In all things human, guest posts

This is for all the desk jockeys out there. You know who you are. Your days are spent in front of a computer – you’ve likely got tight hips, a sore low back, rounded shoulders, neck pain, wrist pain, overall poor posture, and soreness – and you know that your posture is taking a hit. You can feel the effects that your non-physical job is having on your physical body, and you know that you need to take action in order to feel better.

You have likely heard the saying that sitting is the new smoking. When those words first rang through my ears, I had to pause and really thing about them. Could it be true? No. I mean, maybe? Hmm. While being sedentary isn’t quite as harmful as inhaling carcinogenic chemicals, sitting can wreak havoc on your body.

According to Dr. Alice Chen in this Huffington Post video, the average American is sitting for 7.7 hours per day! As we sit there are many physical and physiological effects on the body.

Side effects of sitting include:

  • Sore and tight muscles due to reduced circulation;
  • Low back pain due to compression of the spine;
  • Compression of your ribs, lungs, and digestive organs;
  • Over-stretching of the rhomboids and upper back muscles;
  • Neck strain;
  • Brain fog, also due to lack of circulation and getting oxygen to the brain.

Now that we know some of the nasty side effects that can happen from too much sitting, let’s talk about some yoga poses that you can do to help lessen the side effects.

Hold on a second, my timer just went off, which is my reminder to get up and move. So, how about if you close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths? This will give you a moment to connect to your breath, and will also give me time to stand and stretch.

Thanks! Ok, I’m back. Experts recommend that we take a break from sitting and get up and move. In this TODAY article, Keith Diaz – a lead author at Columbia University Medical Center – suggests movement every 30 minutes, even if it is just for 60 seconds. You can set a timer or your phone to remind you to get up and move. You might take a lap around your office, fill up your water glass, or just stand and fold over your legs, which will also help your spine to decompress.

Here are 5 yoga poses that will help counter the effects of sitting. It won’t take you long to get through all of these, so no more excuses, get moving. NOW!

  1. Cow/Cat

These two poses help to bring movement into the spine, open up the chest, and unite movement and breath.

  • Come to a tabletop position, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your toes can be tucked (as shown) or untucked.
  • As you inhale, soften your belly towards the earth. Widen your collar bones as you pull your heart through your shoulders and look up. Let your sitting bones widen apart and point up towards the space behind you.
  • As you exhale, push the earth away from you. With the movement initiating from your tailbone, round through your spine as you look towards your thighs. Squeeze your belly button towards your spine as you empty the air from your lungs. Spread your shoulder blades apart. Keep your neck muscles relaxed. Create a lot of space between your chest and the earth.
  • Continue for 5 cycles of breath.

*For an added stretch through the forearms, turn your hands so your fingers are pointing towards your knees, with the heels of your hands flat on the earth. You might need to bring your hands closer to your knees. If you don’t feel a stretch, start to slowly move your hips towards your heels until you find the desired stretch.

  1. Downward Facing Dog

This pose helps to lengthen the spine, strengthen the wrists and arms, decompress
the low back, and stretch the legs.

  • Start in a tabletop position with your hands placed outer shoulder-width apart. Walk your hands one hand’s length forward. Align your middle fingers to point straight ahead while spreading the fingers wide.
  • Connect the base of each finger to the ground and then press down through the fingertips and heel of the hand. Be sure to keep the outside edges of your index fingers pressing into the earth and not peeling away from it.
  • Tuck your toes, lift your knees and draw your sitting bones towards the space behind you. Bring length into your spine until you are in the shape of an upside-down letter “V”. Look at your feet to be sure they are placed hip-width apart (about two fists-width between the inner edges of your feet).
  • Spin your inner elbows slightly up towards the sky until you feel your upper arm bones externally rotate and your collar bones widen. Feel the arm bones plug into your body as the shoulders draw away from your ears.
  • Keep length in the spine and feel the torso lengthen as the hips pull back. Soften the space behind the knees and reach the heels towards the ground.
  • Look forward and check to see that your hands are still connected to the earth. Keep your ears in line with your biceps and the muscles of your neck relaxed. Feel your side body muscles of your upper and mid back engage, which will help stabilize you and bring length to the spine. Strengthening these muscles helps alleviate strain on the wrists and you’ll create a sustainable Downward Dog.
  • Hold for 5 breaths.
  1. Standing Backbend

This pose helps to open the chest and strengthen the upper back body.

  • With your feet hip-distance apart, take the heels of your hands onto the backs of the hips (like you were placing your hands into pant pockets) with your fingertips pointing towards the ground.
  • Lengthen your tailbone towards the earth as your belly draws up and in.
  • Draw your inner elbows together and bring your shoulder blades closer together. This will help lift the back of the heart towards the front of the chest.
  • Draw your chin towards your throat and then lift your heart up towards the sky. Let your eyes look towards the space behind you.
  • Root through your heels and keep your hips stacked on top of your knees (so they don’t press too far forward).
  • Use your inhale breath to find expansion through your collar bones and exhale as you draw your shoulder blades closer together and open through your chest.
  • Hold for 5 breaths.
  • Use your inhale breath to slowly rise back up.
  1. Supported Bridge

This pose helps relax the hip flexors (which are often tight from sitting) as well as open
up the chest.

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent, your feet hip-width apart, and your arms by your sides.
  • Press your heels into the ground and lift your hips up towards the sky.
  • Keep the space that you have created underneath your hips, place a block (or two) underneath your sacrum (base of your spine), and then lower your hips down to the block.
  • Hold for 5 breaths.
  • Press down through your heels, lift your hips, remove the blocks, and gently lower your hips to the ground.
  1. Twist

Twists are great for overall spine health and also act as a way to naturally detoxify the
body.

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart. Reach your arms out wide.
  • Press down through your heels to lift your hips and slide them a few inches to your left, then set your hips down.
  • Let your knees gently fall to the right, bringing them towards the ground.
  • If there is space between your knees, you can place a block in between the knees or underneath the right knee.
  • Turn your head to the left as long as there is no discomfort in your neck.
  • If the twist feels too intense, press your feet away from you, which will take the knees away from the chest.
  • If you want to make the twist more intense, draw your knees closer towards your chest.
  • Hold for 5-8 breaths, longer if you like.
  • Bring your gaze back to centre, and then bring your knees and hips back to centre.
  • Repeat on the left side.

Sometimes, it is the smallest changes that can lead us to different, healthier habits. Begin to notice how your body feels when you return back to the office. As your brain and body start to communicate more effectively, you might find that your posture at work starts to improve. You might notice that your body is a bit less stiff than it used to be. Help reduce office fatigue by choosing to get up and move throughout the day, and add these simple stretches into your daily routine. Desk jockey, you’ve got this!

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