Making it to a yoga class before or after work is ideal, but it’s not always possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of striking a few yoga poses throughout the day.
In fact, breaking your day up to stretch and lengthen the spine, open the shoulders and hips, calm the nervous system, aid digestion, and increase circulation may be the way to go. What better way to get you up from your desk and attend to your body?
Here are 6 yoga poses to do throughout your workday, at home and at the office. Who knows—maybe you’ll even inspire some of your colleagues to give yoga a try!
1. When You Wake Up: Cat-Cow Pose
Just as cats and dogs do when they wake from a nap, the first thing we need after a night's sleep is to get up, stretch, and move our spines, melting away any stiffness. To preserve a wide range of motion, protect muscles against stagnation, and promote overall circulation and health, a little morning stretch is really important!
For a few rounds of Cat-Cows, start on your hands and knees in Table Top. Inhale and drop your belly while lengthening your heart forward and up and tilting your tailbone to the ceiling. Then exhale, pressing into your palms and rounding your back with your belly pulled to spine.
2. Mid-Morning: Bridge Pose
For a mid-morning refresher, try a simple Bridge. This pose calms the brain and nervous system, energizes the body, and reopens the chest and shoulders after sitting at your desk for a few hours.
Start reclined on your back with both knees bent and feet sitting bone distance apart, directly under your knees. Lengthen your arms down the sides of your body. Press into both feet evenly and lift your outer hips toward the ceiling.
As the hips lift, begin to wrap your shoulder blades underneath you and press them firmly into your upper back, lifting your heart. Lift your chin away from your heart, maintaining a healthy curve to your neck. Feel free to interlace your fingers underneath you or simply leave the arms straight.
3. After Lunch: Squat Pose
Before getting back to work after lunch, stretch out your low back, hips, and groin while stimulating your digestive organs by taking a squat.
Standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips, turn your toes out so that they are wider than your heels. Bend your knees deeply and squat down, keeping your butt off the floor. If your heels don’t release down to the floor, try widening your feet further apart or place a rolled up blanket or towel underneath your heels.
Bring your hands together in prayer before your heart, with your elbows inside you knees. Press your elbows out into your knees and simultaneously squeeze your knees back into your elbows.
4. Late Afternoon: Down Dog
Rather than heading to the break room for a 4 P.M. sugar or caffeine fix, naturally re-energize with a Downward-Facing Dog. This will lengthen the spine and release tension after a long day of sitting. It also stretches the backs of the legs, improves circulation, and calms the nervous system.
Begin on all fours with your hands slightly forward and as wide as your outer shoulders. Make sure that your wrist creases are parallel to the front of your mat and that the index fingers are pointing straight forward. Tuck your toes and press into the inner edges of your hands as you lift your hips up and back into Down Dog.
Keeping your knees slightly bent, press your hip creases back and broaden your collarbones as you elongate from your tailbone through the crown of your head.
You could also do Down Dog with your hands on your desk or at the wall for a more gentle, yet very effective variation. This is a great modification especially for those with lower back problems.
5. Evening: Easy Pose with a Twist
While relaxing post-dinner, why not help stimulate your digestion, relieve lower backache, calm your nervous system, and let go of any stress or anxiety with a simple seated twist?
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Inhale and stretch your arms overhead, lengthening your spine and sides of your body. Exhale and release your right hand to the floor behind you. Bringing your left hand to your right knee, twist to the right.
Take a few rounds of breath in the twist, lifting up through the spine as you inhale and deepening the twist as you exhale. Inhale to release forward and repeat on the opposite side.
6. Before Bed: Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose is the ultimate pose for relaxation. Releasing the lower back, hips, shoulders, and spine, this pose also calms the mind for a restful night’s sleep. And it can even be done in bed.
Start on your hands and knees in all fours. Widen your knees apart a little wider than your hips and slowly lower your sitting bones toward your heels, bringing the chest closer to the floor. Lengthen the back of your neck and bring your forehead to rest on the floor.
Either leave your arms outstretched or reach them back along your thighs, turning the palms up and allowing the shoulder blades to round off your back.
How about you? Do you have a go-to set of poses that you practice everyday? Share them with us in the comments below!
Image credit: Nir Livni Photography / Yogini: Meagan McCrary