Most of us can admit to having joints that creak and crack from time to time. Many of us know - and ignore - the dangers of sitting at a desk for too long. And far too few of us take notice of the occupational health posters informing us of the correct angles at which to sit, the merits of the Britney-style phone headset and warnings over carrying our too-heavy handbags, on the same shoulder, too often.
Allie Hill, founder and director at yogahaven, shares some simple exercises to try, without even having to leave your desk.
Simple Neck Roll
Close your eyes. Drop your chin down to your chest.
Begin the circular motion of your neck slowly, moving the right ear to the right shoulder, taking the head backwards gently and then bringing the left ear to the left shoulder.
Try to keep your shoulders loose and relax.
Rotate your neck 3-5 times breathing deeply and switch directions.
Single-Leg Stretch (Janu Sirsasana)
Sit up tall, stretch your right leg out, resting your heel on the floor, toes pointing up — the closer to the edge of your seat you are, the straighter your leg can get, but again, be mindful of how supported you are before folding forward.
Rest both hands on your outstretched leg, inhale and raise up through your spine, and as you exhale, begin to bend over your right leg, sliding your hands down your leg as you go.
Take this stretch as far as you like while not straining or forcing anything and still feeling supported, both by the chair and by your hands. If you are able to reach lower on your leg, consider grasping the back of your calf or your ankle.
Inhale and exhale slowly and evenly 5 times in this position, gently going deeper each time, and then release the pose by using an inhale to help you rise. Repeat this pose with your left leg outstretched, double-checking how supported your body is on the edge of the chair and realigning your right leg knee over ankle before you bend over.
Seated Spine Twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana)
As you inhale, extend your spine again, and raise your arms out to your sides and up.
As you exhale, gently twist to the right with your upper body and lower your arms —your right hand will rest on the top of the chair back and help you to gently twist; your left hand will rest at your side.
Look over your right shoulder. Use your grip on the chair to help you stay in the twist but not to deepen it.
After five breaths, release this twist and return to facing the front. Repeat on your left side.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottana)
Inhale and extend through your spine, and fold your body over your legs. Start with your hands resting on your thighs and slide them down your legs as you fold for an extra support.
Take five or more even breaths in this pose. It massages your intestines, helping with digestion, as well as passively lengthening your spine and stretching your back muscles.
When ready, inhale and lift your torso back to an upright position.
Cowface pose (Gomukhasana)
Wrap both your hands behind your back; one from over your shoulder and the other from your side.
See if you can touch them; intertwine your fingers. If not use a tea towel or similar!
Keep your head straight. If you have to bend your head forward in order to keep your hands in this position, ease up on your hands, but keeping your head straight is important.
If you are not comfortable with this, slowly bring the arm from your side to the top of your shoulder and try touching the other elbow.
Exhale and inhale a few times and then switch between arms.
Repeat five times.
Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Not to be done if you have injuries to your knees.
Keep your left foot firmly grounded on the floor.
Slowly keep your right ankle on your left knee. Keep your hands on your knees.
Bend forward, balancing some of your weight on your right hand.
As long as doesn’t hurt, you can bend further, but please be carefully with your knees, any twinges then back off.
Take 10 deep breaths switch legs.
Cat/Cow Spine Stretch (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Keep both feet firmly on the floor. Bring your hands on your knees.
As you inhale slowly stretch your back backwards, lifting your chest in an upward direction and look towards the ceiling.
While exhaling, stretch your back forward, rounding your spine, drawing in your stomach and drop your head forward towards your chest.
Repeat this exercise for 5-10 breaths, synchronising the movement with your breath. Do your best to breath slowly, so the movement is slow and controlled.
If you think you might like to take your practice from desk to the mat and perhaps before a class of your own, please get in touch.