Does this sound like your typical day? Sit down to breakfast, and sit in your car to get to work just to sit in an office chair all day. Then you sit again for your commute home before sitting down to dinner, and then maybe even for some television? Many of us spend the majority of the day seated. If you’re one of those who do, you likely experience soreness, tightness and stiffness in your hips, lower back and hamstrings as a result of hours spent in the same position. The good news? There are a few simple exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help relieve tension and stiffness.
Use these exercises at home or in the middle of your day at the office:
Standing Forward Bend
What it does: This pose is perfect to alleviate both physical and mental stress brought on by the workday. It helps to relieve tension throughout the body by allowing the mind to calm and shoulders to relax. It stretches hips, hamstrings and calves, and helps to relieve fatigue and anxiety.
How to do it: Start by standing with your feet hip-width distance apart. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, with an emphasis on lengthening the front torso as you deepen the forward fold. Bring your fingertips or palms to the floor or close to the floor, depending on your flexibility. If your hamstrings are tight, keep a slight bend in your knees as you hold the pose. Press your heels firmly into the floor, and lift sitting bones toward the ceiling. Let each inhale lift and lengthen the torso slightly and each exhale allow you to drop a little deeper into the forward bend. Let your neck and shoulders relax, and move your head gently to relax further. Take 5–10 breaths in this position, then walk the inside edges of your feet together, press your tailbone down, and inhale to lift yourself up to standing.
What it does: Cat/cow is a gentle vinyasa sequence that helps relieve stress by connecting breath to movement.
How to do it: To begin, start in tabletop position with your knees on the floor directly under your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders. As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling as you drop your belly toward the floor (cow). As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling (cat). Keep hands and knees in position, and continue for 10–20 breaths as you alternate cow pose on the inhale and cat pose on the exhale.
Try cat/cow from my “Element: 5 Day Yoga” DVD with me.
What it does: Child’s pose is a resting pose and gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles as it calms and relaxes the body. The grounded position of the forehead connected to the earth allows for relief of stress and tension.
How to do it: To begin, kneel on the floor and bring your big toes together as you sit on your heels. Separate your knees to hip-width distance. As you exhale, relax forward with your torso between your thighs. Lay your hands on the floor next to your legs with your palms facing up. Child’s pose is a resting position, so allow each exhale to drop you deeper into the pose. To come out, bring your hands in toward your knees and gently press into your palms to lift your torso back over your hips.
What it does: This pose releases tension and increases mobility in the back, neck, shoulders and hips. It also soothes the digestive system and relieves pain from backaches.
How to do it: To begin, sit on the floor with your left leg straight in front of you. Bring the right foot over the left leg and press the sole of the foot into the floor on the outside of the left knee. If this stretch is too much, you can keep the foot on the inside of the knee. Make sure the right knee is pointing toward the ceiling as you interlace the fingers around the right shin to help lengthen your torso so that you are sitting up straight. Place the right fingertips on the floor behind your hips, and either wrap the left arm around the knee or bring the left elbow outside of the right thigh, depending on your flexibility. With every inhale, lift through your chest and lengthen your spine, and with each exhale twist through your core as you keep your gaze at one point.
These exercises will help relieve tension so that you can feel happier and be more productive all day long. For best results, start by practicing these movements at a minimum of 2 times per week. You’ll feel best if you can incorporate at least a few of these movements on a daily basis.