How to Practice Yoga at Work
Yoga for Work
Here is a simple routine of exercises you can do in your breaks in business clothes in your office. Practice them all or do one or two of them several times a day, to release tension as it accumulates in your body through the work day.
No matter what line of work we do, we are all in customer service. After handling an upset or angry customer, spend a few minutes in stillness, and practice three deep inhales as described in the yoga breathing section. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, spine straight, lifting the top of your head toward the ceiling, lengthening the back of your neck. Unclench your teeth, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and scan through your body with your inner awareness, consciously relaxing each part. As you do the Three Deep Inhales guided breathing below, picture the anger or intense emotion leaving your body with the breath. Picture it returning to the light, so you are not passing anger on to the next person you encounter.
Take Three Deep Inhales to relax and manage stress.
Seated Twist at Your Desk
Bring your right hand to the outside of your left thigh and your left hand to the leg of your chair. Keep the weight even in both sitting bones and both feet. Unclench your teeth. Relax your shoulders. As you inhale, lift the ribs and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, twist back. Hold for a few breaths and repeat to the other side.
Standing Side Stretch in Your Office
Reach your arms above your shoulders and stretch fully. As you inhale, lift your ribs away from your hips. As you exhale, bend sideways, reach your fingers out and up for the corner where the ceiling meets the wall, and press your hip away. Unclench your teeth, keep the weight even in both feet, relax your shoulders and breath deeply. Hold for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Standing twist beside your office chair
Bring your right hand to the outside of your left hip and bring your left hand behind your back toward your right hip. Bend your knees. As you inhale, lengthen your spine, using your abdominal muscles to lift your ribs away from your hips. As you exhale, press both feet evenly into the floor and twist back. Hold for three to five full breaths, relaxing deeper into the twist with each exhalation. Release and repeat to the other side.
Forward Fold Beside Your Office Desk
Standing Forward Fold at Work
As you exhale, slowly drop your chin to your chest and uncurl your spine down into the forward fold. Coming slowly into the positions massages and tones the spine and inner organs and increases the benefits of the position. Bend your knees as much as you need to to release tension from the lower back. If you are very stiff, try folding forward beside your chair and resting your hands on the chair, or your elbows on your thighs for support. Hang and relax and breathe. Close your eyes. Unclench your teeth. Relax your shoulders. Come up slowly, uncurling the spine and leaving the chin on the chest until last. If it feels good, repeat, or do the variation in yoga mudra shown below.
Standing Forward Fold, hands in yoga mudra
In forward fold, clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulders together. This releases tension from the shoulders and neck, and stretches the trapezius muscles between the should blades. Most people have a lot of tension in this area from reaching forward to work on computers, talk on the phone, and drive a car. To start, many people find it necessary to hold a cloth, belt or tie between their hands to let the hands come wider apart. Work with an easy variation regularly and you will see your neck and shoulders loosen in a few weeks.
Standing Downward Facing Dog hands on desk
Place your hands palms down on your desk, about shoulder width apart and with the fingers spread. As you exhale, step your feet back about a leg's length until the hips are slightly further back than the heels. Bend your knees slightly, feeling stretch through the back, the waist and the back of the legs. Inhale fully, and as you exhale use the abdominal muscles to press the hips back and reach your hands forward as if you were trying to push the desk away. Relax your head. This position stretches the hamstrings muscles in the back of the thighs as well as the muscles in the buttocks, back, and shoulders. Hold for a few breaths, then release.
Legs up the Wall
If you have a quiet place for your break, spend a few minutes with your legs up the wall as shown. This position reverses the effect of gravity on the body, strengthens the immune system, and quiets the mind. If you can't do this at work, make time to do it at home before you go to bed. Try lifting the hips with a rolled coat or phone book, or use a cushion, blanket or bolster at home.
This is an easy variation of the classic yoga inversions like shoulder stand, head stand and hand stand, but it requires no expertise.
Stress Management Techniques
As you practice the yoga exercises at work, use the breath to quiet the mind. This is the beginning of meditation. Practice all or any of the poses whenever you can. Even if it is only a few minutes several times a week, the benefits will accumulate and you will see progress and feel refreshed, invigorated, and relaxed.
If there is interest among your colleagues, start a lunch time yoga class. A local yoga studio may help you find a teacher who will come in once a week and do a forty-five minute class.
If you have time for a longer or more varied practice, try some of the easy postures in the Chair Yoga for Seniors. These are simple variations that you can do in business clothes in your office. You may also refer to the Prenatal Yoga Poses, since these are also gentle variations that could be done in business clothes in the office. If you want to do a longer practice at home, my graded series of yoga DVDs will support your home practice: Gentle Yoga, Yoga for Beginners, and Yoga for an Advancing Practice.