Have you ever noticed yourself slouching at your desk or during a meeting? For those who sit in front of a computer 8-10 hours a day, it is inevitable that your body suffers from stiffness around the neck, shoulders and back areas. If stiffness is not timely released, the physical stress could eventually lead to other issues, such as chronic pain and potential risk in restricting blood flow.
More than often than not, many living and working in this hectic city have limited time on hand to go out of their way to attend yoga classes in a studio; because of this, home practices and private yoga lessons become crucial and beneficial to sustain a healthy work-life balance. Further, spending 15 minutes a day – whether in the morning, midday before lunch break, coming out of a dreadful meeting, or late in the evening – is one of the best way to release stiffness, improve posture, and foster this lifelong habit.
After a long night of sleep, your body needs time to adjust to the busy schedule lies ahead. Instead of rushing out to tackle the day right away, spend 3-5 minutes to wake up your muscle, such as getting into a child’s pose and cat-cow pose. If you are short in time, choose the latter. Cat-cow pose involves control of the breaths while:
- physically warms up the fluidity of movement and breath
- brings flexibility to the spine
- opens the chest
- stretches the back of the neck
Child’s pose (Wide Knees):
First off, come into a table top position, open your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart. Untuck your toes, then gently sit back to your heels, fold forward to let your chest and belly rest on your thighs, create a rounding curve for your spine to relax. Arms can be reached forward with your elbows and forearms soften on the floor as well. Stay for a minute or more.
Tip: If your forehead doesn’t touch the floor, simply place a yoga block, or a cushion and/or thick blanket underneath your forehead to support.
Cat Cow Pose:
In order to wake up your body, cat cow movement is highly beneficial with the coordination of breath awareness. Come into table top position, align the shoulders on the of the wrists, and hips on the of the knees. As you inhale, begin to lower the belly and front of the body, arch the back down and lift the chin up. As you exhale, start to draw the belly to the spine, round the back, chin to chest, and tuck the tailbone in. Continue to repeat for 10 rounds or as many as you wish.
Tip: If the knees are sensitive on the floor, place blankets underneath the knees.
Chair variation: If you work in a seated environment, you can definitely bring cat cow pose onto your chair. This would be the perfect pose anytime of the day for you. Make sure you’re sitting with your feet flat on the floor, palms can be gently pressed against the thighs, coordinate the same breath and movement as you would do on the floor.
The next recommendation would be Ragdoll pose, also known as simple variation of Standing Forward Fold Pose. It is a perfect pose to get into, after sitting or standing for few hours. Benefits such as:
- reversing the blood flow as your heart goes above your head
- stretching the hamstrings
- relaxing the neck and shoulders
- releasing tension in the lower back
Ragdoll Pose (Modified Standing Forward Fold Pose):
Begin standing with feet hip-width apart, knees micro-bended, take a deep inhalation. Then as you exhale, bend your upper body forward and down from the hips, and allow the lower back to be relaxed. Gently grasp onto the opposite elbows, let the head and neck hang between the arms, resting the torso onto the thighs. Stay for 10 breaths or longer.
Tip: Knees can be bent as much as needed.
To come out of Ragdoll pose or Modified Standing Forward Fold Pose), there is a transition pose from Sun Salutation A that is simple yet powerful for our spine to be lengthen. This is called or knowns as “Half Way Lift” or “Flat Back Pose”. Once again, the action of the breath and movement from Standing Forward Fold to Flat Back, strongly enhances the awareness of body and breath together.
Half Way Lift or Flat Back Pose:
From Ragdoll Pose or Standing Forward Fold, inhale into Half Way Lift, creating a flat back position of your spine, lengthen the heart and keep the gaze forward, you may straighten the hamstrings slightly but do not lock the knee joint. Hold there for the duration of of you inhalation, and exhalation, go back to Forward Fold with knees bent. Repeat for 5 times or more.
The action of the breath and movement of these 2 poses, creates strong awareness of body and breath together. Fluidity enhances physical and mindful connection.
Last one you may practice at home. In the beginning, you may need a yoga block or blanket to sit on. Hero Pose is a great practice to reinforce proper posture, and align your upper body by checking the spine’s curve.
Kneel on the floor as you bring the inner knee caps alongside with one another, slide the feet apart, place a yoga block, or folded blanket between the calves, and sit on it. Gently allow your thighs inward, at the same time, allow the toes point back and top of the feet pressing toward the floor. Widen your collarbone broadly, lift your chest up, and feel the engagement of your abdominal. Relax the shoulders away from the ears, tuck the tailbone under and lengthen all the way through the spine without sinking more curve into the lower back. Palms can be resting on the knees or thighs. Stay for 30 seconds or more to begin with.
After practicing Hero Pose daily for a certain period of time, eventually you will carry the alignment awareness off the mat, and into your daily sitting posture.
Contributed by Annie Wu