If you’re like us, you can easily sit for hours straight in front of a computer - whether it’s because you’re procrastinating or actually working at your desk. Even in the yoga world, we aren't always conscious of our postures, tending to hunch over our backs like a little troll. As a result, you've probably already heard of the ‘iPad neck’ syndrome or have simply read countless articles online that urge you to sit up straight. Truth is, as a computer-dependent generation, we probably sit too much. But we're not going to lecture you about getting your face out of your screen, because as much as we'd like to be able to get a non-desk job, we will always need our screens (hell, even yoga teachers need a laptop!)
What we can do is use yoga to find awareness, relax and ultimately find a better posture. Now, it’s clear that the office is not your typical space to practice yoga and you probably wouldn’t want to roll out your mat in-between two desks while your colleagues are working. So we’ve come up with a list of 6 modified poses you can stealthily practise in your work environment. At first, you might get a couple of weird looks, but we believe it’s worth the trouble. And honestly, who cares: it’s about creating positive MENtal health. You are responsible for building your own space and it’s not a couple of taunting remarks that should stop you from practising. Most colleagues think yoga is not very manly, but most of them also regularly have back pain. We’d rather swallow our pride and prevent that at all costs. Men's posture is something that can affect your entire existence, from sex drive to the quality of your sleep. These exercises will recharge your batteries and help you stay focused during the day.
1. Seated Gomukhasana
Taking your arms in Gomukhasana is amazing to straighten the upper back, open the heart and shoulders and stretch the arms.
On your chair, place your right hand to side then turn your thumb towards the ground. Bend the elbow and place the back of the right hand onto your back. Place your left hand straight in front of you and turn the palm to the ceiling. Lift the left hand to the sky then bend the elbow. Place your left palm on your back. Don't worry about clasping your hands together - instead focus on pressing your left palm and the back of your right hand into your back and squeezing your shoulder blades together (drawing the elbows back). Keep looking forward, keep pushing the heart forward. Take a couple of breaths then change sides.
2. Seated Garudasana
Garudasana will help you find awareness in your upper back and work on your shoulder blades, eventually helping you find a better posture.
Still on your chair, cross the right arm over the left in front of you. From there you have three variations depending on your flexibility:
- Bend your elbows and grab the opposite shoulder
- Bend your elbows, hands pointing towards the ceiling with your elbows/forearms pressing against each other
- Interlace your forearms and try to press the palms together (again maintain an active squeeze between the elbows/forearms
Keep the elbows shoulder height and start squeezing the forearms together as if you wanted to tighten a knot. You should feel your shoulder blades moving away from your spine and your back broadening. Take a couple of breaths then change sides.
3. Neck release
OK - we don’t have a fancy Sanskrit name for this one, because it’s not really a pose. But it feels good and relaxes the neck and shoulders.
Place your right hand above your left ear. Now let your right ear drop towards the right shoulder. Be gentle with that pose, we want to find a nice stretch from the left ear to the left shoulder. You can play a little with the angle of your neck, so lift and lower your chin to find the best sensations. Remember that you shouldn’t apply any pressure as the weight of your hand should be enough: just let gravity do its magic. Take a couple of breaths then change sides.
4. Seated pigeon pose
Seated pigeon is the ultimate super discrete posture to relax your hips, because it’s kind of like crossing your legs, but not really. It feels so good when you have to stay on your chair for a long period of time.
Still on a chair, open your right hip slightly to the side, lift the right leg and bring the right ankle on your left thigh, just over the left knee. Keep the right foot flexed (it will activate the muscles around the right knee and protect it). Keep the spine straight and feel the right hip slowly releasing as the right knee opens towards the ground. Optional: you can use your right hand on your right thigh to gently press the right knee away from you. Take up to 10 breaths here then change sides.
5. Modified Downward facing dog
Here things get a little weirder and definitively less discrete. You are going to use your chair to take a modified downward facing down. And yeah sure, you might get a couple of funny looks from your colleague, but it is definitely worth it. This modified down dog lengthens your spine, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings and opens the heart. It’s an all-rounder that you shouldn’t feel ashamed practicing as much as you can.
Place your hands on your chair and hold it while keeping the wrists in a neutral position. From there walk away from your chair a little. Bend on the knees and take an easy forward bend from your hips. Keep the back straight and, if needed, take a couple more steps away to bring your hips over your feet or even slightly further back if you have tighter hamstrings. Let your heart drop but keep our arms straight and strong. Feel your back broadening as you firm the muscles around your shoulder blades. Stay in this pose for 5 to 6 breaths.
That’s the fancy word for a simple standing forward bend. You might want to avoid this pose if you’re talking to a colleague or holding a nice cup of coffee, but otherwise it’s just an absolute killer when you need a break. It calms the brain, helps relieve stress, stretches the hamstring and calves, improves digestion and what not.
Standing (wherever you want), slightly bend the knees and start bending forward from your hips. Keep the back straight when you go down, but naturally your spine is going to curve at some point. The idea is to have your belly against your thighs, so keep the knees bent as much as you need to rest your upper body on your thigh. If you fancy it, you can grab the opposite elbows and let gravity do the work. The weight of your head is going to lengthen the spine and release the lower back. Of course, if you are flexible, you can work on straightening the legs.
It’s all about the posture
Remember to always take it easy when practicing, especially if it’s just about warming up. It’s about getting into gentle stretches that will help you find a good posture and stay focused during the day. Yoga is a lifestyle not a competition.