We have a sitting epidemic that exists in today’s day and age. Nobody considers it a health risk, but it’s safe to say that the average person sits for more than 50% of the day. Working from home and limiting activities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic was not conducive to this pre-existing problem. This may be a controversial statement, but sitting is the new smoking.
People know that sitting all day is not beneficial for them, yet they don’t do much to counteract their sedentary nature. Sitting all day creates tightness in the hips, lower back, and weakens the gluteus muscles. Additionally, it’s common to hunch over a keyboard at a desk in a chair, which probably doesn’t support good posture. Rounding the shoulders puts strain on the upper back and neck, which leads to tightness misalignment in the upper spine.
Don’t let your desk job wreck your posture or back health. Take five minutes out of your day to engage in the following yoga poses that counteract sitting down all day.
The beauty of these two poses is that they oppose each other, working to articulate the full spine and alleviate tension you build up from sitting. Get in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked above your hands and hips above your knees. Spread your fingers wide to ground yourself firmly. Inhale and expand your belly toward the floor as you arch up, draw back your shoulders, and look up toward the ceiling. Hold for a moment and then exhale, rounding your back and tucking your tailbone. Alternate between these two motions for about one minute, flowing with your breath.
Seated Forward Fold
If you have tension in the low back and hamstrings, this pose will help elongate those muscles. Sit down on your butt and extend your legs out in front with your feet flexed. Keep your back straight as you fold at the torso and reach for your toes. If you need to bend your knees a little, please do so to avoid any pain. If you can grab your toes easily with your legs straight, try to bring your forehead down to your legs. Hold this position for about 20 seconds, breathing throughout.
Working to open the muscles in the rear legs and shoulders, Downward Dog is an excellent position for the spine’s natural curves. Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders stacked above your hands and hips above your knees. Slowly step back and sink into your heels, spreading your hands and widening your shoulder blades. Push the tops of your thighs back and press your heels to the floor. If you can’t straighten your legs or touch your heels to the floor, this is completely fine. The important thing is to press your chest towards your thighs while extending through the arms. Remain here for five deep breaths and return to the tabletop position.
Half Splits Pose
You won’t be dropping into a split like James Brown to do this pose, so don’t worry about that. This pose helps to release the tension in tight hamstrings that comes from sitting all day. Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart and step your right foot forward into a low lunge. Drop your left knee to the ground, shift your weight back, and straighten your right leg so that your heel is on the ground. You can use bolsters or yoga blocks for stability on either side of you if you cannot touch the ground with your hands. Straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can and hinge at the hips to lean forward while keeping your back straight. You should feel a deep stretch in the hamstring. Press your right heel into the ground to feel a deeper stretch, and make sure that your hips are square to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch to the opposite leg.
Gate pose engages the body in a wonderful movement that extends the sides of the torso and hamstrings. It also helps to stimulate the abdominal muscles to allow for a deeper breath. Start in a tall kneeling position with your shins on the ground hip-distance apart. You can place a pillow or towel under your knees if they are sensitive. Extend your right leg out to the side and plant your foot on the ground. Place your right hand on the outside of your right leg for stability and extend your left arm overhead. Lean to the right and look up toward the ceiling, feeling the stretch on the left side of your torso. Remain here for several deep breaths before repeating on the left leg.