Got five minutes? Our office asana routine will quiet your mind and relieve muscle tension.
By Greg Capitolo
Extended periods of sitting seem to be an occupational hazard in today’s information age. Even if you have good posture habits and the best ergonomic chair, your body will need a break to release muscle tension, stress, and stagnation in the joints. Fortunately, it’s easy to adapt some yoga postures for the office, allowing you to reap the benefits of hatha yoga without ever leaving your chair. Treat yourself to a five-minute break with this revitalizing sequence.
1. Breath Awareness To begin, sit at the front edge of your chair so that your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. Adjust the height of your chair so that your knees are even with the hip joints and your feet rest on the floor directly under your knees (if your chair is not adjustable, prop books under your feet or hips). Close your eyes and focus on establishing smooth, even diaphragmatic breathing; feel the upper abdomen and lower ribs expand with each inhale and fall with each exhale. After one minute, move on to the gentle stretches below, starting each exercise from this basic seated posture.
2. Shoulder Rolls On an inhale, draw the shoulders up toward your ears and back; then down and forward on the exhale. Repeat two more times, then reverse the direction. This exercise increases mobility in the shoulder joints and opens the chest.
3. Seated Twist On an exhale, begin to twist to your right. Place both hands on the right arm-rest for support; if you’re sitting in an armless chair, rest your right hand on the seat just behind your pelvis and your left hand on your right thigh. Allow the breath to guide you deeper into the pose by lengthening the spine with each inhale, and squeezing the belly in while deepening the twist with each exhale. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides.
4. Leg Cradle Place your outer left ankle on your right thigh. With your right hand resting on your left ankle and your left hand on your left knee, exhale and bend forward from the hip joints. Keep the spine straight as you fold forward. Fold only as far as you’re comfortable, gently stretching the deep muscles surrounding the left hip joint. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then change sides.
5. Wide-Legged Forward Bend Separate your knees and feet slightly wider than hip distance and place your hands on your thighs. Exhale and fold forward from the hips, keeping the spine straight. Hold for a few breaths, then slide your hands down your legs, allowing the spine to round (be careful if your chair is on wheels!). Breathe into the hip joints and enjoy the length and spaciousness along the spine. For a deeper stretch, release your hands to the floor between your feet. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then slowly come back up, using your leg and abdominal muscles for support.
Hatha teacher Greg Capitolo has taken numerous five-minute office yoga breaks while working in IT, finance and accounting.
Photos by Andrea Killam; Model Greg Capitolo