WASHINGTON — Experiencing that midafternoon slump? You could pay a visit to the office vending machine for a sugary pick-me-up, but a 30-second stretch at your desk will give you the same rush of energy.
Email overload got you down? A quick shoulder stretch can ease the tension.
“Any chance that you have to move, to take a break, to get your mind to just reset is huge throughout the day,” says Amy Mitchell, founder of ProYOGA.
Like many Washingtonians, Mitchell is familiar with jobs that work you around the clock and expect email responses at all hours of the day — she had one.
“I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” she says. That is, until she found balance in yoga.
After obtaining her yoga teacher certification, she decided to help co-workers and time-strapped friends find that same balance. Only she turned her attention to the workplace setting, not the yoga studio.
“Workplace wellness” is a phrase that’s gaining traction throughout the U.S. Every day, 1 million Americans miss work due to stress-related illnesses, and each year, American companies spend $300 billion on stress-related illnesses and absences.
“I think that with changes in health care, you’re seeing companies look for ways to decrease health care costs; you’re seeing companies encouraging employees to eat better, to exercise more, to buy a fitness tracker.”
Mitchell says yoga is an activity that’s beneficial across the wellness spectrum. It helps to improve fitness levels and influences lifestyle decisions. It’s also been scientifically proven to decrease stress levels.
The best part is, you don’t need to rise before dawn or block off hours after work to reap the benefits. You can do yoga at your desk — even on the busiest of workdays.
Tip #1: Breathe
Technically, breathing is not a yoga pose, but it’s integral to the yoga practice. Mitchell says all too often, we forget to inhale and exhale, but it’s a basic way to relieve tension in the body.
“You’re at your desk and you’re getting emails and you just are stressing. If you breathe, that tension starts to dissipate,” she says.
Tip #2: Twist
Sit in your chair with a straight back and both feet on the floor. Take your left hand and bring it to the corner of the right side of your chair. Then bring your right hand to the top of the right side of your chair and slowly begin to twist to the right, bringing your gaze over your right shoulder.
On your inhales, lengthen your torso, and on your exhales try to twist deeper. Then switch sides.
Mitchell says twisting is a great way to wring everything out and release built-up stress and tension.
Tip #3: Swap your chair for chair pose
Many employees spend the majority of their workdays sitting in a chair. This type of sedentary lifestyle has been dubbed “the new smoking” and has been linked to cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“Get rid of the chair for two minutes and just come into what we call chair pose,” Mitchell suggests.
Stand with your feet flat on the ground. Bend your knees and sink your hips to imitate a sitting position; stretch your arms in the air over your head. Pull your belly button in toward your spine, squeeze your thighs together and breathe in that position for 30 seconds to a minute.
“It’s much more beneficial than just sitting all day, as we’ve been learning,” Mitchell says.
Tip #4: Tree pose
Striking a quick tree pose will do wonders for your balance.
“Balancing, we take for granted. We walk all the time, but our balance isn’t challenged,” says Mitchell, who adds that as you age, you rely on your balance to keep you from falling.
Challenge your balance with tree pose. Stand at your desk and take your right foot and place it to the inside of your left ankle, calf or thigh — anywhere on your leg except your knees.
Press your leg into your foot and your foot into your leg so to activate all of your muscles.
“Just zone out when you’re in tree, enjoy the quiet, don’t let anything else interrupt you and it will really reset you,” Mitchell says.
Tip #5: Pigeon at your desk
This pose can be done either sitting or standing. If you’re sitting with your feet flat on the floor, take your right leg and bring your ankle over onto your left thigh. Then begin to flex your right foot and lean forward into a fold.
Hold the right side for 30 seconds, and then switch to the left.
“You’re going to feel that opening in your IT band. A lot of people don’t realize, we keep a lot of tension in our hips. So these hip-opening poses, like pigeon, are so wonderful just to start to relieve that,” Mitchell says.
If you prefer to stand, bring your right calf horizontally on to your desk and lean forward into the pose. Hold the right side for 30 seconds and then switch to the left.
Tip #6: Ignore the odd looks
Worried a co-worker will walk by and spot you in a pose? Don’t be shy.
“I would encourage your co-workers to do it with you. If they think that it’s odd, it’s not. This is better than going to the vending machine and having a Snickers bar, and you’re going to get the same kind of rush from it, the same high from it,” Mitchell says.
“Even though it might seem a little odd at first, as we see the workplace start to change — and you’re already starting to see that — it’s going to become more and more common.”
Tip #7: Wear slacks
It’s just easier to get into a pigeon pose with pants on, versus a skirt or dress, Mitchell says.
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