If you’re working from home as a result of COVID-19, you’re probably working at a different desk and in a different chair, or maybe you managed to snaffle your office chair in the boot of your car before lock down. Either way you might be experiencing various aches and pains as a result of sitting down for a long period of time. Our resident Yoga Instructor, Hollie Costigan has shared five of her favourite yoga poses and movements to do at your desk that will help to ease tension.
TOP TIP: If you want to add an extra boost of mindfulness, then simply pay attention to your breathing. Some of the poses work especially well when you co-ordinate them with the breath, this in turn helps to calm our nervous system and be more present in the moment. You might even find that after a few minutes of practising you have a little more clarity of thought and that daunting task you’ve been putting off for days might all of a sudden seem that little bit easier.
Seated Cat Cow
If you’re a regular at your local yoga class then you’ll be familiar with Cat/Cow which is usually practised on hands and knees. It’s the same principal here but we do it seated.
- Sit towards the front edge of your chair with both feet on the floor for support
- Have your hands on your thighs or, for extra ‘oomph’ interlace your fingers behind your back
- As you breathe in, lift your chest, arching your spine forward and move your hands down the back of your body
- As you breathe out, relax your arms and let your chest and spine round forwards
- Repeat this for 5-10 breaths
This is such a simple movement but really starts to get your upper spine moving and this is the area that gets stiff when we sit too long. It also helps to stretch the muscles at the front of the shoulders and chest which are the ones responsible for that rounded / hunched position we all get.
Another super easy one and great for spinal mobility to keep your back healthy.
- Again sit forwards towards the front edge of your chair and have both feet on the floor
- As you inhale sit up tall and lengthen your spine
- As you exhale turn your upper body to the right, rotating your spine and keeping the legs forward
- Focus on finding movement through each part of your spine rather than just turning your shoulder and head
- Inhale return back to the start position
- Repeat this three times on the right side and then give it a try on the left side
This is pure and simple rotation of your spine, another one to get the joints moving and is fantastic if you can do it regularly regardless of whether you sit at a desk or not.
All that furious tapping out emails on your keyboard, coupled with mouse scrolling plays havoc with our wrist joints and anyone who’s ever suffered with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in their wrists will understand.
- Sit comfortably on your chair and lift your arms out in front of you
- Breathe in and lift your fingers up so the backs of your hands are towards your face
- Breathe out and point your hands down so that that the palms face towards you
- Repeat this 3-5 times and enjoy the stretch in the hands and wrists
To give this an extra boost, make soft fists with your hands and circle the wrists clock-wise and anticlockwise.
For a lot of us, our neck and upper shoulders are the main place where tension lies from sitting at a desk and when your shoulders start to ache, it's probably due to the fact you haven't moved enough that day.
These small movements help to stretch the muscles around the neck as well as into the top of the shoulders and the trapezius muscle in particular.
- Start sitting comfortably with your spine long,
- Inhale as you face forwards and on the exhale turn your head to look over your right shoulder,
- Inhale turn your head to look forwards and exhale turn your head to look left,
- Do this a few times to each side. You may want to pause for an extra breath on each side to hold the stretch.
- Taking this on a step; try turning your head to look right and then start to slowly semi-circle the head down (chin to chest) until you look over your left shoulder and then reverse that movement back to the right shoulder.
This last movement gives a wonderful stretch into the top of the shoulders and back of the neck which is so helpful for relieving tension in those areas.
Seated Hamstring stretch with ankle turns
So far all the movements have been focused on the upper body but it’s important not to forget the lower body so here’s a really lovely seated hamstring stretch with the added bonus of building in ankle movements which is great for boosting blood circulation in your legs.
- Sit forward a little on your chair, both feet on the floor
- Straighten out your right leg in front of you, interlacing your hands behind your thigh for support
- Push through your heel to enhance the stretch and hold for three breaths
- Lower the right leg and rest for a moment before lifting up for a second time
- This time try pointing and flexing your foot at the ankle a few times as well as circling the foot (just like we did with the wrists earlier)
- Rest the right leg down and repeat on the left side
This whole sequence should take no more than a few minutes and you can do as much or as little as you like but we'd recommend doing it all a couple of times a day as well as getting up from your desk and having a walk every hour or so.