Long work hours spent sitting at a desk can often lead to stiffness, strain and pain in the body. Between work, commuting and other obligations, busy days leave little to no time to decompress by hitting the gym.
Fortunately, there are ways to sneak in a few minutes of activity to help lengthen the ligaments and bring movement into the joints. Best of all, they can be done in an office chair so there's no excuse not to do them.
We spoke to Gwen Lawrence, a yoga instructor who specializes in training programs designed to enhance the performance of athletes, to learn more about seated stretches.
"Taking periodic breaks and doing movements that counteract the desk worker's body position is the key to bringing balance back to the body, and yoga is all about balance," says Lawrence. "We can't avoid sitting at our desks, but we can proactively manage our work environment through stretching."
Physical activity is beneficial for the body, and, according to Lawrence, can help increase concentration and improve productivity. "Think how much more productive we would be if we could clear the mind by opening the body, increasing blood flow and oxygenation," she says. "Put a post-it note on your desk to remind you to do this at least once a day."
Lawrence equates this freedom in the mind and opening of the body to a happier, healthier worker. "A happy body is a more focused, stress-free body. And a more focused, stress-free body is a productive, valuable employee."
Give her tips below a try each day at work, and don't forget to breathe, reminds the yoga expert. These stretches can all be done while seated in an office chair.
Release tension in hunched shoulders by doing seated shoulder rolls and shrugs in both directions. Lift the shoulders up toward the ears, then drop them back down, moving at a comfortable pace. Next, roll shoulders forward and back in a circular motion; follow by switching the direction of the rotation.
Rolling the wrists in both directions helps open them by creating movement and rotation. Wrist rolls may also help alleviate or prevent cramping in the joints.
Seated twists are "critical to ring out the spine and increase vitality" says Lawrence. Sitting comfortably, reach hands to the sky on the inhalation. Then, on the exhalation, slowly twist to one side, placing the opposite hand on that knee. Take several breaths and do the entire process on the opposite side.
Stretch out the neck by slowly nodding the head back and forth in a "yes" movement. Next, gently move from side to side, as if shaking the head in a "no" motion.
Counteract cramping and tight hips with a seated pigeon pose. To do, sit comfortable at the edge of the chair, bending one knee up and bringing the leg over toward the other leg, stacking the lifted leg's ankle on top of the knee or thigh of the seated leg. Slowly bend from the waist forward, placing the hands to rest on the ground in front of the feet. Breathe and repeat on the opposite side.
Photo: The USDA | Flickr