Like so many people today I, as an avocado adoring, high-rent tolerating, Instagram addicted, millennial-urbanite, feel more than confident discussing exactly what yoga is, and how incredible it can be. Sure, I don’t really have any first-hand knowledge of what it means, how it works, where it comes from or even what it does. But who cares, it’s 2018 right? Facts don’t matter anymore and if there’s something really important, well I’ll just Google it.***
A few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I were having a drink after work when the topic arose. It was fine that I didn’t know anything because well, we were all in the same boat.
Ignorance = ultra-bliss, emoji, super-like, emoji 100%!!!!!!!!
Basking in the last light of a Friday at the beginning of June, we blurted out nonsense.
“My chakras got twice as much Zen now I’ve started using essential oils in the bath.” and, “Yoga’s actually really ancient and spiritual. Don’t you think that people who use it instead of going to the gym are so cliché?” It was at this point that a lady who’d been standing nearby our group turned to me and asked, “Have you ever actually done yoga?”. “Yes.” I replied, referring to the one class I’d been duped into taking by an attractive young woman standing outside my university entrance with ‘free-yoga’ vouchers in 2013.
After a short conversation, it became blindingly obvious that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a Pranayama, Mantra, and your run of the mill Utkatasana if it came up and slapped me in the face. Things needed a mix-up.
Fennel (not her real name) convinced me that I really ought to try things before chatting such rubbish about them. She said if I didn’t have time to go to a yoga class for one hour a week, why not just try it at work. What?!? I hear you cry, aghast. That’s exactly what I did too. But after looking it up, it turns out that, yes, desk yoga really is a thing. So, I thought I’d give it a try. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Well, people you share an office with WILL think you’re a total freak. That and the chance of minor physical injury if performed incorrectly are probably the worst possible things that can happen. The former I am sure was due, in no small part, to the undignified grunts and misshapen yogi-positions precariously held teetering over my computer and charging iPhone.
Here are my 3 top tips to avoid looking like a complete prat while doing yoga at your desk.
1. Actually connect.
- Sure, you can pretend zen-out and be totally at one with you mind, body and soul. But basically, if you’re feeling really self-conscious of how you look, being serene melting from one pose into another you are kind of missing the point. Take the calmness of the mind yoga has to offer and run with it. It’s not easy but just give it ago, I promise you’ll feel better for just getting up and moving about a little.
2. Engage your core.
Apparently, grace comes from the centre of your being. In the week I practiced I doubt I managed to look very graceful but being conscious of your core strength was for me one of the most important things. Limbs flap, your core is stable, so base the poses from there. Think of the shape you make as growing from a steady centre and moving outwards. It certainly helped me.
3. Breath consciously.
- There’s quite a lot that goes into breathing properly and I won’t pretend to know how breathing and asanas link together. What I will say is that when you move against the grain of your breathing, out of time that is, it’ much harder to move without shaking and your body definitely feels like it’s doing something wrong. The breathing I used was very simple and based on simply observing the in-breath and the out-breath. Each was a unit of time for my body to move within. I tended to try not to move or continue a movement between breaths.
7 proven yoga poses that have been proven to relieve stress.
1. Seated Crescent Moon Pose
A lot of the discomfort we feel while at work in our necks and shoulders comes from the sides of our bodies collapsing as we sit at a desk all day. Being hunched over your laptop all day really isn’t great for your posture. This pose can help your spine return to its original straightness (of the day) and focus your mind so you can zero down on those big cash deals (insert optional big bucks symbols ££££££).
Put your arms in the air (like you just don’t care) and stretch those fingers as wide as you can. Lean to the right, breath in, breath out, breath in and next lean to the left and repeat that pattern. Take a 5 second pause in the middle before doing the move again another four times.
2. Wrist and Finger Stretches
Do you ever feel like your hands and wrists develop increased tension after a tiresome day of typing? That’s because the muscles and tendons in your fingers require a bit of a helping hand in the blood flow department. If you try this stretch roughly every two hours I promise you’ll notice that stiff sensation that builds in your knuckles subsides.
Extends your arms either overhead or to the sides of your body and make five to ten circles inwards and outwards with the wrists. Then, as quickly and dramatically as possible, spread your fingers before clenching your hand into a wrist. Repeat this five to ten times before shaking out and excess tension.
