Here we are in the thick of it friends! That limbo time of the holidays between Christmas and New Year. That special time of the year that doesn’t feel like real life. We are eating and drinking an unmonitored amount and cozied up by the tree watching movies and crushin’ nog.
This is that magical time of the year where I feel the stiffest I’ve felt all year. I can’t tell if it’s from all the sitting or if it’s the release of tension from everything that’s happened in the past 12 months. Whatever the source of it is, I am most definitely sore and in need of a little boost to power through to New Year’s Day.
Yoga is an incredible tool to help with stretching sore muscles or strengthening underused muscles. We know it’s not practical for everyone to bucket an hour of their day to get to the yoga study for a full practice (especially during the holidays) so this week we’ve dedicated our blog post to break down some simple poses that are perfect for waking up the parts of the body that get abused and/or ignored when we sit and eat treats all day long by the fireplace.
You can do these poses by themselves or if you’re feeling it, you can link them together in a fun flow.
Let’s get moving Sleekformers! Namaste!
Why do it?
Child's pose is a great stretch for your hips and lower back. Wide legs help with your hips and opening those hip flexors that become tight from sitting in a 90-degree angle chair all day and the narrow legs version creates space in your lower back to help with the compression gravity puts on your body from standing and sitting.
How To Do It
- Start in tabletop (aka all 4’s) and bring your hips back as far as you can, all the way to the floor if possible
- Bring your knees out wide to the edge of your mat if you want a hip stretch for the compression from sitting all day
- Bring your knees in at hip width for a lower back stretch from heaven
- Hold as long as you need.
Bring your arms behind you with palms up, and backs of your hands resting on the ground for a relaxing stretch
Keep your arms out in front to incorporate an upper back stretch as well
If your arms are out front try walking them side to side and stretch the side body deeper
Resting is good, use this one as much as you want in your practice or day. It’s great to calm the mind and relax.
Child's Pose with Blocks
This version opens up your triceps and upper-side body. Have you ever reached your arms over your head and felt that glorious stretch? That’s what this does while also stretching your hips/lower back for an all-around relaxing feel.
How To Do It
- Get two blocks, come to a kneeling position and place the blocks about 1 foot in front of your knees
- Bend your elbows and place them on the blocks
- Bring your hips back and come to child's pose
- Hold as long as you want
You might not be able to go as deep in your child’s pose and that's okay, focus on the tricep and upper body stretching. Your hips don’t have to go all the way down to the ground.
Relax your head to wherever it feels good, you don’t want to be using those neck muscles. If you can't bring it to the ground grab a block/blanket/prop to get it wherever you need to relax your neck.
Bound Forward Fold
This pose helps to bring you balance, release tension in your hamstrings and upper back. A forward fold helps to lengthen your entire back body that gets compressed while we sit for extended periods.
How To Do It
- Start standing with feet hip distance apart
- Fold forward and grab your elbow with your opposite hand
- Take a deep bend in your knees to put your chest on your thighs
- Relax your head fully and release any tension in your neck
- Rest and fold here for as long as you need, at least 10 breaths
The extra weight of your arms pulling together on the ground will create space in the upper and middle back, and that's the feeling you are looking for. I also love the hamstring stretch but you only get that if you go deep into your bent knees.
Why Do It?
Opens up the chest and abdominals- when we sit at a computer and type all day the tendency is to cave and round inwards. This pose counteracts that and helps open up your front body.
How To Do It
- Lie face down on the ground
- Slide your hands back until your elbows are under your shoulders and press up into your arms
- Send your heart all the way forward
- Lift up through the crown of your head
- Hold for a number of breaths
Bring your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible, then bring your shoulders back further than your ears for a deeper chest stretch. The goal is to lengthen the chest, not to bend the back- so don’t worry about your bend, it’s all about your chest.
Extended Puppy Pose
Why Do It?
This pose is a cross between child’s pose and downward dog. It’s meant to lengthen your spine and give your shoulders a good stretch, increasing your shoulder flexibility. When done correctly it releases some of the tension we create from sitting, hunching, worrying, backpack wearing, and other various shoulder scrunching activities.
- Start on all fours
- Ensure your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips above your knees
- Exhale and bring your hips/buttocks back halfway to your heels
- Keep your arms active without letting your elbows touch the ground
- Drop your forehead down to the ground and relax your neck muscles, if you head can’t reach the ground get a blanket or block to rest on
Keep your arms active and pull down with your core/hips. This is an active pose where child’s pose is not always active so keep your arms engaged. Be sure not to come out of the pose too fast, it’s a mild inversion so you might get a bit light-headed.
Threading The Needle
Why Do It?
This pose if great for opening up your chest and shoulders after being hunched over a computer/desk/smartphone all day.
