Updated: Sep 22, 2020
On average, how many hours a day do you spend sitting in a chair?
This could be a deck chair, office chair, lounge chair, beach chair, cafe chair, armchair, car seat or park bench. Take a moment to think about this. From home, to the office, to meetings, to school pick-up, to appointments, to watching the sun set over the Cayman Islands, to dinner dates, to watching television. Sitting in a chair isn't confined to just the time you spend at the office.
Now that you have calculated how much time you spend in a seated position, I'm pretty certain you'll be interested to hear what I have to say next.
There are plenty of effective ways to move your body, relieve back aches, hunched shoulders and stiff necks, while seated. And it starts with you making the first move. Set a reminder in your calendar to move through these five yoga poses daily, whether it be at midday or mid-afternoon when you probably will need these gems the most.
Make sure you have both feet planted evenly on the ground, sitting up straight, head above heart above hips. This will automatically encourage your abdominal muscles to engage and instantly help to relieve lower back pressure caused by poor posture. Your chin is parallel with floor and the crown of your head is extending towards the ceiling as you ground down evenly through your sitting bones. Good. Now we've got that sorted, let's begin.
Let's start with an unbelievable upper back and neck release. This pose will engage all your cervical and thoracic muscles that were more than likely on vacay just moments before. Interlace your hands behind your head, elbows extended out wide to the sides, opening the chest and bringing the shoulder blades together. Draw your lower rib cage in to maintain stability through the core. Here, you will start to feel activity in the upper back. Let's build on this. Inhale as you take your gaze up to the sky, as far as the neck feels comfortable. As you exhale, guide your gaze down to the ground, slowly and with control, maintaining your elbows out wide. Use very gentle pressure from your hands, until you feel a delicious stretch down the back of your neck, into your trapezius where knots tend to enjoy hanging out. You may like to actively press the back of your head into your hands here, and notice how the muscles respond. Inhale to lift back up to centre. Repeat.
Sit forward on the chair so that you have some room behind you. Inhale to prepare, exhale to twist your chest open to the right. Your right fingertips will rest behind you on the seat of your chair and your left hand will come to the right knee. Look down at your right shoulder and use your hands to leverage you further into the twist. I love a seated twist, because your hips remain parallel facing forward, encouraging a deeper release from the base of the spine and into the lower back area where we can tend to feel tension build. Notice how your back muscles feel in this twist. To release, bring your head back to centre first, followed by the rest of the body. Repeat on the left.
Another favourite is a seated forward fold. This pose reminds me of our classic Child's Pose, chair-style. Inhale to prepare, and as you exhale, begin to fold forward. Wrap your torso over your legs, bringing navel to thighs, maintaining a straight spine to support your lower back. From here, feel free to let your neck relax completely, gazing back in between your legs. You can let your arms go or hold onto opposite elbows. Move into the variation that feels right for you. This is also a gentle inversion. Your head is below the heart, boosting circulation and energy. When ready to come back, inhale, and roll up the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae. I love finishing with a shoulder roll at the top. Ahhhh, pure bliss!
Tight glutes, piriformis, IT band? The hip flexor muscles in the front of each hip contract and tighten when we sit for long periods, and tell the nerves to inhibit or turn off the muscles that provide the opposite motion — the glutes. Let's switch them back on in a seated figure four stretch. Bring your right ankle to rest on top of your left knee. Make sure the right knee feels happy, as you being to encourage your right knee to move closer to the carpet, shin becoming parallel. Not feeling much in your right glute yet? Inhale to prepare, and as you exhale, hinge forward at the hips, maintaining the length in your spine. Aim to bring your navel down onto your shin, before you even think of rounding through your upper back and letting the neck go. This order of entering the pose will ensure you maximise the stretch and feel it where you need it. Inhale to lift back up and repeat on the other leg.
It's time to stand up. Don't worry, you're still using the chair so the title of this blog remains accurate. Stand behind your chair and place both hands on the top of the chair back. Take a few steps back, feet are hip-width apart, and begin to lower your chest down in between your arms. Arms are straight and active, and your hips form a 90 degree angle, stacking directly above the ankles. Adjust accordingly so you find this alignment. Feel the shoulders breathe a sigh of relief, as you counteract the rounding action caused by typing away manically at a computer for hours on end. Tilt the tailbone up towards the sky, a slight bend in your knees as you allow your neck to relax and your chest to lower as feels supported and comfortable for your shoulders. To come out of the pose, walk your feet slowly back in towards the chair and take your time coming to standing.
These five poses will literally take you five minutes and make you feel like a new person, with energy, concentration and motivation to finish the workday just like you started it. Get moving!
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Get yoga motivated with this one tip and How can I keep up a regular yoga practise?