Sitting at a desk all day can leave you stiff, achy and even tired, especially if you tend to slouch against the back of the chair. Postural support muscles become weak, hips and hamstrings become tight, your spine is rounded out of its natural alignment, and your breath is shallow because your lungs are not able to fully expand. Try this simple flow when you get home to realign your spine, release tense muscles and help you relax and revive your mind.
Standing Forward Bend, Ragdoll Variation
This posture helps release tight low backs and hamstrings. Gravity and the weight of your head naturally release your neck muscles, preventing or alleviating tension headaches. Dropping your the head below your heart is calming for your mind.
Stand with your feet hip-bone width apart. Bend your knees generously and fold forward until your ribs rest on your thighs. You can straighten the knees as long as the ribs remain on the thighs. Fold your arms and let them hang, and let your head hang, focusing on relaxing your neck muscles. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Make sure your ribs are resting on your thighs, no matter how much you have to bend your knees, otherwise you put too much pressure on your lower back.
- As you get into the posture, if you have trouble releasing the neck, then nod your head yes and shake it no a few times to encourage the neck muscles to release.
- If you would like an extra shoulder opener, you can add chest expansion. Interlace your fingers behind your back (or hold a strap between the hands) and bring your arms toward the floor overhead.
Encourage your mind to let go of your day and stay focused on the sensations in your body and your breath.
Standing Mountain with Chest Expansion
This deceptively simple pose strengthens your thighs and core and helps improve your posture. Adding a chest expansion opens up the shoulders and chest.
Stand with your feet together, big toes touching and second toes parallel to one another, heels a bit apart. Engage your quadriceps so your kneecaps gently lift up towards your hip bones. Engage your core muscles to draw your belly button up and in. Lift your ribs away from your hips, feeling length through the spine, and reach the crown of the head towards the sky. Interlace your fingers behind your back, straighten your arms and reach the knuckles down toward the floor, trying to bring the palms together to touch. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths.
- If your elbows won’t straighten or you are not able to interlace your fingers at all, hold a yoga strap between your hands with enough distance that you can straighten your arms.
- If you would like more opening in the shoulders, lift your straight arms away from your body behind you, without bending forward or lifting the shoulders up toward the ears.
- Make sure your elbows don’t hyperextend. If you are prone to hyperextension, keep the biceps gently engaged to keep a small bend in the elbows.
- This is a great posture to do DURING your workday, too! Take a brief stand up break several times a day; your body will thank you!
Low Lunge lengthens the hip flexors, which get tight from sitting in a chair all day.
From hands and knees, bring your right foot forward to a lunge position. Bring the right knee directly above the ankle. Extend the left leg behind you and let it rest on the floor. Allow your hips to sink down toward the floor. Support yourself with your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot. Stay for 5-10 deep breaths, then repeat with the left foot forward.
- If your hands don’t easily reach the floor, place a yoga block under each hand.
- If you would like to make the posture more intense, instead of bending forward, bring your shoulders directly on top of your hips and bring your hands or forearms to your front thigh, or for still more intensity, reach your arms straight up from the shoulders to the sky. You can also tuck your back toes under (still leaving your knee on the floor) for a deeper posture.
- If your back knee is uncomfortable, place it on a folded blanket for support.
This posture opens tight hips and can help improve low back pain.
Lie on your back with your feet on the floor close to your pelvis and hip-bone width apart, knees up in the air. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, then reach your right and between your thighs and your left hand around your left thigh and interlace your fingers on your left shin. Gently draw the left knee toward your chest while trying to keep the right shin parallel to your ribs. Let your head and spine rest on the floor. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the left.
- If you are not able interlace your fingers on your shin, you can interlace them on your hamstring, or loop a strap around your shin and hold one end in each hand.
- Avoid pain in the knee joint. If you feel pain in the knee, release some of the depth of the posture until you feel no pain in the knee.
- Keep your head on the floor and your neck long. If your head lifts or the back of your neck arches up, release some of the depth of the posture.
This posture is the opposite of your desk-slouch. It helps prevent your “desk posture” from becoming your permanent posture by bringing the spine into extension. It releases tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back, and helps the lungs to function more efficiently.
Sit on the floor and place a yoga block at low or medium level, a rolled up blanket, a foam roller or a rolled up towel behind you. Lie down so that your upper back rests on your prop, with the bottom tips of the shoulder blades barely spilling over the edge of the prop. Rest your arms straight out from your shoulders, palms facing up, and let your head rest on the floor. Extend your legs straight forward from the hips and allow them to rest. Breathe slowly and deeply for 3-5 minutes.
- If your head doesn’t comfortably and easily reach the floor, place another prop under your head, or use less of a prop under your upper spine.
- If you would like a deeper release of the shoulders, fold the arms and bring them toward the floor overhead. Make sure to switch the fold of the arms halfway through so the other arm is on top and your shoulders get equal attention. If you get tingling in your fingers or arms, you may be compressing nerves and need to move your arms an easier variation.
- For an extra hip opener, bring the soles of your feet together and knees apart wide, taking reclining butterfly (supta baddha konasana) with the legs.
- You can substitute a rolled up towel or a foam roller if you don’t have a yoga block or blanket.
Twists are great for neutralizing the spine and wringing out your workday. They create flexibility in the spine from bottom to top, and are also very stimulating to the digestive system.
Lie on your back. Bring your right knee directly on top of your hip, and extend your left leg out on your mat. Use your left hand to draw your right knee across your body to the floor on your left, then twist your upper spine to your right, reaching your right arm out from the shoulder at a 45 degree angle up from the shoulder, palm facing up. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then repeat the twist to your left.
- If you want a gentler twist, place your bent knee on a block, blanket or bolster for support.
- Try to keep your extended arm on the floor for this twist variation. It is okay if your knee is off the floor, but use the opposite hand to draw it close to the floor. If your arm comes off the floor before you are getting to the depth you want in the twist, place the arm on a blanket or block for support.
It is very important to give both your mind and your body permission to rest after a busy workday. Try not to take the stresses and events of your day into savasana with you. Encourage your mind to let go of your day and stay focused on the sensations in your body and your breath.
Lie on your back. Bring your feet about mat-width apart, and let the thighs roll apart from each other. Bring your arms about 12-24 inches away from your side with the palms facing up. Softly close your eyes, and allow your body to completely rest for 5-10 minutes.
- If you have low back or knee pain in savasana, place a yoga bolster or a rolled up blanket under your thighs.
- A yoga sandbag across the pelvis just below the line of the hip bones feels very grounding.
- An eyebag over your eyes helps release and soften trembling/busy eyelids and helps you avoid “squeezing” your eyes shut.