I take pride in being a yoga teacher who prioritizes the benefits of mindfulness, alignment, and having great posture where we live and work. But if you saw me working at my desk, you might catch me mindlessly slouched forward over my laptop looking tight and stressed. Do you jut your chin forward, shrug your shoulders, and round your back like I do?
OK, phew! I think we all do.
How does working at your desk with poor posture make you feel? Drained, tense, creatively and energetically closed off? Me too. It’s also been well-documented that sitting for long periods of time is damaging for your health. Stand-up work stations are becoming more popular — but standing all day isn’t considered optimal either. The two best things you can do: 1) Vary your posture (from sitting to standing to walking) throughout the day and 2) take breaks often.
At a minimum, aim for taking a short break every 20 minutes. Here’s an excerpt from a Well blog post with a great suggestion:
Jack Dennerlein, a professor at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences in Boston who specializes in ergonomics and safety, suggests a variation on the 20-20-20 rule used to reduce eyestrain. In the case of the eyes, the rule is to take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away (instead of your computer), and repeat this every 20 minutes. But Dr. Dennerlein notes that this eye rule can be applied to movement as well. Every 20 minutes, walk 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more. Stop by a co-worker’s desk. Get a cup of coffee. Pace. Just don’t sit.
The yoga sequence below will lengthen your spine, open your chest, stretch your shoulders, and soothe neck tension. With the exception of the twist, you can do all of the poses standing or even walking around — maybe your co-workers will think you’re crazy. Or maybe they’ll join you!
Before you begin, breathe deeply and notice how you feel. Hold each pose for a comfortable 3-5 breaths and when you’ve finished, pause again and notice how a little yoga has transformed how you feel.
1. Sit, interlace hands, stretch up
Stand or sit at the front edge of your chair with your feet hip width apart on the floor. Interlace your hands and flip the palms up as your stretch your arms up and overhead.
2. Hook pinky fingers and stretch back
Stand or sit at the front edge of your chair with your feet hip width apart on the floor. Hook your pinky fingers behind your back with your palms facing forward. Stretch your arms back to open your chest and shoulders.
3. Twisted chair
Sit at the front edge of your chair with your feet hip width apart on the floor. Twist to the right and place your left elbow against your right thigh. Bring your hands to prayer and as you lengthen your spine and twist your spine. Repeat on the left side.
4. Upward plank
Turn your back toward your desk and stand with your feet hip width apart. Next, turn your arms out so your fingers face the sides and set your hands on the desk shoulder width apart. Walk forward until you can lift your chest up and back into a comfortable and stretchy backbend.
5. Neck stretch
Sit at the front edge of your chair (or stand) with your feet hip width apart on the floor. Place your right hand on the left side of your head and fold your head over to the right. Reach your left hand away from you with your palm facing down. Repeat on the other side.