By now, most of us have learned why sitting—and especially at a desk in front of a computer— all day isn’t that great for our health.
In fact, researchers are beginning to discover that the repercussions go beyond the immediately obvious side effects like stiff muscles and poor posture.
According to a 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control, prolonged periods of sitting are likely related to health risks like premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, obesity and cancer.
This, plus the fact that stress (something we all likely experience while at work, at least from time to time) is associated with its own negative side effects means that sitting at a desk all day can take a serious toll on your health.
“When we sit for any length of time in a chair, we typically end up in a slouched position, which creates compression in the spine,” says Jill Braverman, a certified yoga instructor, health coach & personal trainer. “This misaligned spinal position leads to muscle fatigue and tightness, which can lead to back pain.”
In order to avoid back pain, stiffness in the neck and tightness in the shoulders and hips, Braverman recommends that those who work at a desk set aside five to 15 minutes every hour or two for “movement breaks.”
And of course, stress reduction is another benefit of taking a break to move around and stretch.
“Yoga, whether seated or standing, is an excellent way to move during the workday because it doesn't require any special equipment or clothing,” says Braverman. “Simultaneously, it stretches and strengthens the body and provides a relief from mental stress through deep breathing.”
She also recommends an easy stress-reduction technique that you can also use to avoid eye fatigue from staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
“Close your eyes for at least one minute every hour,” Braverman said. “You can also use this time to complete a short meditation, focusing your awareness on your breath. The one minute meditation break will leave your mind clearer and make your whole day more enjoyable and productive.”
Ready to learn some yoga moves you can use to make your work day healthier and more enjoyable?
In addition to Braverman, I also chatted with Ashley Zettler, a certified yoga instructor with Sumits Yoga in North Phoenix, Los Angeles based certified yoga and meditation instructor Catherine Tingey, yoga instructor and author of Yoga for the Genius, Kelly DiNardo, and Grace Dickinson, a Philadelphia-based yoga teacher and communications manager for LifeVest Health, a wellness program that enables and incentivizes users to track and improve their health.
They chimed in to share their favorite stress-busting, office-friendly yoga moves. Read on to find out which poses they recommend most.
Braverman explains that this movement is great for lubricating the joints of the spine and stretching the muscles in the area through their full range of motion. Perform cat/cow by first sitting up towards the front edge of your chair. Place your hands on your knees and then slide your hands back to the mid-thigh area as you inhale and lift your chest while tilting your chin upward slightly. On the exhale, slide your hands forward and round your back as you let your head gently release forward. Repeat the movement for three to five breaths.
Seated Twist Pose
Sit at the edge of your chair with a straight spine, shoulders back and down. Keep your legs together and reach your right hand to the outside of your left knee. Reach your left hand to the back of your chair as you slowly twist to your left. Braverman says you can keep your gaze forward, or for a deeper stretch you can turn your neck slowly to look over your back shoulder. After three to five breaths slowly untwist and then repeat on the other side.