Sitting for hours on end, as many desk-bound workers are painfully aware, can be seriously detrimental to your health. Moving is one of the best things you can do to counteract long stretches of sitting, whether that means standing up now and then to work, or stepping away to take an invigorating walk. Better yet, a few yoga poses may do the trick.
Doing yoga poses at your desk as an everyday practice can be a great way to take a mini break from your computer and get in some beneficial movement. To be sure though, if you’re in an office setting, you might get a few awkward side glances if you’re doing a forward fold or using your desk as a glorified yoga prop.
But be fearless! Trying a few yoga poses to improve your work day can yield tremendous benefits. Don’t be surprised if coworkers want in on the action once they witness your renewed energy and sense of calm. A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine, “9 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Desk Without Looking Really Weird,” provides some great guidelines for just a few asana, or poses, that you can do at or near your desk.
Entrepreneur offers tips to deflect potential reactions from your colleagues, ranging from pretending you’re tying your shoelaces to scratching a troublesome itch. Of course, if you work from home, there’s no need to make up excuses, so practice away.
Here are nine great yoga poses you can do from your desk and some of their additional benefits (see Entrepreneur‘s illustrations for more details):
- Seated backbend: Opens the chest muscles.
- Seated twist: Releases the lower back and entire spinal column.
- Desk shoulder opener: Lengthens and relieves spine and shoulders.
- Wrist release: Relieves nerves and tendon in the carpal tunnel of your wrists.
- Forward fold: Oxygenates the brain.
- Hip opener: Releases hip tension.
- Hamstring stretch: Offers lower back relief.
- Cow-face arms: Releases shoulder stress and tightness.
- Seated forward fold: Counteracts hunching over a keyboard.
We’ve added a few more yoga poses and techniques that may bring calm, focus, and energy to your day:
Seated Cat-Cow Pose: To enjoy this classic spinal stretch, sit with your feet hip distance apart and rest your hands on your knees. On an inhale, gaze up, pressing your heart forward (cow position). As you exhale, look down toward your lap, rounding your back (cat position). Do five rounds, inhaling for cow position and exhaling for cat position.
Benefits: Stretches the front and back torso; releases the neck; gently massages internal organs; calms the mind.
Eye Palming: Begin to rub your palms together vigorously, building heat in the center of your hands. Close your eyes, and place your warmed palms over your eye sockets to seal out all light. Hold for a count of 10, breathing deeply. Keeping your eyes sealed, imagine the face of a clock, and move your eyes slowly in a clockwise position. Then reverse direction, moving your eyes counter-clockwise. Remove your hands and slowly open your eyes.
Benefits: Provides a break from staring at computer screens; soothes and calms overstimulated eyes; sharpens mental focus.
Pranayama – Deep Breathing Exercises: From a seated position, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing, noticing your inhalations and exhalations. After a few rounds of breathing in and out, begin a measured count, inhaling in stages through your nose on a count of three, holding for a moment, then exhaling forcefully through your nose on a count of one. Keeping your lips sealed, do five rounds of this three-one breathing pattern. Then resume normal breathing, slowly opening your eyes.
Benefits: Activates the “relaxation response”; lowers blood pressure; relieves anxiety; quiets the mind.
Mini Meditation: Find a (relatively) quiet place where you can sit undisturbed. If you’re in a traditional office, it could be during a lunch break when the office may be less busy. Fold your arms on your desk and rest your forehead on your forearms. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply, trying to make your inhalations and exhalations the same length. Don’t try to turn off your thoughts; instead, imagine them like clouds drifting by. Stay in this posture for several minutes—longer if you have time. Slowly raise your head and open your eyes.
Benefits: Improves cognitive judgment and decision making; decreases stress; bolsters emotional resilience.
Working from home can make you happier to begin with compared to traditional jobs. Adding these simple yoga poses can make working virtually all the more enjoyable and productive.
Adrianne Bibby is a 500-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT500) with the national Yoga Alliance.