We all know that a bit of daily exercise is essential for a healthy body and mind, but it can be hard to hit the gym, go for a swim, or even find time to roll out your yoga mat when you’re at work for eight hours a day or more. However, even on the days when you’re really pushed for time, there are a few essential yoga moves you can do at your desk to relieve aches and pains and instil a feeling of calm. For the ultimate office zen, try adding a few of these stress-relieving activities to your working day.
Three part breathing
According to the ancient Yoga Sutra teachings, there are eight main ‘limbs’ that make up a yoga practice - of which only one of those is the physical poses (otherwise known as ‘asana’). Another particularly important part of yoga is controlled breathing exercises, or ‘pranayama’, and these can be incorporated at any time of day, in any place. To relieve stress, try three part breathing - simply place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen, then breath slowly into your belly, then your rib cage, and finally your chest. Slowly release the breath in the same way, smoothly exhaling the air from your chest, then your rib cage, then your belly. Repeat as many times as you need to feel calm and collected.
For many of us, sitting at a desk all day and staring down at a computer screen causes pain in our neck, shoulders and upper back. However, there are lots of exercises you can do in the moment to relieve this tension.
For starters, you could try some simple shoulder rolls - sitting upright and inhaling as you lift one shoulder to your ear, then exhaling as you roll your shoulder back and drop it away from your ear. Alternate that movement on the left and right for three cycles, then repeat the action moving both shoulders at once for five cycles.
If your middle back aches during the workday, seated chair twists could be your saviour as they help to release the muscles that have become locked in place from long periods of sitting.
To do a seated chair twist, start by sitting upright on your chair and then moving your thighs to the right so that you are facing diagonally. Inhale and take your right arm upwards, then exhale and bring it to the back of the chair, dropping your shoulders and consciously relaxing the muscles in your back. Hold for 10-15 breaths, then return to centre with an exhalation and repeat on the other side.
Seated pigeon pose
While many desk yoga poses target the upper body, there are a couple which can be beneficial for the lower body, too. The seated pigeon pose is particularly helpful for anyone with sore, tight hips - a common complaint for those of us who sit at a desk all day.
To get yourself into the seated pigeon pose, first sit upright and slightly forward so that your back isn’t touching the chair. Next, inhale and bring your right knee up to your chest, then flex your right foot and exhale while slowly dropping the same knee over to the right and placing your flexed foot on top of your left knee. Hold for 7-10 breaths or as long as feels comfortable, then do the same on the other side.
Wrist and finger stretches
When you’re typing for hours at a time, it makes sense that tension can build in the muscles and tendons in the fingers, hands, and wrists. To release this tension, it’s important to get the blood flowing to these areas - and that’s where wrist and finger stretches can help.
To get started, place your right hand on your desk, palm facing up and fingers facing towards you. Next, place your left fingers against your right hand (fingers stretching back) and enjoy the stretch for a few breaths before switching sides.