Sedentary office jobs take a toll on the body
The increased efficiency accrued by automating mundane repetitive tasks has freed our minds for more complex thinking. However, there has also been a cost to human health due to the more sedentary nature of knowledge work. Sitting at a desk for four to eight hours daily can leave us with physical tension and pain in the form of sore lower backs, stiff necks, tight shoulders and hips, or carpal tunnel in our wrists.
Inserting a yoga pose every 30 minutes into your workday is also a great way to build your own home or office yoga practice. Regularly rebooting your body and mind in this way will enhance your mental focus and thus your productivity while improving your circulation and calming your nervous system. Simply substitute your office chair for a stacking chair as demonstrated in each of the poses below. But first things first, practise sitting in your chair with proper alignment. That is, sit with your sit bones closer to the front edge of your chair and think about lengthening your spine up and out the crown of your head while your pelvis (waist to sit bones) drops heavily into the chair. Place your heels under your knees and avoid crossing your legs. Also, avoid dropping your head forward while working or keyboarding to prevent ‘tech neck’ and other types of pain and stiffness. Training your muscles to support a pain-free seated posture is more than half the battle in the war against physical decline.
As well as practising the postures below or other chair yoga postures, take regular breaks to do even simple and gentle stretches such as neck rolls and overhead arm stretches, or clasp your hands behind your back and stretch your hands away from your shoulders.
Don’t forget to practise safely by removing heels or tight jackets that restrict your movement and selecting a chair without wheels.
Action: the following poses stretch your body in all directions. Move into each pose until you feel a sensation of stretch that you can be with and breathe into for an extended length of time.
SALAMBA ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (Supported downward facing dog pose)
Place a chair with its back against the wall. Place your palms fully onto the chair (the sticky mat is there to stop your hands from sliding). Walk back and extend from your hands through your arms, spine and legs. Hold for five to 20 breaths, then walk back toward the chair and come to standing. Repeat two more times or until five minutes has expired.
PARIVRTTA TRIKONASANA (Revolved triangle pose)
Place the front feet of your chair on your mat or a non-slippery surface. Step your left foot forward a comfortable distance. Both front hip bones are pointing forward. Turn your back foot out slightly and keep your front foot pointing forward. (Having your back heel into the wall is not absolutely needed but it is a good reminder to keep extending into your heel.) Inhale, lengthen your spine out the crown of your head as you raise your right arm to the ceiling. Exhale and bend forward at the left hip crease. Place your right hand onto the chair seat and twist your rib cage to the left (toward the chair). Hold for five to 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, untwist, place both hands on your hips and press into your feet to stand. Repeat to the other side. Repeat two more times or until five minutes has expired.
SALAMBA KURMASANA (Supported turtle pose)
Sit at the back of the chair. Step your feet outside the front feet of the chair or a comfortable distance apart with your toes pointing in the same direction as your thighs. Exhale and fold forward. If your hands do not reach the crossbar, rest them on the floor or on a height such as a book. If your forward bending is limited, rest your forearms onto your thighs. Release your head feeling the stretch along your spine. Hold for five to 20 breaths, then slowly curl the spine upright and relax into the back of the chair. Repeat two more times or until five minutes has expired.
Winnipeggers Helen Maupin (www.righttojoy.com) and Candace Propp (www.natureofcontentment.com) are 500-hour certified yoga teachers and authors of the Creating Space: Yoga Actions book series. To purchase print or ebooks, please visit their websites. For Yoga Teacher Training with them and Stacy Schroder, register at www.sereneyogastudio.com.