Of all the habits that are dangerous for our health, the one that is underemphasized the most is sitting all day. Many of us work 9-to-5 desk jobs, which means we aren't doing too much activity throughout the majority of our day. This is where yoga poses for people who sit all day come in. Sitting at a desk for hours can mean higher risks of disease like heart attacks and diabetes, according to an article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It can also lead to our muscles getting tight and our bodies being achey. Sitting all day can be harmful for your muscles, but spending time exercising and stretching can help reverse the negative effects of a sedentary work day, according to Medical Daily. Yoga poses especially can help stretch your body out and improve your posture.
Getting up every hour and taking walks during lunch can help get your heart rate up, but yoga can provide you with deep, targeted stretches that work the muscles all over your body. It also has the added bonus of helping with stress relief, and you don't need a gym membership to do a little downward facing dog in your living room.
To help keep your body in balance after an eight hour day in the office chair, I talked to Los Angeles-based yoga instructor Sarah Ezrin who gave me her top five poses for people who sit all day.
1. Pigeon Pose
After a long day on your bum, you'll want a nice stretch for your rear end. "Sitting softens and tightens the glute muscles," says Ezrin. "Fear not though — pigeon is here to save the day!" Start in a tabletop position on hands and knees and step the right foot in between the hands in a low lunge. Bend your right knee and turn the thigh out, bringing the right heel toward the top of the left thigh. Fold forward and hold for 20 to 25 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
2. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
One of the last things you want to do after a long day is sit again, but this helps release the inner thighs. "Tight groins are often the results of unconscious sitting patterns like crossing the legs, so try to sit as symmetrically as possible during the day," says Ezrin. For this pose, begin on the floor seated and bend the knees allowing them to fall open. From your ankles, bring the heels toward the pubic bone, bottoms of the feet touching. You can gently press on the inner thigh to help the groin release. Fold forward from the hips for ten breaths.
3. Cow Face Arms Pose (Gomukhasana Arms)
"When we sit for long periods, the spine rounds, the upper arms turn inward, and the chest collapses in," says Ezrin. "As a result the shoulders get tight, making breathing challenging, which can then lead to anxiety and increased reactiveness." To do Gomukhasana Arms, take the right arm up in line with the ear and turn the upper arm so that the palm faces the wall behind you and the thumb is pointing toward the right. Bend the elbow and pause; then take the left arm to side and turn the arm so that the back of the hand is facing forward, thumb down. Bend the elbow and try to clasp the fingers or hold something like a belt or towel to link the hands.
4. Forward Fold
"[This stretch] not only stretches the whole back body, which tightens up from sitting, but being upside down brings fresh blood to the brain helping to clear your head and give you a fresh perspective," says Ezrin. Take the feet hips distance apart and with a soft bend in the knees fold forward from your hips. If you find your spine quite rounded or the backs of the legs tight, keep the knees bent, otherwise you can gradually work toward straightening the leg. "The goal is length in the back, not straight legs," says Ezrin.
5. Twisting Triangle
"Sitting for long periods deflates the discs between the vertebrae and can lead to compression in the spine," says Ezrin. "This standing pose is a great hamstring stretch and a deep twist, so it will leave you feeling spacious and taller." Start with both feet together and step your left foot back 3 feet apart, angling it out 45 degrees. Align your feet heel to heel so that you are stable, and then fold forward and place your left hand to the inside of the right foot. Take the right arm out to the side, and begin to twist your torso upward toward the right. Twists work with breath, so make sure you are always elongating with inhales and revolving with exhales.
After a long day at work, we all need a way to unwind. Why not just turn on Netflix and do some yoga poses at the same time next time you're relaxing?
Images: Charles James (2); Nir Livni; Scott Mitchell (2)