Sitting is regularly called the new smoking. It’s no wonder: Too much of it causes our digestion to drop off, leaves us sluggish, tightens our shoulders, back, hips, hamstrings and chest. Yoga can help you de-kink after a long day at the office.
After sitting for hours on end, bring some mobility back into the spine by flowing through cat and cow. Cat stretches the back and strengthens the abdominals, while cow opens the chest and strengthens the back. Together, they warm up the spine and relieve back and neck tension.
The move: Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees so your palms press into the ground and your knees rest under your hips. Make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders form one straight line and your knees and hips form another.
As you exhale, press into the ground with your hands and round your back like an angry Halloween cat. Gently bring your chin toward your chest and activate your abdominals, pulling your belly button toward your spine.
On your inhale, come into cow by arching your back in the opposite direction. Broaden your chest and lift your tailbone to the sky so your belly sinks toward the floor.
Hold each pose for several breaths or find a gentle flow between the two so that with each exhale you round into cat and with each inhale you open into cow.
Stretch your shoulders, lengthen your back and get blood flowing to your brain with down dog.
The move: From your tabletop position, slide your palms forward so they rest in front of your shoulders and tuck your toes under. As you exhale, press your palms into the ground and lift your knees off the ground, straightening your arms and legs. Your body will form a wide, upside-down V shape.
Push your thighs back, pressing your heels toward the floor, without locking your knees. Beginners often struggle to keep their legs straight. It’s OK! Keep a slight bend in your knees at first. Don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the floor. Broaden your shoulders by rotating your arms slightly so your elbow creases face the sky. Relax your neck, and take 5–10 breaths here.
This posture provides a deep stretch for the hips, hamstrings and calves. It creates length in the spine, releasing tension in the low back. It’s also a simple inversion which helps get blood flowing back to the upper body. Add in this arm variation for a shoulder and chest opener that counterbalances too much time hunched over a computer.
The move: Turn to face the long edge of your mat with your feet 3–4 feet apart. Turn the toes in slightly and engage the thighs. Bring your hands to your hips and, as you exhale, lean the torso forward until it is parallel to the floor. Lengthen through the entire torso and on your next exhale fold completely. Rest your hands on your thighs, shins, ankles or place your palms flat on a block or the floor below your shoulders. Let your head be relaxed and heavy. Relax the eyes and hold here for 5–10 breaths. After a few breaths add a shoulder and chest opener by taking the arms behind your back, interlacing your fingers and letting your arms fall toward the floor.
STANDING STRADDLE WITH A TWIST
There are two twist variations to standing straddle that makes this calming stretch for the back, hips, hamstrings and calves even more delicious.
The move: Stand on the long-edge of your mat with feet wide and toes turned in slightly. Bring your hands to your hips, and with a nice, long back, fold forward on an exhale, stopping when your torso is parallel to the ground. Place your left palm on the floor or a block directly under your chin. Inhale; as you exhale, bring your right palm to the small of your back and twist to the right. Adjust the block so it’s directly under your left shoulder. You can deepen the twist by extending your right hand to the sky. Hold for 5 breaths, exhale to fold forward and inhale to return to a standing position. Repeat on the other side.
Standing on the long-edge of your mat with your feet wide, bring your hands to your hips and fold forward on an exhale. Inhale here, and as you exhale, walk both hands to your right ankle, calf or thigh. Hold here for 5 breaths, inhale to center and as you exhale walk your hands to the other side, twisting to the left.
This intense hip opener is a great antidote to a long day at the office, but ease into it gently.
The move: From a seated position, bend your left leg so your shin runs parallel to your body. Your foot and ankle are in one line. Bring your right leg to rest on top of your left, stacking your right foot on top of your left knee and the right knee on the left foot. Keep both feet flexed and your torso long.
Don’t worry if you have a space between the top knee and bottom foot — it’s very common. If it’s uncomfortable, place a blanket or towel between them for added support. Hold for 5–10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
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