a deep breath in to make the spine nice and long, and then start to slowly fold forward in your chair towards the knee, resting your hands on your desk in front of you. Take note of the tension you feel here and work with it. You want to feel a deep stretch in the hips, but don’t force it! If you feel pain, back off a little. Keep the foot flexed as you work with your exhales to deepen into the pose for a couple breaths. When you’ve taken some time here, switch over to the right side.
Our necks can become very tense during a day at the office, especially if we’re prone to slumping over our computer! This can hugely affect the cervical vertebrae and the upper trap muscles, causing pain and stiffness in the neck. Stretching out the whole of the neck can really help break down the tension caused by hunched shoulders and open up some space.
How to: Sitting in your chair, firstly focus on bringing your shoulders down and away from your ears. Start by doing a few full neck rolls by bringing your chin down and tilting your head to the right. Slowly roll your head up so that you’re looking at the ceiling before bringing your head down to the left shoulder. Repeat 2-3 of these rolls on each side. Next, bring your right arm behind your back with the back of your right hand over to the left side of your torso. Securing your right hand here with your left hand, tilt the neck towards the shoulder. Take a few deep breaths here and close your eyes to really feel fully into the deep stretch in your neck.
Front Body Stretch (Purvottanasana)
Spending a lot of time typing can cause our shoulders to become inwardly rotated, which can lead to lots of problems and issues with the shoulder girdle. The many intricate little muscles in our shoulders can become imbalanced, leading to painful niggles and a hunched posture. Really opening up the front of the body and squeezing out the shoulders can help reverse the forward slump and improve our posture. Opening up the chest can also expand our lung space – allowing us to breathe in a new supply of fresh oxygen for our busy working brains and bodies.
How to: Shuffle yourself forward to sit on the edge of your seat so that there is space behind your back. Take your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. As you take a deep inhale, lift up your chest and pull your interlaced hands down and away from your body behind you. Feel a squeeze between your shoulder blades and an expanding in your chest. Take a few breaths here, focusing on opening the chest a little more on each inhale.
To help keep our chests open and to stop our shoulders becoming hunched throughout the day, a really good little exercise is to act as if there’s a £5 note between your shoulder blades that you don’t want to lose. Really squeeze your shoulder blades down and back to keep hold of the imaginary note, in order to open up your chest and shoulders. You can hold this squeeze for around 30 seconds. Throughout the day, see if you can use certain reminders to do this little exercise. For example, every time you see the hour on the clock or each time you come back to your desk from getting up.
It’s very easy to get caught up in our work and carried away with busy thoughts, especially if we’re under a lot of pressure or stress. When our minds are super active, we can sometimes forget to really be in our bodies. The days can go by so quickly and we can glide through them on autopilot, meaning we can miss out on appreciating each moment for what it is. Taking mindful moments in the workplace can really help us in staying focused and calm. Try setting up small reminders on your computer to really take time to become aware of your senses and sensations around you. Start by focusing on the feeling of your breath and taking in everything you see in your environment. After a while, move on to focusing on all the things you hear – pay attention to the subtlest sounds as well as the most obvious. Next, move onto smells – what can you smell around you? Is the air fresh? Is it heavy? Take note of the details without making any judgement on them. After doing this, move your attention to what you can feel. You might feel the sensation of your clothes on your body or the breeze from the air conditioning in your office. Make sure to also pay attention to feelings inside of your body – check in with how your body feels as a whole today as well as any areas of comfort and discomfort. Lastly, see if you can notice any tastes in your mouth – it could be the taste of your morning coffee, or nothing at all.
If you have the time and opportunity available at work, a really helpful 3 minute meditation called “Three Minute Breathing Space” can be found on FranticWorld.com. 3 minutes doesn’t sound like much time, but the meditation is split into three simple sections which really hone in our focus and turn our attention inwards. The meditationcan be done in your break times or in any overwhelming moments.
Just click on the option to stream the meditation from the word ‘HERE’ and choose the Three Minute Breathing Space Meditation to listen.
Taking little moments like this throughout the day to check in with ourselves really help in coming back to work refreshed and focused.
A small break is also always available if we ever need it through the breath. So often we can get stuck in shallow breathing and forget to really breathe deeply and fully. Breath is one of the main sources of our energy and ways to release tension. The great thing is that it’s always, always available to us. For increased energy and release through the working day, try taking a slow, deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. On the inhale, focus on breathing deep into your belly and then fill up to your ribs. Then slow down the exhale and make an audible “Ahhh” noise with your breath when you breathe out. Just one long ‘Ahh’ breath is fine – you will be filling up your body with fresh, new air and releasing lots of mental and physical tension you’ve held onto through the day.