12 simple yoga poses for your work day
Have you always wanted to try yoga, can’t find the time in today’s busy and competitive world? Have you heard yoga’s a great stress buster, but think you can’t stop running long enough to take a deep breath? Then this sequence of yoga poses is for you! No matter how highly scheduled your day is, you can practice these simple yoga movements.
In between meetings and conference calls, day care and doctor’s appointments, each of these poses will draw your senses away from the outside world and help you look within to find peace and renewed energy from the moment you wake up until the end of the day.
Begin the workday yoga sequence.
Hints for Practice
Before you begin:
For all seated poses start by sitting squarely in your chair with your feet flat on the floor so that you feel your connection to the earth. If possible, take your shoes off and stretch your toes. If your feet don’t reach the floor, place a pillow or books underneath them.
In all standing poses, start with your feet firmly planted to the earth and lift up through the center of your body to the crown of your head. Always keep your chest open, draw your shoulders back, and move your shoulder blades downward, away from your neck. This is the basis of good posture.
Hold each pose for anywhere between three and five breaths, but never longer than you feel comfortable. When you release each pose you should feel that you’ve created some opening in your body, rather than pain or stress.
Rise and Shine… and Awaken Your Body!
Sitting Reed Pose
Yoga can help you greet the day even before you get out of bed.
Do This Pose: Sit on the edge of your bed. Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms up toward the ceiling, palms upward. Reaching evenly through all sides of your torso, take a deep inhale and feel your body stretch and open. Exhale and lean to your right, feeling the left side of your body stretch and wake up. Inhale back to center, then exhale and repeat to the left. Feel how stretching your spine and torso energizes you to start your day.
On Your Way: Out the Door and into the World
Centering Mountain Pose
On the bus, subway, at a red light if you are driving, even if you are going from your kitchen to your home office, take a moment to find your center.
Do This Pose: Sit or stand tall. Feel lift through the center of your body, from the base of your hips through the crown of your head. Close your eyes and let go of the sights and sounds around you. Deepen your breath and watch the flow of your inhale and exhale. Feel the quiet centering and balance that comes into your mind as your inhales and exhales become resonant and even. Once you learn centering breath, you can use it any time during the day. You can stay calm, no matter what challenges lie ahead!
Morning Stretch: Release Neck Tension
Do This Pose: Sit with your chest lifted and your eyes gazing straight ahead. Hold onto the side of the chair seat with your right hand. Lean to the left, and with an exhalation drop your left ear towards your left shoulder. Breathe into the right side of your neck and feel it stretching all the way to the right shoulder. For more stretch, take your left hand over the head, fingers resting on the right ear. Exhaling, gently apply pressure to the right side of the head. Repeat on the opposite side.
Find Some Computer Relief
Seated Cow Face Pose
Did you know that if you work at a computer, it is recommended to take a break every 15 minutes to stretch out your neck and back? Here’s an easy one:
Do This Pose: Raise your right arm and take your fingers to the nape of your neck. Then take your left arm behind your back and clasp your hands. If you can’t clasp, simply stretch your fingers towards one another Feel stretch and opening all along the right side of your shoulder girdle, and a gentle, comfortable stretch at your left shoulder. Release with an exhalation, shake your arms out, and repeat to the opposite side.
Two-for-One Upper Back and Hip Stretch
Sitting Eagle with Forward Bend
This is a quick and efficient tension buster… a massage you can give yourself!
Do This Pose: Place your right ankle on your left knee, then cross your right arm over your left arm at the elbows. Raise your forearms upward and place the fingers of the left hand to the palm of your right hand (your thumbs will be pointing toward your face). If you can’t join your hands, hold a belt. Lift your arms upward and breathe into your upper back. Now bend forward from your hips. Breathe deeply and feel tension releasing from your hips and shoulders with every exhalation.
Lunchtime: Get Ready to Eat!
Twists are one of the best ways to prepare your digestive system for a good meal.
Do This Pose: Sit with your feet and knees together. Take a deep inhale and lift up through your spine. As you exhale, turn your body to the right. Place your left hand on outer right thigh and right hand to your right. Be sure to drop your shoulder blades away from your ears. Stay for three or four breaths, lifting up through your center as you inhale and moving more deeply into the twist as you exhale. Look over your right shoulder and down toward the floor for an added neck stretch.
Re-Energize for Your Afternoon
Do This Pose: Stand in Centering Mountain Pose. If balancing on one foot is difficult for you, stand with your back against your desk or a wall. Feel your body swaying gently like a tree in a gentle wind, then finally settling into balance.
