Yoga sequencing

The Opposite of Sitting: A Quick Yoga Sequence to Reverse the Effects of Sitting Too Much

By: 
Leah Sugerman

Sitting is the new smoking. We’ve all heard it before. Yet, few of us take heed of this foreboding notion.

Excessive sitting can wreak havoc on our bodies. From overly tight hips to dangerously weak gluteal muscles to chronic back pain, excessive sitting does the body absolutely no good.

Luckily, yoga can greatly influence our habits—so that we learn to take better care of our bodies!—and can also help to alleviate the side effects of over-sitting.

A Quick 10-Minute Yoga Sequence to Reverse the Effects of Over-Sitting

The following is a short but sweet yoga sequence to begin to unravel and undo the damage that over-sitting can create in your body. You can practice this sequence at the beginning of your day, on a quick work break, or anytime that you can squeeze in 10 minutes of movement.

 

Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose)

This yoga pose helps to release tight outer hips (a very common side effect of excessive sitting).     

  1. Start seated on your mat. (You may wish to elevate your hips by sitting up onto a block, bolster, or pillow to get more comfortable).

  2. Draw your right shin parallel to the top of your mat and dorsiflex your ankle (draw your toes toward your shin).

  3. Place your left shin slightly in front of your right one so that your left knee stacks just on top of your right knee and dorsiflex your left ankle as well.

  4. Elongate your spine by stretching the crown of your head toward the sky and rooting your sit bones toward the earth.

  5. Relax your arms into a place of comfort.

  6. You may wish to stay as you are or, to intensify the stretch, you can lead with your chest as you fold forward over your legs.

  7. Hold for about 30 seconds and then switch sides.

 

Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow Poses)

These simple opposing postures work to warm-up and articulate your full spine to help alleviate tension and strain that may exist from over-sitting. 

  1. From Fire Log Pose, cross your ankles and roll forward onto all fours.

  2. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.

  3. Spread your fingers wide and evenly space between them. Ground down firmly into all four corners of your palms and ever so slightly grip at the mat with your fingertips.

  4. As you inhale, soften and release your belly toward the floor. Draw your shoulder blades toward each other and peel open your chest as you slingshot your heart forward toward the top of your mat. Ever so slightly, lift your gaze so that your neck moves in the same arc as the rest of your spine.

  5. As you exhale, press firmly into your palms and round your back body. Hug your navel toward your spine and draw your shoulder blades apart from each other. Gaze toward your belly button.

  6. Flow between these two poses following the rhythm of your breath for about one minute.       

 

Bharmanasana Variation (Fire Hydrants)

These simple hip rolls articulate the entire hip joint to bring fresh movement to muscles and tissues that are otherwise dormant and underused when sitting.    

  1. From Cat/Cow, return to a neutral Tabletop Pose.

  2. Elongate your spine by reaching the crown of your head to the top of your mat and lengthening your tailbone in the opposite direction.

  3. As you inhale, lift your right leg open toward the right side of your mat with your knee bent to about 90 degrees (as if you were a dog peeing on a fire hydrant).

  4. Trace clockwise circles with your knee, making the circles as wide as you can to stimulate and lubricate all of the crevices of your hip joint. After 15 seconds, switch your circles to move counterclockwise.

  5. Repeat this pose on the opposite side and then return to a neutral Tabletop.

 

Walking Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

This ubiquitous yoga pose is amazing for lengthening the back body and specifically stretching and releasing the hamstrings, which are passively shortened by sitting.     

  1. From Tabletop, walk your hands forward about one palm’s distance.

  2. Ground down firmly into your palms, tuck your toes underneath, lift your knees off the floor, and stretch your sit bones toward the sky to come into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

  3. Readjust your positioning as needed to find more length in your back body (you may also wish to bend your knees to get more comfortable).

  4. On an inhalation, bend deeply into your right knee and stretch your left leg toward straight. Hold for three deep breaths and then switch sides.

  5. Continue flowing and “walking your dog” for one minute to awaken and release your hamstrings.  

  6. Return to a neutral Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

 

Adho Mukha Svanasana Variation (Crouching Tiger)

This variation of Downward-Facing Dog Pose adds a side body stretch as well as an outer hip stretch, which both feel amazing after sitting too much.     

