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Desk-side yoga postures to pose at the office

Kathy Ritchie is a freelance writer and yogini in New York City. Her work has appeared in the Associated Press's asap, Fit Yoga, 944, and Child magazine, among other publications.

Work Place Yoga Poses

Desk jobs can wreak stressful havoc on your mind and body. Sitting for long periods of time can cause aches, strain and tension in every muscle in your body. Taking a routine break to strike a yoga pose may be all you need to relieve the stress binding up your mind and body. Here are seven yoga postures you can do at work or anywhere, any time you need a break to get centered. Best yet, you can do these yoga poses, no equipment needed.


From Sujata Ringawa, Yoga Life Works

RELIEVE TIGHT BACK AND LEGS WITH KONASANA

Konasana or right angle pose is a simple, yet effective pose that opens and stretches the hamstring and calf muscles, elongates the spine and torso and strengthens the arms.

How to do it: Stand facing a wall and place your palms on the wall at shoulder-height, shoulder-width apart. Slowly walk your feet back until they are directly under your hips, hip-width apart. Reposition your hands down the wall, bending at your hips, until they are in line with your shoulders. Spread your palms flat on the wall with the fingers pointing straight up and evenly spaced apart. Your body forms a right angle with the torso parallel to the floor and the legs perpendicular to your torso.

If your lower back or hamstrings are feeling tight or contracted, bend your knees, keep them wide apart and arch your back, lifting your sit bones up towards the ceiling. This opens up the lower back and sacral area.

RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS AND UPPER BACK WITH VIDALASANA

Vidalasana or the Cat-Cow pose gently massages the spine, and opens the upper back, chest and shoulder areas.

How to do it: Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Place your hands under your shoulders, shoulder-width apart. Place your knees under your hips, hip-width apart. Keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor, and your arms straight and firm throughout this sequence. Breathe in and out through the nostrils. Inhale as you move your shoulders back and your sit bones up towards the ceiling, arching the lower back. Exhale and round your back up towards the ceiling and bow your head towards the floor. Repeat several times, synchronizing the movement and the breath.

From Lea Kraemer, PRANA MANDIR Yoga Studio

EMPOWER YOURSELF WITH BREATH

Deep breathing frees the mind, opens your senses and gives you a feeling of self-sufficiency. A long, deep breath may feel muscular because it is both powerful and mindful.

How to do it: Sit upright, cross-legged like a yogi or in a chair. Lift up and lengthen your body so that your spine is not compressed. Breathe only through your nose for this exercise.

Begin to inhale into the lower belly, naturally it will fill and puff up a little bit. Use your abdominal tone and expand the ribs and widen the middle of your body. You will already feel sensation and motion in your breath that you may have never felt. Keep breathing into upper chest and lungs. This area should expand until you feel the stretch all the way to your collarbone.

To exhale deeply and as your chest releases, continue to breathe out and down through your belly so that all of the air is pushed out. Practice breathing like this for a couple of minutes to start, but build the practice to longer periods of time.

ELIMINATE EYE-STRAIN AND GET CENTERED

This beautiful yogic exercise releases eye-strain and is also effective for calming and centering yourself.

How to do it: Lay down on your back in a comfortable spot. Use a blanket or a mat on an even surface (avoid uneven surfaces like a lumpy couch). Remember to breathe through your nose as you do this exercise. Close your eyes and rub your palms together. Feel the heat and circulation between your hands and as it becomes more intense, cup your hands and place them over your closed eyes. Let the heat "soak" into your eyes for 1 to 2 minutes. Then slowly open your eyes into the cupped palms and rest them in the dark space of your hands for a few minutes. Slowly move your palms away from your face so that the light enters your eyes gradually as they focus. Keep extending the arms away until they are straight and you are gazing out and away.

RELIEVE CARPAL TUNNEL STRAIN

Strain on the wrist often means that the body posture is not well-balanced, or that you sit for too many hours without a break. This exercise effectively quiets the nerves in the hands and relieves pain and numbness, but be aware that it can hurt like a deep tissue massage.

How to do it: Come into a comfortable seated posture, either cross-legged, yogi-style with your spine straight or you can sit in a chair for a little more support. Extend your arms up over your head with the arms straight and the shoulders down. Breathe only through your nose. Flare your fingers as you inhale so that you can see the light between them. Make a fist as you exhale. Go at a steady pace for one minute to begin and for several minutes for better results. End by reaching the arms way up to the sky, hold for a moment as you stretch and then relax the arms down.

From Mary Beth Markus, Desert Song Yoga

STRETCH OUT AND REOXYGENATE WITH DOWN DOG

Down Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana stretches the entire back body from shoulders to feet. It inverts your torso, bringing more oxygenated blood flow to the upper body as well as strengthens the arms, shoulders and the upper torso. It also reduces tension in the neck and upper back.

How to do it: Begin by sitting on your heels and stretching your arms in front of you, with hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Lift your hips off your heels with your shoulders coming over your wrists, head pointing toward the ground. Soften your chest gently between your arms to bring your shoulder blades onto your back. Roll your toes under, press into your hands and lift your hips upward keeping your knees slightly bent. Stretch your legs fully and bring your heels towards the floor. Pause and breathe several times, then release back to your knees and then sit back towards your heels.

LENGTHEN YOUR MUSCLES WITH TRIKONASANA

Triangle pose or Trikonasana is a side stretching posture that lengthens and strengthens your back and the sides of the torso. It also stretches your hamstrings and abductor muscles, tones the waistline, moves energy from the core to all the extremities and opens your hips.

How to do it: Standing, widen your legs three to four feet apart, keeping hips facing forward. Turn your right leg out to 90 degrees and turn your left leg in 30 degrees. Keeping your legs wide, line the heel of your right foot with the arch of your left foot. Inhale, bring your arms up to shoulder level, exhale and, keeping your arms in a straight line, stretch your right arm down towards the floor on the inside of your right leg. Extend your left arm straight up over your left shoulder. Lengthen your torso and neck and look upward at your left hand. Hold the pose for several breaths. Return to start position. Repeat on the other side.

For more information on yoga, visit these links:

Yoga for the working girl

Two new twists on yoga: Anti-gravity and Bikram yoga

Discovering yoga

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