Finally, place your hands palms facing up on the desk in front of you. Swivel your hands so that your fingers point towards your body and your wrists are the furthest from your chest/stomach. Apply a gentle pressure to the counter stretch. Hold for between five and ten seconds. This move can be performed by both hands at the same time or hand by hand; just do what feels comfortable for you.
3. Chair Pigeon Pose
If you’re prone to crossing your legs while seated, especially if it’s one side more than the other, tends to create imbalances in the hips and spine. To neutralise this, let’s get into the chair pigeon pose.
While sat at your desk, place both feet in their natural position with the soles flat to the floor. Next, cross your right leg over the left at a right angle, with the foot flexed and the left foot still on the floor. Keep an equal weight distributed between the sitting bones and remember to stay in an upright position.
This should create a moderate stretch on the outside part of your right thigh. You need to hold it for around seven or eight breathes before switching to the left side.
4. Sit and Stand Chair Pose
Ever wondered why it sometimes feels weirdly difficult to get up from your seat after sitting down all day? Well, the answer is that our underused hamstrings and glutes sort of lose their motivation to help up get back up. To replace them, we rely largely on our upper back and neck to help hoist ourselves out of our seats an into standing. This pose, formed of two parts, help re-awaken these muscles.
Begin in your chair, knees at a ninety-degree bend and feet flat on the floor. Press down, first from your heels and try to avoid moving your feet closer to the chair and DO NOT USE YOUR ARMS to help you stand up.
Once you’re up, it’s time to sit back down (think of it kind of like a squat but with a nice comfy chair to stop you half way). Ensure you don’t lean forward and try to stop your hips from moving either one way or the other. Repeat five to ten times.
5. Desk Chaturanga
Doing the Chaturanga taught me that my desk could double up as a personal push up assistant. And so it should. Power through a couple of these strengthening movements throughout the day and remind your muscles that you’re still there for them. Fire up the muscles in your arms while telling those around your neck to take a break. This is important because they tend to swap role throughout the day.
Place your hands on the edge of your desk, shoulder width apart from one another (p.s. make sure your desk isn’t going to shoot across the room when you lean your weight on it. Make sure the desk isn’t going to break either.) Take a step back from your desk while keeping your hands firmly rooted on its edge and create a diagonal line to the floor with your torso and legs. Inhale as you bend the elbows to ninety-degrees and hug your elbow inwards towards the ribs.
As you exhale, press power into your arms and raise your chest away from the desk. Repeat roughly ten to twelve times.
6. Desk Upward Dog Pose
After performing your Chaturanga it’s absolutely essential that you carry on to open up your chest and shoulders! Ironing out the rounded upper back from seating down all day will also feel amazing.
Get into the same set up as the Chaturanga above. Arms straight, hips lowered and towards the desk and remembering not to sink your lower back by engaging your leg strength.
Really try to stretch your chest out between your shoulders while tilting, very gently, your chin upwards and rolling your shoulder blades downwards. Now hold the position for between five and ten breaths.
7. Desk Plank Pose
Although it might sound like you’re being asking to climb onto your desk and bust out a sweet plank, that’s not what I’m saying. Please, please do not do that. This final pose requires the use of your desk again and works on the spine and hamstrings by lengthening and stretching them out.
Again, put your hands on the edge of the desk, shoulder width apart and step back with your feet so that they are right beneath your hips as you create that fuzzy, stretching sensation in your lower spine. Let this pose hold for five to ten breaths and allow it to undo the all that pent-up tension generated by sitting.
So, I can confirm that after practicing these seven positions for five days in a row I think I’ve pretty much got the desk yoga. That said, I can’t be sure if that’s true or whether I just think it’s true. But, one thing I can tell you is that my PC yoga pub chat still requires a bit more practice.
***This guise is used for entertainment purposes only. It should not be taken seriously. It is neither the intention of the author nor the purpose of their work to perpetuate negative stereotypes held towards ‘the millennial’. Any misunderstanding of people aged between 22 and 36 (the age of millennials according to the Pew Research Centre) which acts to prescribe these ideas should be immediately addressed by the owner and dealt with in immediate effect.