.by Baxter and Nina
How much yoga can you do without getting out of your chair? Well, it turns out quite a lot! In fact, today’s mini sequence is a well-rounded practice that includes backbends, forward bends, a twist, a hip opener, and a relaxation pose, all of which can be done at your desk or at the airport. The entire sequence is accessible to almost everyone, including people who find it difficult to get up and down from the floor or who cannot stand.
1. Chair Cat Pose for six rounds (with six breaths). This seated version of Cat pose is a great way to counteract the tendency to round forward when you sit in front of your computer, laptop, or tablet, or commute in your car. For those who tend to assume a head forward position, this pose returns your head to a healthier alignment over your shoulders. And moving back and forth between arching and rounding your spine strengthens the muscles that support your head in a more even way. For all of us, moving your spine back and forth between flexion (rounded) and extension (arched) helps keep your spine healthy by providing nourishment to the bones and disks.
Because you move rhythmically with your breath in this pose, you take in more oxygen, which has a positive effect on your respiratory system and can help if you get winded easily. In addition, moving with your breath is a stimulating, which may perk you up when you are feeling sluggish and can help you focus your concentration. It’s a good way to kick start your practice when you are feeling fatigued or depressed. After you start gently moving in this pose, you may feel ready for some larger movements.
Seated Cat-Cow Pose
2. Chair Twist for one minute. This pose releases back muscles that are stiff or sore from sitting at a desk or from traveling, or from everyday activities that stress the back, such as gardening and painting, and increases the rotational mobility in your spine. Twisting also helps nourish the spine—movement of the spine helps maintain the health of the discs—and also strengthens the bones themselves as your back muscles pull on the bony insertions of the spine. This pose also strengthens the oblique muscles of your core (and we could all use a little of that). Traditional yoga teachers recommend twists for the health of your internal organs, improving circulation to and function of the abdominal organs, although no studies have been conducted to confirm this. And finally, for many of us, twists can release physical and emotional tension, providing relief from stress.
3. Chair Seated Forward Bend/Hip Opener for one to two minutes. This simple pose is another good antidote to sitting upright in your chair. An excellent hip opener, this forward bend counteracts the tightness of your hips that you develop from sitting with your legs straight in front of you, helping you to maintain mobility in your hip joints. The release in your hips can feel wonderful, and you may also feel a good stretch in your lower back and inner thighs. The pose also helps stretch and wake up your arms as you press them toward the floor. By changing your relationship to gravity, this pose helps release tension you’re holding in your back, neck, and head. This can be particularly helpful if you’ve spent hours in front of your computer screen or driving, and your neck is stiff or even painful. The partial inversion also stimulates your circulatory system and can re-enliven you if you’re feeling sluggish, stimulates your circulatory system.
Chair Seated Forward Bend.
4. Chair Backbend for 12 to 16 breaths. This simple chair backbend is the perfect antidote to the typical postural habits of slumping forward that we develop from sitting all day at our desks, in cars, and airplanes, and from the many everyday activities where we are bending forward, such as gardening or washing dishes. The basic back-bending shape re-establishes the natural curve of your lower back, correctly aligning your spine in its natural curves, which helps to keep your back healthy. The backbend also lengthens the front of your body, allowing many of us to breath in with greater ease. It helps release stress from your upper body, especially the upper chest. And while stretching the front of your body, the pose strengthens your back body muscles, which tend to be overstretched and weak if they are ignored. Because backbends in general tend to be uplifting, you may even find this pose helps encourage a more positive mood as you take deep inhalations and exhalations.
5. Supported Forward Bend for one to ten minutes. The simple supported forward bend is a safe forward bend for almost everyone. Because you’re bending your legs at the knees, you’re reducing the tension on your hamstrings and therefore allowing your pelvis to have more flexibility at your hip joints. In addition, because you’re resting your arms and head on a chair or desk and you’re not hanging in space, your lower back muscles can release more completely and relax more deeply. (Some of the seated forward bends with straight legs can aggravate lower back pain or disc problems because they pull so strongly on your back muscles and encourage the discs to move toward a posterior position, and you can sometimes over-strain your ligaments when you overdo.)
This forward bend can provide you a quiet moment in your busy day, and allows you to access the deep rest of conscious relaxation without lying on the floor, especially if you focus on your breath while you are in the pose. In addition, folding forward creates a feeling of safety and comfort for many people. And supporting your head enhances the soothing quality of the forward bend, so the Chair Forward Bend may even have a quieting effect on your mind and your emotions, cooling negative emotions such as anger and anxiety.
Chair Supported Forward Bend.