A 4-Pose Self-Care Chair Sequence for Working At Home
Photos: Miko Hafez
With more people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a few silver lining discoveries for some. Cutting down travel, spending more time at home, avoiding awkward or negative workplace scenarios, and the occasional “wear your sweats to work” dress code are all benefits of the virtual office. But one challenging arena to navigate is finding work-life boundaries. You may have noticed you’ve been working longer hours than usual from the comfort of your home and find yourself taking fewer movement breaks. Maybe those trips to the water cooler weren’t so bad? Periodic movement throughout your workday helps release unwanted tension and unburden your mind.
Here is a gentle and feel-good chair yoga sequence you can do right from your desk that helps counteract those long hours of sitting.
Neck and Spine Relief
Maybe you’ve been leaning into the excitement of your work or slouching into the comfort of your couch. This side bending pose can help you rebalance your spine, release a tense neck and stretch your intercostal muscles to facilitate better breathing.
Start seated in your chair with a neutral spine. Lean your right ear towards your right shoulder and straighten your left arm down alongside your chair seat. Take a few breaths here, sensing the elongation of the side of your neck. Then allow the rest of your spine to follow suit by side bending to the left and reaching your left arm overhead. You can walk your right hand down the side of your chair or support your hand on a block. Take 3 to 5 deep breaths as you observe the movement of your left side ribs. Next, lower your left arm to hang heavily by your left side while you slowly rotate your neck to look down towards your right hand and then up towards the ceiling. Do this for a few cycles. When you are ready to change sides, center your head and bring your torso upright.
Dynamic Twist and Lift
When your back is feeling achy, and your breathing feels off, try this dynamic combo. Begin seated with a neutral spine. Take your right hand to your outer left thigh and support your left hand on the chair seat or chair back (do the one that feels natural in your body to do. Inhale, and as you exhale, turn to the left. Breathe smoothly and steadily rather than forcing a deeper twist. On an exhalation, unwind your twist. Then hold onto the sides of the chair slightly behind your hips, and lift your chest. Stay for a breath or two, then repeat and turn to the right. Do this for as many rounds as you need.
Lunge It Out
Does it feel difficult to stand up after being seated for a while? Give your hip flexors some love with one or both of these supported lunges.
For the first variation, begin seated and turn your body to the left so that your left shoulder faces the chair back and your feet are on the floor. If they are not, try using blocks under your feet. Lean your torso forward as you step your right foot back, maintaining your left hip and back of your thigh on the chair. Straighten your right leg and take a few breaths. Then bring your torso upright and bend your right knee so that the feeling remains in the front of your right hip. Stay here, or lean your torso to the left as you support your left hand on the chair and lift your right arm overhead. Stay for a few breaths, then release your right arm, lean over your left thigh to step your right foot forward, and come upright to sit. Swivel around to change sides.
The second variation is done standing. Stand behind the right side of the chair and place your left foot in the center of the chair seat. Take your hands to the chair and walk your right foot back some. You can keep the ball of your right foot on the floor or drop the heel to the floor for more balance. Steady your legs, and when you’re ready, lift your torso and reach your arms overhead. Stay here or take your left hand to the chair back and side bend to the left with your right arm overhead. Take a few deep breaths as you press the ball of your right foot into the floor and observe the sensation along the front of your right hip. To come out, lift your torso upright, take your hands to the chair seat to step your right foot forward, and then step off the chair. Stand in tadasana for a few moments before changing to the other side.
Soothing Forward Fold
The chaos of the day usually catches up at some point, so having a few moments of quiet can go a long way. This forward bend can help soothe your nervous system by decreasing the stimulation of your senses.
Begin seated with a neutral spine and your feet wider than your chair. Press your palms into the tops of your thighs as you elongate your spine. On an exhalation, tip your pelvis forward and then round your spine. Support your forearms on blocks on the floor or thighs. Use a blanket for additional support. Close your eyes or soften your gaze and sink into that sweet feeling of release.
Working from home carries the incognito weight of defining clear boundaries between work and rest. As you take on that challenge, these poses can serve as a reminder that small increments of activity can reduce stress and tension while taking care of your body and mind while you work.
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