How To Do It
- Start in a table top position and lift up your right arm
- Bring the right arm down, underneath your left armpit and stretch it to the left with your right arm perpendicular to your left shoulder with your palm facing up
- If you want a deeper twist and stretch bring your left arm up and bend it behind your back
- Twist into your left shoulder to the ceiling, or you can bring your left arm forward and stretch to the top of your mat to get a deeper stretch in your upper back
This is a twist so be sure to keep your back protected and if it starts to hurt do not twist any further. Play with different left arm variations to find the stretch that feels the best for your body that day.
Sitting in a chair can be really constrictive and end up tightening your hips, specifically your hip flexors and psoas muscles. This pose focuses on opening up your hips up and releasing tension which we hold naturally in our hips due to sitting.
How To Do It
- Start in downward dog
- Bring your right foot forward in between your hands
- Drop your back knee and get low into your front knee
- Feel free to stay here, bring your arms up, get into a backbend to open the chest and hips (but be sure not to compromise the hip stretch for a chest opener, you will end up causing more tension in your hips which we are trying to open up)
- You can also take it deeper by bending your back leg and grasping your back foot stretching your quads and hips at the same time.
Make sure your knee does not go over your ankle, if it does get a larger stance. You should feel this in the front of your hips. If you do not widen your stance and go deeper into your front leg bend. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. If you feel discomfort in your knee place a blanket or fold your yoga mat underneath for more cushioning and support.
This pose is great for opening up your upper back- your wing area, if you will. When you spend all day working at a computer and doing repetitive motions over and over again you quickly create stiffness and pain in your upper back and shoulder. This pose helps stretch and open it all up.
How To Do It
- Start by standing and bring your arms out in front of you.
- Bend at the elbow and bring your right arm underneath your left arm.
- You can half bind by keeping the backs of your hands touching or full bind and have your palms touch.
- Lift your elbows up as high as you can, you should feel this all the way across your back.
- Switch it up and do the other side.
- If you want to incorporate some balance wrap your left foot around your right and sit down as far as you can. Make sure not to sacrifice the stretch in your shoulders/upper back for balance, just don’t sit down as far or bind your legs as far. This one is specifically for the back.
The higher your elbows the better the stretch becomes. Be sure to keep your hips and shoulders squared off and keep drawing your shoulder blades down your back for the best stretch ever.
Oh man, this one will open you up. It is a seriously deep stretch for your shoulders, deltoids, triceps, armpits, chest, the whole she-bang, once again counteracting the posture you take all day long.
How To Do It
- Come to a seat and place your right bent knee on top of your left bent knee
- Your knees should be fully stacked directly in the center of your body and heels close to the body
- Keep your hips glued to the floor
- Sit up tall and bring your left arm to the sky
- Bend at the elbow so your palm rests on your upper back
- Bend your right elbow and bring your right hand behind your back with your palm facing out
- If you can hook your fingers, but if not use a strap (or a folded towel) in your left hand letting the strap fall down your back. Grasp with your right hand.
- Lift your left elbow to the sky but avoid letting your ribcage expand outward into a slight backbend
Don’t let your ribcage splay outward, pull those bottom ribs in and keep a straight spine. Use the strap if you cannot link your fingertips. This one is not comfortable. Remember when you are uncomfortable (not in pain) the more you need the pose. Power through the uncomfortable-ness, there will be big pay off!
This stretches- you guessed it- your shoulders! It also brings mobility into your spine and stretches your abdominals. Delicious. This posture counteracts sitting by being the exact opposite shape you take when you sit. Open up your front body, crack open your chest and breathe deeply and fully into every rib.
How To Do It
- Come to a kneeling position
- Place your hands on your lower back
- Press your hips forward using your hips and thighs
- Lift your chest to the sky and reach your hands down to your heels if you can
- Let your head rest behind you gazing at the wall behind you
- Bring your hands to your lower back again using them to protect your lower back as you rise back up
This is a backbend and shoulder stretch so be wary of leaning your hips back instead of pushing them forward. You should have two counterbalancing actions here. Pushing forward with your hips/thighs and bending your upper back to get your heels/shins. Your legs should stay at a straight 90-degree angle bending at the knee and the shoulder is where you open up to reach back. It’s tempting to lean back at the knee but it puts pressure where it shouldn’t be. If you cannot reach your heels that’s fine keep your hands on your back or wherever you get the stretch.
There you have it! A simple set of postures and poses you can do to help alleviate pain and strengthen muscles that go unused in your day to day life. Simply changing the way you sit will not help cure your aches and pains but it is a great tool to help with that. Pairing it with other tools and small lifestyle changes will help you see and feel a difference in your posture and general health much more quickly.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose to relieve workplace tension and improve posture?
Don’t keep it to yourself!
Leave us a comment and share your secrets!
Namaste. See you next year!