It’s a well-known fact that sitting too much in any capacity can be unhealthy, but with certain exercises, some of the effects of sitting can be lessened through — you guessed it —yoga. According to a study conducted by the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who sit at desk jobs all day were found to be twice as likely to die early, even with regular exercise. This ancient mind and body practice provides some easy positions that help strengthen and lengthen your muscles and tissue that become tight or unused during your work day. Even if you are committed to your daily workouts, try adding a few of these simple moves to help lessen the effects of a seated position on your body.
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Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This pose can be easily modified depending on how flexible your hips are, and gives the same kind of soothing stretch that Thread the Needle offers, but throughout your back. Start seated, and you can either bend forward over your knees or spread your knees out, keeping toes together. Lay your forehead on the ground and use your fingers to crawl your arms forward, stretching your back even further.
Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)
One of my all-time favorites, this position stretches the shoulder blades and upper back, which hold you upright and keep your posture intact. Start in child’s pose (see above!), and reach your left arm high above your shoulder. Then, prop yourself up slightly and thread your left arm across your body underneath you, under your right arm. Use your fingers to crawl your left arm away from you, as far as you can until you feel the stretch of your shoulder blade. Repeat on the other side.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Savasana)
This totally holistic pose lengths your spine and hamstrings (two large areas of your body that don’t get much work in a chair), and really activates the side muscles around your chest that often become tight and hunched. Come into this “V” shape by planting heels and hands to the floor (shoulder and hip distance apart) and pushing up through your hips. Adjust your stance if necessary — pedal out your feet one by one, rock slightly forwards and back, feeling the movement of the stretch.
Cat & Cow Pose (Marjaryasana & Bitilasana)
This is a simple but effective move that opens up your back. Start on all fours, and round your back up to the sky, pulling chin to chest, reaching in between your shoulder blades as high as you can away from the floor. To perform the opposite pose, arch your back and stick your butt up to the sky as high as you can, getting a second stretch in your back.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
This move opens up the chest and neck area that don’t see much movement throughout the day, and helps to release muscle tension from hunching over. Start standing up, arms reaching high, with pinky fingers turned in, (the important step here is to not let your shoulders creep up to your ears!). Next, bend your elbows out and stretch back ever so slightly, to look like a football goalpost. Take huge, deep breaths here to feel your chest open up.
Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
My other all-time favorite position that feels delicious on your spine, lower back, and hips (yes, yoga positions can be delicious!). Start laying down with legs and arms flat, then bend your left knee towards your chest, and gently guide it across your body to the right, making sure your left shoulder stays grounded to the floor. Breath into the lower back space and stay in this pose as long as your body allows, then switch sides.