And now for something completely different: exercises that will help you relieve your desk-weary back, shoulders and neck.
I’m a writer, so I spend hours at my desk, and when I’m really in the flow, I often forget to take a break. Science tells us that we should take a 5-minute break every hour, and there are plenty of apps that offer to remind you. Some even offer exercises and activities you can do at your desk. Stand Up! The Work Break Timer is free and has good reviews. You can set any interval between five minutes and two hours and customize the alarms.
Even if you’ve never attended a yoga class, you can incorporate yoga stretches into your day; they can ease tension, stave off pain, and give you a few minutes of mindfulness. Hold for 5 – 8 deep breaths to get the full effect – the deep breathing will calm you and give you energy. Here are 8 that feel great (courtesy of health.com and onedowndog.com).
Altar Pose: Inhale and lift your arms; clasp your hands and invert your palms. Lean to your left. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths, then switch sides.
Chair Twist: Turn to your left. Use your left hand on the back of the chair to deepen the twist. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths, then twist to the other side.
Ankle to Knee: Place your left foot on your right knee, letting left knee drop open. Keep your back straight; lean forward to stretch deeper. After 5 to 8 breaths, switch sides. For a deeper stretch, lean forward to try to touch your forehead to your crossed leg.
Neck Stretch: Sit up tall. Inhale and place your right hand on top left of your head. On your exhale gently bring your right ear closer to your right shoulder. Intensify the stretch by extending your opposite arm down towards the ground. Continue to hold and breathe for 5 rounds of breath. Repeat on the left side.
Desk Down Dog: Place your fingertips on the edge of your desk or chair (only if it is very stable). Spread your fingers apart and stretch through your palms. Start to walk backwards enough that you can extend your arms straight so your body is in an L shape. Let your heart and chest yearn towards the floor. Breathe here for 30 seconds to a minute and release.
Seated Cat/Cow: Place your hands on top of your knees, palms face down. Inhale and gaze up, curve your spine so your stomach is closer to your knees. Exhale and arch your back, tuck your chin towards your chest. Move through this sequence 5-7 times.
Standing Forward Fold: Stand up from your chair and step your feet apart hips width distance, take a deep inhale and on your exhale fold your body in half. Let your head and neck completely relax, releasing all tension. This can also be done seated.
Eagle Pose: (a personal favorite for stretching shoulders): Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas wide across the back of your torso. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other.
None of these poses look foolish and most can be done in skirts (with the exception of Ankle to Knee and Standing Forward Fold.) A 5-minute desk yoga break could make you feel stronger, calmer, and reduce your neck and back pain. I’m planning to incorporate it for a month and let you know how I feel. Let me know if you try it and whether it brings results.