Here are some office-friendly yoga moves guaranteed to reduce your daily stress.
If you’re stressed out at work (and who isn’t?) and need a quick fix to get back on track, give these office-friendly, abbreviated yoga moves a try. You can do them right at your desk or around the confines of your friendly little cubicle (you might want to let your boss know what you’re up to before you try a few of these, however).
Before you start, here’s an important reminder: Don’t do these moves right after lunch; instead, allow yourself an hour or so after that turkey sandwich before you get started. Do use them when you’re feeling the pressure at work and need to reenergize and refocus. The five moves that follow, courtesy of yoga expert, Noll Daniel, are simple variations on some common yoga poses, and you can do them at your desk or using a nearby wall.
“These won’t necessarily be the exact yoga postures or asanas you would do in a class, but they’re inspired by them,” says Daniel. “The whole key to yoga is to prepare your body to sit for meditation, so these moves can be translated into helping you sit quietly and focus on your work.”
Inspired by the Eagle pose, this simple but highly effective pose opens up the shoulders and upper back (deltoids, traps, rhomboids) where extra tension is often stored. To begin, sit up straight and tall in your chair, feet planted firmly on the ground. Then, bring both elbows up in front of your chest, and tuck your left elbow in and over your right forearm. Moving your hands in an opposing, circular motion, reach with your right hand for your left thumb, and clasp your hands together. Slowly try to bring both palms together. Turn your left palm away (to the left), feeling the stretch. Switch hands and repeat. You should feel the stretch in the shoulders and upper back. As a variation, lift your arms up during the stretch, hold briefly and then return to starting. And remember to use slow, deep ujayii breath throughout.
This move will open up the heart and lungs, and help you breathe properly again. Sit upright in a sturdy chair and take a deep breath. Interlock your fingers or simply place both hands behind your neck, elbows pointing outward. Make sure the space just under the shoulder blades is above the top rim of the chair. Then lift the chest and arch your lower back, feeling the stretch as you bend back over the chair. “Backbends open up the shoulders and chest so you can breathe better and get oxygen back into your system,” says Daniel, “helping you relax, revitalize and energize.”
To begin, keep your hands behind your neck, feet about shoulder width apart on the floor. Slowly lower your entire upper body, down between your legs, and hang there, elbows together, and breathe deeply. Or try this as a variation: While in the lowered position, interlock your fingers together behind your back, palms together, and then raise your hands up toward the sky, gently pressing them overhead, stretching your arms and back. “This helps you get more blood to your head to release any pressure,” says Daniel, “while it simultaneously opens up the shoulders and back.”
Down Dog (Wall)
Stand facing a wall, about arm’s length away. Place your palms against a wall (or you can use the top edge of a cubicle) at shoulder height and then pull your hips back as you lower your chest and shoulders toward the floor. Feel the stretch in your shoulders, upper and lower back and spine. “This move opens the rib cage and shoulder blades, another area where stress accumulates,” says Daniel.
Standing Inversion (Wall)
Feel self-conscious doing a traditional headstand at your desk? Okay, that’s very understandable (unless you have a very open minded office!). This move follows the same idea as a headstand, but you don’t have to stand on your head to get the benefits. Face the wall with your feet about a foot away, and slowly bend forward (with knees bent), and let your upper back make gentle contact against the wall. Then let your body weight sink into the wall, straighten out your legs slowly and feel the stretch. “This is also great for getting blood flow back to your head,” says Daniel, “and relieving pressure on the internal organs and spinal column. The back of neck elongates as you clear your mind of the clutter.”