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Chair Yoga - Workout at Your Desk
A growing body of research documents how important it is for people with desk jobs to move frequently throughout the day. Finding a quick way to be active even while remaining at one’s desk may seem like an impossible task. However, it is possible to do by learning some of the following chair yoga poses that can be done while sitting at one’s desk. Here are several poses, from basic to more advanced, that will leave you feeling relaxed and reinvigorated.
Deep yogic breathing centers mind and body and helps you get present and ready for your yoga practice. Deep breathing while seated is quite simple. Sit with your spine straight without using the back rest, feet on the floor (you can use a yoga block or book for your feet if they don’t reach the floor).
The trick to encourage deep breathing, is to exhale more fully: While holding the hands over your ribs, take a deep breath in through the nose, then exhale slowly, focusing on drawing the navel to the spine as you expel the air completely. Then allow your lungs to fill completely from the bottom to the top. Repeat for five breaths or for as long as is comfortable.
Sun breath is a variation of deep breathing. Again, sitting with your spine straight, inhale and raise the arms horizontally to each side; then raise them straight up in the air until the palms touch. Exhale, and lower the arms to the side. Repeat for five to eight breaths.
During an exhalation, slowly tilt the head towards your right shoulder. Rest for two to three breaths, allowing the neck muscles to slowly relax. Repeat to the other side. Come back to center, turn your head to look out over your right shoulder. Hold for two to three breaths, allowing the head to slowly deepen into the stretch. Repeat other side. Neck stretches should not cause pain.
Cat and Cow Stretches
This stretch can be especially relaxing for those who spend a great amount of each day in an office chair. With both feet flat on the floor, round the back during an inhalation, dropping the shoulders and the head towards the chest. Keep both hands resting on the thighs. This is the cow stretch. On the exhalation, arch the back, pulling the shoulders as far back as possible. This is the cat stretch. Do this four more times.
The forward bend, or Uttanasana, helps to relax the lower back muscles. As you exhale, move your chest towards the thighs, bending down as far as possible with your spine straight. Keeping the spine straight is more important than how far down you bend. As you inhale, slowly stretch back up while reaching the hands as high as possible over the head. Repeat this pose four more times.
Warrior poses are particularly great for stretching the inner thighs. In this pose, or Virabhadrasana I, begin by sitting on the chair sideways. The left leg should be stretched behind the chair while the right leg should be flat on the floor with the knee at a ninety degree angle over the ankle. With the torso straight, raise the arms straight up during an inhalation. Hold this pose for three breaths. For extra challenge, engage the legs to lift up from the chair. Repeat two more times; then, repeat on the other side.
This pose, also known as Virabhadrasana II, is similar to Warrior I. However, in this pose, the arms come up on either side to be parallel to the floor while the torso faces forward. Look out over the front arm, and hold for three breaths. For extra challenge, engage the legs to lift up from the chair. Repeat two more times; then, repeat on the other side.
The spinal twist is also done while sitting sideways in the chair. Sit with a straight spine, and then slowly turn your whole torso left, as if looking over the back of the chair. Put your hands in a comfortable position on the back of the chair and use this as a gentle lever. During the inhalation, lengthen the spine as much as possible. During the exhalation, twist the spine as far as possible without causing pain. Do this for five breaths; repeat the pose on the other side.
Doing two or three of these poses a couple times each day as you sit at your desk is a great way to reenergize your body and mind. You will feel the difference in energy and well-being and you will get more done throughout the day. Once you establish a routine of doing chair yoga, and you begin to feel the difference, it’s easy to keep going.
Mark Carol is a health writer for Assisted Living Today, which is a leading resource for finding health care tips for aging adults, and Cleveland, OH Care Homes.