  1. From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, roll onto the pinky side of your right foot and the big toe side of your left foot with your feet staggered and hip-distance apart.

  2. Bend deeply into both of your knees and lean your hips toward the right side of your mat so you squat low toward the floor. Continue pressing evenly into both hands.

  3. Hold for 5 breaths as you elongate your side body and then switch to the opposite side.

  4. Continue flowing between Crouching Tiger on both sides for one minute.

  5. Return to a neutral Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

 

Anjaneyasana Variation (The Opposite-of-Sitting Lunge)  

As you can probably discern from its name, this asana is the ultimate yoga posture to relieve the effects of over-sitting as it places your hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings in the opposite position that sitting does for some much-needed relief after sitting too much.    

  1. From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, inhale to lift your right leg to the sky.

  2. As you exhale, step your right foot forward and place it directly between your hands.

  3. Soften your back knee to the floor, untuck your toes, and prop your hands up onto blocks on their highest height setting.

  4. Keeping your back toes untucked (with the top of your foot pressing firmly into the floor), hug your belly in and up, and lift your back knee off the mat.

  5. Elongate your spine and become light on your hands (or even fingertips). Actively lift your torso away from the floor and oppose this by relaxing your hips toward the mat.

  6. Hold for one minute and then release your back knee to the floor again for Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose).

 

 Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits Pose)

This yoga posture is another great release for the tight hamstrings that result from excessive sitting.      

  1. From Low Lunge Pose with your left leg back, shift the weight of your hips back to align over your left knee. Walk your blocks slightly closer toward your body.

  2. Straighten your right leg as much as it feels comfortable for your hamstrings and dorsiflex your ankle. Energetically press your heel into the floor and magnetize your heel toward your sit bones.

  3. Elongate your spine and either stay as you are or lead with your chest to fold forward over your right leg.

  4. Hold for 30 seconds and then return to Downward-Facing Dog Pose to repeat this mini-sequence (including the Opposite-of-Sitting Lunge) with your left leg forward and then finish back in Downward-Facing Dog Pose.

 

Supported Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

This posture is great for expanding the chest and relieving strain from the upper back and shoulders that tend to hunch forward when we sit a lot.     

  1. From Downward-Facing Dog Pose, release your knees to the floor, sit back onto your heels, and surrender the weight of your torso over your legs for a brief Balasana (Child’s Pose). Hold for five deep breaths.

  2. Slowly roll up to sit, release your hips to one side, and stretch your legs forward in front of you.

  3. Place two blocks on any height setting that feels appropriate and lengthwise on your mat behind you (so that they run parallel to the short edge of the mat).

  4. Slowly release your back onto the blocks. Let the bottom of the first block support the bottom of your shoulder blades and extend your heart skyward. Let the second block support the back of your head, creating length in your neck.

  5. Relax your arms into any place of comfort: down by your sides, open wide into a T-shape, or reaching up overhead.

  6. Relax the weight of your torso and head onto the blocks and surrender in this gentle heart opener as you subtly stretch the tissues of your chest.

  7. Hold for two minutes or more if you have the time.

Sit Less, Practice Yoga More

Although sitting all the time can be quite tempting (because it is seemingly relaxing), it can actually be quite detrimental to our bodies. The excessive contraction of some tissues and the underuse of others create inconsistencies and imbalances in the body.

Yoga is a great tool to counter the effects of over-sitting. So, the next time you’re feeling tired after a long day of sitting at your work desk and are craving a veg-out session sitting on the couch, reconsider. A brief yoga sequence (such as the one above) will do your body—and your mind!—a lot more good.

So, try to sit a little bit less and maybe even practice yoga a bit more. Your body will likely thank you for it in the long run!

Interested in teaching Restorative Yoga? Study with Judith Hanson Lasater and YogaUOnline - Teaching Restorative Yoga: Nourish Revitalize and Rebalance Your Spirit.

Leah SugermanLeah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice and teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.

 

 

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