Between bad co-workers and stress-inducing deadlines, it’s no wonder that, according to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress is the biggest contributor to stress in the lives of Americans. But just because you have more work than you know how to handle doesn’t mean you have to lose your Zen.
The next time you’ve “had it up to here” with, well, whatever special struggle you’re facing at work, take a 10-minute breather with a simple work-appropriate yoga flow. Harvard Health Publications points out that yoga helps tame the stress response while boosting mood, which is exactly what you’re bound to need when your boss asks you to stay late… again. The good news is, this sequence doesn’t even require you to have a mat, so there’s literally no reason you can’t do it at work.
Sit tall in your chair, your feet planted hip-distance apart, your spine neutral. Check to make sure your ears are aligned over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips. Rest your hands on your thighs and close your eyes. Breath deeply here, taking long, slow breaths in through your nose for a count of four, pause, then exhale slowly, again for a count of four through your nose. Continue this deep-breathing pattern for a full minute.
Open your eyes and maintain your seated position on your chair. On your next exhale, roll your shoulders forward as you round your back and tip your pelvis forward as you “pull” your belly button back to your spine, really getting a nice stretch through your back. Allow your hands to slide toward your knees as you deepen the stretch. On the inhale, press your chest forward, pull your shoulders back and look up as you press your pelvis back to articulate your tailbone. Continue alternating between the cat and cow poses with each long, slow breath. Perform three of each exercise.
Seated crescent moon pose
Sit tall in your chair with your feet planted hip-distance apart. Anchoring through your tailbone, sweep your arms out to the sides up and over your head as you take a deep inhale, interlacing your fingers with your index fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Relax your shoulders, pulling your shoulder blades down and in. On your next exhale, lean as far as you comfortably can to the left, looking up over your right shoulder. Take two to three deep breaths here. On your next inhale, return to your starting position and as you exhale, lean as far as you comfortably can to your right, this time looking over your left shoulder. Take two to three more breaths before returning to center. Repeat two to three times on each side.
Sitting tall in your chair, turn your entire body to the right, positioning your torso perpendicular to how you typically sit. Keeping your right leg positioned in front of you, with a bend of 90 degrees at your hip, knee and ankle, step your left leg behind you, stretching it long with just a slight bend at the knee as you plant the ball of your foot on the floor. This should look like a chair-supported lunge. Check your posture to make sure you’re sitting tall, take a deep breath in, tighten your core, and reach your left arm up over your head. As you exhale, really tighten up your core, and on your next inhale, lean back, opening your chest as you deepen the stretch. When you release your breath, lower your arm and return to the starting position. Repeat the chair warrior to the opposite side. Perform the exercise three times per side.
Sit and stand chair pose
Sit tall in your chair, your feet planted hip-distance apart. On an inhale, reach your arms straight in front of your chest, and on an exhale, press through your heels and stand up, dropping your arms to your sides as you stand and keeping your torso upright and tall. Avoid using any help from your chair or desk to stand up. On your next inhale, reverse the movement, pressing your hips back and bending your knees to return your glutes to the chair. Repeat the exercise five to 10 times.
Standing mountain, upward salute and chair pose
Stand up from your chair, your feet together, your weight grounded through your heels. Start with your hands at your sides, palms facing forward. Draw your shoulders back and lift your chin as you look forward. On the inhale, sweep your arms over your head and look up. On the exhale, press your hips back and bend your knees as though you were going to sit in a chair, with your weight in your heels. Keep your arms raised above your head, drawing your shoulder blades back and “squeezing” your arms in toward your ears. Hold this position, breathing slowly, for a count of 10. On your next exhale, return to standing and lower your hands back to your sides. Repeat this cycle three times.
Desk-assisted downward to upward dog pose
Stand facing your desk, your feet roughly hip-distance apart. Place your hands on the edge of your desk, and with your core engaged, exhale as you press your hips back and tip forward from your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor. If necessary, adjust your feet so your hips are positioned at a roughly 90-degree angle. Hold this position, stretching through your shoulders, back and hips, breathing slowly for three breaths. On your next inhale, press your chest forward between your arms, extending your hips and your arms as you look up, opening your chest. Take two to three more deep breaths here before reversing the movement. Perform the exercise two to three more times.
You’ll finish your flow with a basic balance pose. Stand tall, feet together, arms at your sides in mountain pose. Shift your weight to your right foot, grounding through your heel. Bend your left knee and draw your foot up toward your right thigh, using your left hand, if needed, to assist with the movement. Place the sole of your left foot on your inner right thigh, your toes pointing toward the ground. Allow your left hip to open outward, so your knee points out to the side. When you’re feeling balanced, bring your palms to a prayer position at your chest. Breath deeply and calmly for 60 seconds. Release your left foot to the floor and repeat on the opposite leg.
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