Most of us spend a lot of time at our desks, both at home and work. Sitting for prolonged periods of time cause our spines to slouch into a C-shape producing poor posture and resulting in back, neck and shoulder pain. A healthy spine has a slight S-shape and our bodies were built to be in motion more than sit in a chair. Our bodies are designed for motion rather than remain sedentary. In addition, improper ergonomics also compound the problem. Leaning too far forward to look at a computer monitor or having your chair above or below the desktop or slouching can cause neck and back aches, stiffness and cartilage compression. Your muscles are constantly working to maintain your spine in alignment. When you are able to stretch your muscles, the tension is released from the spine and is also very energizing.
Maintaining good posture allows you to take fuller breaths as the muscles around the lungs are stretched. This boosts productivity and improves both concentration and focus. For those of us who can’t get to a yoga studio, there are some simple yet effective exercises that can be done when you can’t leave your desk.
1. Seated Spinal Twist. This pose is helpful in releasing back tension that collects when you’re holding a seated position for several hours. Place your feet on the floor and elongate your spine aligning the crown of your head with your tailbone. Next, cross your right leg over your left while you exhale, twist from the lower belly towards the top leg, allowing the upper body to follow. Hold the pose on each side for 30 seconds to one minute.
2. Forward Bend. Sitting towards the front edge of your chair, place your feet slightly wider than your hips so your shoulders can fit between your knees. For those with less flexibility or a sensitive lower back, lean forward, resting your forearms on your knees and elongate the spine into a half-forward bend. If you can go further, drop your shoulders between your knees, so your head hangs toward the floor. Forward bending brings fresh oxygen to the brain and puts some needed space in the rear section of the spinal disks.
3. Hands Alive. This pose is a variation on the upward facing salute. It stretches your shoulders and armpits, helps relieve mild anxiety and improves circulation in the back and arms. Sit tall, pushing your pelvic bones into the chair. Imagine a string is attached to the top of your head that gently lifts the crown up, putting space between your vertebrate. Inhale and raise your arms towards the ceiling with your palms facing each other. Make sure to relax your shoulders away from your ears. Spread your fingers wide and then close them into fists six times. Keep your spine long and make sure your rib cage isn’t jutting out. Exhale and bring your hands down.
4. “I dream of Genie.” Sit straight in your chair and fold your arms at shoulder height like a genie, keeping your torso stable. Swing your arms from one side to the other in that position, keeping your ribcage and spine stable. Everyone has tight thoracic spinal muscles, rhomboids and para-spinals that run along the spine between the shoulder blades. This pose breaks up tension in these muscles.
~ courtesy of Touchstone Business Advisors, Golden Colorado.
You may also be interested in the following yoga books we offer: