If you're like me, you spend the vast majority of your day slouched over a computer or smartphone. We may be totally dialed in to our jobs and what's going on in the world, but we're definitely not helping our bodies. There's a reason your mom always nagged you about posture: sitting up straight can make you feel more confident and boost your mood and energy levels. Who wouldn't welcome that sort of attitude adjustment in the office?
Unfortunately, bad posture is a nasty habit that's easy to forget about, until your lower back is aching and you generally feel three decades older than you are. So, if your go-to posture is more 14-year-old skater boy than Superwoman, we've got you covered — these yoga-inspired moves from Pure Yoga instructor Dana Slamp are designed to lengthen and strengthen your spine and core, so you can sit up a little taller (and feel a little more baller) every day.
"This classic pose stretches the back and eases the neck," says Slamp. Sit with your hips on your heels and fold your torso over your thighs until your arms and head are resting fully on the floor. Be sure to breathe deeply and slowly until you feel your lower back expand with each breath. For a deeper stretch, place the knees together.
Seated Spinal Twist
Sit on a chair or block on your mat. Inhale and lift the arms up, extending tall in the waist. Exhale and twist to the right. Alternate, slowly twisting to the left and then the right again. Repeat 4-8 times. This sequence helps release tension and tightness from sitting or standing all day.
Cat/Cow is a basic vinyasa flow exercise that loosens up the back and opens the chest. Start on both hands and knees. Inhale and drop your chest down, arching and looking forward. On the exhale, push into the floor and round your back like a Halloween cat. Repeat slowly, breathing deeply through the nose eight to 12 times. "Imagine the breath bringing fresh oxygen to the tissues of the back, chest and shoulders — whatever feels tight should get your attention," says Slamp.
Standing Forward Fold
This pose can traction the back and encourage space in between the discs. Start with your feet hip-width apart, then fold your upper body down towards the floor, so you're hanging over your feet. Keep your fingers laced behind your back. Once you fold, allow the hands to move up and over you with every breath (you'll likely feel a stretch in the shoulders to counter any slouching). "Keep your knees slightly bent so you don't feel any tugging in the hamstrings — the stretch in the hamstring is important, but secondary," explains Slamp.
Start with feet together at the top of your mat, then step your right foot back into a lunge, while keeping the left knee over the left ankle in a right angle. Inhale and lift the arms. Extend them wide over your head in a "V" to keep the chest open and the trapezius muscles from overworking. Take five deep breaths, pressing the feet down and isometrically towards one another to strengthen the legs, and get taller through the waist with every breath. Try to keep the back leg long to stretch the hip flexor. Bring the hands down, step forward, and repeat on the other side.
Step your feet into plank with the shoulder over the wrists and the feet hip distance apart. Bring your right hand to your chest on an inhale, then put it down and repeat on the opposite side. "Do your best to keep the hips steady to engage the core and the obliques, the corset-like muscles that surround your waist," suggests Slamp. After eight rounds, rest on your stomach for five breaths.
Lying face down on your mat, lace your hands behind your back. Inhale and slowly lift everything you can lift off the mat, including your legs. Keep eyes focused on the edge of the mat so you don't compress the back of you neck. "Imagine that you are looking forward with your sternum (not your eyes) with every breath, while the shoulders slide towards the back of the mat," advises Slamp. "This pose opens up the chest, strengthens the glutes and hamstrings, and is a great boost for the immune system."
Lying on your back, place your heels on the mat hip-width apart. Keep the knees hip-width apart as well as you lift your pelvis up off the mat on an inhale. Lace the hands together beneath your back and inflate the chest towards the sky to open up the shoulders and chest. Hold for at least 5-8 slow breaths. "This heart-opening pose can combat the affects of working at a desk and is a great counter-stretch for texting, too," explains Slamp.
Reclining Spinal Twist
While lying on your back, hug your knees to your chest and let them drop to the right. Open your arms in a “T” and look to the left. Allow the left arm to rest and the shoulder to open with every exhale. Repeat on the second side. "Twisting can release excess tension from the lumbar spine and open up the chest," says Slamp.
Lie on your back, arms open, observing your breath. "Corpse pose is a very approachable form of meditation," explains Slamp. "Observing your breath strengthens the mind/body connection, cultivating the ability to sense any fatigue or trouble before an injury could occur. It's also like briefly turning the computer on and off again — everything works better when you do it."
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