We could all use more time in our days. And while we cannot actually stretch time, stretching ourselves a few times a day can help us have more energy and clarity. That translates to increased productivity and better overall health. Here are a few simple movements adapted from Yoga that you can do on a short break at your desk.
Seated Posture and Deep Breathing
This pose can be done alone if you only have a minute, or at the beginning of the sequence below. Sitting this way helps improve energy levels and correct postural imbalance, and ideally should be done whenever you are sitting.
- Set your feet evenly on the ground. Take off your shoes if possible.
- Sit with your knees above your ankles and in line with your hips.
- Press down firmly through your feet and upper thighs as you lengthen up through your chest and crown of head.
- Draw your shoulders back align your head above your spine (look forward, not down) and rest your hands in your lap, fingers relaxed.
- Release any tension in your jaw, shoulders, or lower back.
- Breathing through the nose, exhale all the air out of your body, and inhale deeply into your lower belly.
- Without force, focus on lengthening the exhalations, with each exhalation releasing any physical or mental tension. With each inhalation imagine filling your body up with air like a balloon.
- Continue pressing through feet and hips and drawing shoulders back as you breathe deeply like this for another few minutes.
Sequence A – Seated
Start with the Seated Posture and Deep Breathing described above. Continue to breathe deeply throughout the sequence.
- Keep pressing through both feet and bring your hands to the desk with the arms extended, palms flat, and elbows tucked in.
- Press through your palms as you widen your collar bones and lift through the front of your body.
- Be mindful of keeping your lower back open and long as you lift your chest towards the sky. You can begin to tilt your shoulders back and look upwards if that feels safe for your lower back and neck.
- Breathe deeply here for 5 to 6 deep breaths, then return to the Seated Posture.
- From that Seated Posture with a tall spine, exhale and begin rotating towards the right.
- Bring your right hand to the back of the chair or the armrest, left hand to outer right thigh.
- As you inhale, keep lengthening up through your spine. As you exhale rotate a little more to the right. Be sure the twist comes from your navel, not your head.
- Stay for 4 to 5 deep breaths, then return to center and repeat on the other side.
Seated Forward Fold
- Scoot your chair back from the desk a bit or turn it to one side.
- From the Seated Posture keep your hips heavy and begin folding your torso towards your legs.
- Fold over your legs as much as possible, letting your arms and head hang. Direct your breath into your lower back.
- Stay here for 5 to 6 deep breaths, then slowly return to the Seated Posture.
You can return to work if need be, or move onto Sequence B if you have a longer break.
Sequence B – Standing
- Stand next to the side of your chair.
- Press down firmly through the balls and heels of your feet while lengthening up through the crown of your head.
- Draw your shoulders back and relax your lower back and jaw.
- Stay for 5 to 6 deep breaths.
- Turn away from your chair and step the right foot forward as far as is comfortable. Be sure that you end up with your knee over your ankle, not drifting past it.
- Stay for 3 to 4 deep breaths and then repeat on the other side, then return to Mountain.
Forward Fold Over Chair
- Stand a few feet behind your chair.
- Press down firmly through your feet, hinge at your hips and fold towards your chair.
- Bring your hands either to the back of the chair or the armrests, whichever is more comfortable.
- Stay for 5 to 6 deep breaths and slowly return to standing.
Standing Side Bend
- Inhale as you reach both arms overhead. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Grasp your left wrist with your right hand and lean over towards the right. Keep both feet planted and the hips steady.
- Stay for 3 to 4 deep breaths, return to center, and repeat on the other side.
- Come into Seated Posture in your chair.
- Bring your arms behind you and hold onto the back of the chair.
- Gently pull with your arms as you draw your chest towards the sky. Keep pressing down through your hips to open your lower back.
- Stay for 4 to 5 deep breaths.
Close with another few deep breaths in the Seated Posture.
Stretching the body increases circulation, immunity, memory, and concentration. Practicing these simple sequences in 5 or 10 minutes can help you be more focused, productive, and effective at work. Try it now and see how much better you feel after a quick Yoga break.