Come onto your right toes and re-balance your weight through your left leg and foot. Imagine them as strong as the trunk of a tree. Lift up your right foot and place it as high as possible against your inner left leg. Take your hands together at the center of your heart. With a sweeping inhalation reach your arms upward, your branches reaching for the sun. Feel your whole body reaching upward. Exhaling, take your arms out to the sides, and finally back together at your heart. Release the left foot to the floor, and repeat to the right.
Break Free of Afternoon Stress
Do This Pose: Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart. For support, stand against your desk or a wall. Turn your left foot slightly in and turn your right leg all the way out so that your right foot points to the right. Inhaling, stretch your arms wide apart, and with a deep long exhale bend to your right over your hips, elongating your torso to the right. Place your right hand on right leg and lift your left arm up toward the ceiling.
Feel your legs, hips, spine and arms stretching and breaking free from built-up tension! If your neck is comfortable, turn your head and look up towards the ceiling. To come out of the pose, lift your left arm strongly upward to help lift your spine up. Change your legs and repeat to the left.
Take a Breath of Fresh Air
Do This Pose: Stand tall with your feet an inch or two from the front of your desk (or a wall, countertop, or the back of a chair). Place your fingertips on your desk. Tuck your tailbone strongly in and up, and lean your hips into the desk. Press your fingertips down and with each inhale lift your spine upward, creating length for your low back. Remember to draw your shoulder blades away from your neck. Feel your chest expanding upward and outward, and drinking up each deep breath it receives. To come out, use your fingertips to press your hips away from the desk. Repeat 2-3 times.
Afternoon Break: Release Your Back
Standing Forward Bend
Do This Pose: After you’ve come out of Standing Backbend, walk your feet away from your desk until your torso and arms are parallel to the floor. You can either look forward or down at the floor, but be careful not to push your head and neck downward.
Stretch through your arms and your spine, pressing your hips away from your head. Lift your tailbone all the way up to the ceiling! If this stretch is too intense for the backs of your legs, bend your knees. This stretch should feel good to your back after a backbend, and the hamstring stretch you’ll get is an added benefit.
Rest your Weary Eyes… and Ears
This practice is called pratyhara in Sanskrit, literally translated as “turning inward” – letting go of the external world and resting in the pure peace of the inner self.
Do This Pose: Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Remove eyeglasses if you wear them. Place your hands with your palms facing your face, the tips of your middle fingers touching. Closing your eyes, place your middle fingers very gently along the length of your eyelids – the tips of your fingers will touch the inner corners of your eyes. Place the index fingers along the line of your eyebrows, rest your ring fingers on the corners of your nostrils, and rest your little fingers on your upper lips or at the corners of your mouth. Finally, close the flaps of your ears with your thumbs.
Let your eyes, ears, nose, and tongue become completely passive. Let your eyes look within. Listen to the soft sound of your breath and let go of all your cares and concerns about your work, your school day, your life.
Let yourself linger here as long as you are comfortable. When you release your hands, sit with your eyes closed for a few more moments, letting the peace of your inner self come with you, back to the outer world.
All Quiet at the End of the Day
Deep Relaxation and Victorious Breath
Your work day is over and now you are home again, but often this is a time of feeling tired and worn out, unable to enjoy an evening activity. This deep relaxation and breath practice will refresh your body and your mind… and you will achieve victory over stress!
Do This Pose: Lie down on a warm, comfortable surface – a blanket or a yoga mat. Support your head with a folded blanket or pillow, and place another folded blanket under your knees. Place your feet on yoga blocks (or books) to deeply relax your lower back. If comfortable, place another folded blanket under your upper back so that your chest lifts and opens. For complete luxury, place a warmed eye pillow gently over your eyes.
Rest in this position for 10-15 minutes. Your mind can come and stay focused within by using a mindful meditation practice called Witness Mind. In this practice, the mind follows each movement of the breath. Watch your inhale, watch your exhale. Each breath is the present moment.
After resting in deep relaxation for 5-10 minutes, you may practice Victorious Breath, called ujjayi breath in Sanskrit for a deeper and more rejuvenating relaxation experience.
From your heart, say Namaste, and honor the light within.
Liz Owen (author) is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and has taught yoga for over 17 years. Liz teaches in the Boston area and throughout New England. Mai Chen (model) is a yoga teacher in Boston and Cambridge, MA.
Article courtesy of Beliefnet.com. Beliefnet offers daily inspiration with news articles on faith, religion, politics, health, family entertainment, sustainable living and more.