Working at a desk all day can leave you achy and stressed, but yoga can help you deal with that -- and for some yoga exercises you don't even have to get out of your chair.
Celebrity yoga and pilates instructor Kristin McGee, Fila's yoga ambassador, shared some simple moves you can practice at your desk.
Eagle Arms (And legs)
When we sit at our desk all day long we hold tension in our shoulders. Sit erect and place your arms in front of you at a 90 degree angle. Cross your arms so that the right arm is above the left. Interlock your arms and press your palms together with the tips of your fingers pointed upwards. If you can't press your palms you can always just press the back of your hands together. Feel yourself contracting. Take three to five breaths if you can. Feel yourself contracting. This pose strengthens triceps, shoulders, and back muscles. It's a good preventative measure against carpal tunnel syndrome. For your legs, simply cross your legs and interlock them with one foot behind the other.
Lotus is the traditional seat for mediation. You can just sit comfortably in your desk chair, with your neck and spine straight and erect, to begin to calm your brain. Place your hands palms up, with the thumbs and first fingers touching. If practical in the office setting, practice crossing your legs to build up the Lotus position. This will help free your spine from the stress of sitting at your desk all day. Traditional Sanskrit texts say that "Padmasana." Or Lotus destroys all disease. Note: Lotus is a two-sided pose, so be sure to practice both leg crosses.
Sit erect, clasp your hands, and extend your arms forward. Turn the palms away from you and raise your arms until the palms face the ceiling. Stretch and feel yourself growing taller as you reduce the stress in your head, neck and shoulders. This posture lengthens your sides. If you want, add to this posture by bending your arms to each side.
Place your palms on the arm of your chair and turn your chest and abdomen to the right, moving your left shoulder forward and your right shoulder back. Expand your chest fully and feel yourself detoxifying. Twists are great for the spine, your abdominals, and the obliques. Repeat on the other side.
There's a wrong way to do the twist, if you let your knees follow. You need to keep your knees straight. The goal is to try to keep the seat stable and to twist the spine and waist only. Your knees should face forward and your feet should be nice and grounded. Don't overuse your arms, keep it relaxed. The goal is to be very relaxed in the shoulder. Twists are great for the love handle area. They're known as detoxifiers -- you're detoxing stress, the internal organs, it's basically a massage for abdominal organs, like you're wringing out the stress. I think this is one of the most beneficial moves.
Put your hands on your chair, take your left foot back, and sink into a low lunge. This is a great stretch for the hamstrings and it also strengthens the glutes and the psoas muscle group. Repeat on the other side.
Thread the Needle
Sit in your chair and cross your right leg over your left knee. Flex both feet and lift them off the floor. "Thread the needle" by clasping your hands around your left leg, just under your knee. This posture stretches hip rotators, outer thighs, and relieves tension in the lower back. Be sure to reverse sides.
This is a great one for the hips and outer buttocks, McGee said. When we sit at our desk all day long we get really tense in there. This can effect pain in your lower back.
Here's an easier option if that pose is too difficult: Instead of threading the needle and lifting the bottom foot off the floor. Keep the bottom foot on the floor and lean forward you can even put your hands on the desk in front of you. When you lean forward you get the stretch in your outer hip.
Place your palms on the arms of your chair and cross your legs at your ankles. Exhale, contract your abdominal muscles, and lift your buttocks and legs away from the floor. Hold yourself suspended for five to eight full breaths. Lower yourself, change the cross of your legs, and repeat the motion. If you can't lift yourself, change the cross of your legs, and repeat the motion. It you can't lift yourself, start with your buttocks and add the feet as you build strength. This posture strengthens your arms and lower abs.
It's a great way to get in touch with your lower abs. It's also a nice way to relieve tension because you have to concentrate.
Before returning to work, give yourself a few minutes to relax. After all, in yoga, for every action, there is a reaction. This relaxing pose is so simple, but is very effective in reducing stress in your facial muscles and helping to prevent fatigue. Simply cross your arms and place them on the surface in front of you. Then rest your head on your crossed arms.
So now that you're finished with your mid day yoga session, now you are more than ready to go ahead and tackle the rest of your work day with ease -- conference calls and all!
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