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Release Tension with Desk Yoga

07 February 2022

Desk yoga does not mean attempting contortion-like positions while seated precariously on a wheely chair. It does not even require any particular flexibility.

Desk yoga is for everyone. It aims to loosen off your body and especially targets those areas which are made tight by excessive sitting - as we often do during the workday.

Yoga is highly beneficial for both body and mind. Squeezing in even a few minutes of yoga into your daily routine can reduce tension in the body, soothe the mind and help you to re-focus.

Here are some simple yoga exercises and breathing techniques which are designed to make everyone feel good:

#1 Box Breathing (2 mins)

This simple breathing technique increases calmness and returns focus.

1. Breathe in deeply while counting slowly to four. As you breathe in, visualise drawing a line upwards in the air in front of you.

2. Hold your breath for another count of four. Visualise drawing a line at 90° from the top of your first line (this will be the top of your box/square).

3. Exhale deeply and slowly to a count of four. Visualise drawing a line downwards from your second line.

4. Hold your breath again for a count of four. Visualise closing off your square with the final line along the bottom.

5. Repeat as necessary. Increase your counts to six as you become more experienced.

#2 Shoulder Rolls (2 minutes)

This light movement opens up the shoulders and chest, countering the slumped position we often adopt when sitting at a desk.

1. Sit in a comfortable position. Extend your spine and sit up tall.
2. Slowly lift your shoulders towards your ears. Breathe in deeply and slowly.
3. Roll your shoulders back and down. Breathe out slowly.
4. Pause with your shoulders in a natural position. Breathe in deeply and slowly.
5. Roll your shoulders forwards and up towards your ears. Breathe out slowly.
6. Repeat a few times until your shoulders feel looser.

#3 Cactus Open Chest Stretch (1 minute)

This light stretch will loosen off your chest, shoulders, neck and upper back - how efficient!

1. Sit comfortably on a chair. Extend your spine and sit up tall.
2. Raise your arms out to the side in a T-shape. Bend your arms at the elbows so your hands are pointing up and your palms face forwards - like a cactus!
3. Look upwards (only as far as is comfortable) and push your chest gently forwards. Tense your stomach to protect your lower back.
4. Slowly bring your arms to meet each other in front of your face, while breathing in slowly and deeply. Round your upper back and tuck your head towards your chest - as far as is comfortable.
5. Slowly return your arms back to the cactus shape, raising your head and stretching out your upper back.
6. Repeat as necessary.

#4 Neck Stretch (1 minute)

This simple stretch will reduce tension in the neck and can be done easily at your desk.

1. Sit upright, with your head directly above your spine, keeping your back away from the back of the chair.
2. Lower your head towards the right shoulder. Avoid raising your shoulder or tipping your head forwards or backwards.
3. To ease into a deeper stretch, reach your right hand over to the left side of your head and place it just above your left ear.
4. Hold this position for five breaths. Then release.
5. Lightly roll your head in a circle to stretch off your neck.
6. Then repeat on the left side.

#5 Reverse Prayer Position (2 minutes)

This position may feel tricky at first, but it can be so beneficial for stretching out your arms, wrists, shoulders and chest. Use the slightly easier alteration if you find it difficult the first few times, or try the challenge to take it further.

1. Sit at the edge of your chair or complete this position standing up. Keep your shoulders in a neutral position throughout and prevent them from rolling forwards or backwards.
2. Reach your arms around behind you and bring your hands into a prayer position behind your back. Your palms should be together, your smallest fingers next to your back and your fingers pointing upwards. If this stretch is too deep, hold opposite elbows.
3. Breathe in deeply for a count of four, then out for a count of four.
4. To take this stretch further, stand with one foot about a pace in front of the other. Put your hands into a reverse prayer position behind your back and slowly fold your upper body over your front leg. Keep your spine straight and keep reaching out with your head. Rise up slowly, breathing in, then repeat on the other side.

#6 Side Bend

This exercise helps to stretch out the side body, arms and backs of your shoulders.

1. Sit up tall, with your head over your spine, and raise both arms upwards.
2. Hold your left wrist with your right hand.
3. Lean slowly to the right. Avoid tipping your head - lead with your arms - and only go as far as is comfortable.
4. Return to the centre and breathe deeply.

Hold your right wrist with your left hand and repeat on the other side.