Chair Yoga at Work: Refresh, Refocus, Recharge
We’ve all been there. It’s the middle of the workday. Stress levels are peaking and it’s becoming difficult to focus on even simple tasks. You know you need a break, but you’ve had lunch, you don’t need another trip to the snack machine, and there’s not enough space under your desk to stretch out for a nap. When you need to recharge your batteries, refresh your mind, and get back in the work game, don’t forget the power of yoga.
If you’ve heard anything about chair yoga, you probably know that you don’t have to get down on the floor and unroll a mat to practice yoga. There are any number of techniques you can use while seated in a chair that can yield many of the same benefits as a traditional yoga session. That means you can stay professional while de-stressing.
First, some basic ground rules: Be extremely careful when practicing chair yoga in a standard rolling desk chair. Avoid any posture that involves leaning backward or redistributing your weight significantly. Most chair yoga practitioners prefer a plain, sturdy chair with no armrests. But if you don’t have that kind of chair handy or don’t want to start moving furniture around your office, we’ll focus on quieter techniques you can perform quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
A quiet pranayama may be the simplest way to relieve stress without leaving your desk. Breathing exercises work well in almost any environment, and no one even needs to know you're doing them. One effective technique: Inhale softly but deeply through your nose and focus on the feeling of the air moving into your lungs, and expanding your chest. Then exhale through your nose gently, pushing out as much air as possible. When the air is gone, let your body relax for a beat or two and let the quiet fill you. Then begin another slow inhalation through your nose and repeat the process until you feel more relaxed.
For a chair yoga pose that involves a little more motion and stretching, try the Seated Crescent Moon. Raise your arms high over your head and press your palms together, so that you almost look like you’re diving into a pool. Only, spread your fingers wide apart. Next, bend gently to one side, as far as is safe and comfortable and hold for three deep breaths. Then, bend to the other side and do the same thing. Repeat a few times. This technique stretches the muscles and ligaments in your back and sides that have tensed up from hours of desk work. This will free your body and brain of a lot of accumulated stress and help you reset for the afternoon.
The Seated Back Bend will provide an even more intense stretch when you need it. While in your chair with your feet planted on the floor, place your hands palm down on the seat just behind your hips. Push down firmly and stretch your shoulder blades back and then downward. Move your chest upward and stretch your neck backward as far as is comfortable while your gaze shifts to the ceiling. Hold for 4 to 5 breaths. Try this one only in a stable chair!
You don’t have to go through a 30-minute vinyasa in front of your boss and co-workers in order to reap the benefits of yoga during the workday. A few simple, quiet chair yoga techniques can leave you refreshed physically and mentally and ready to give your best to your business.
Dellitt, Julia. “11 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Desk.” Work + Money, June 26, 2020. https://www.workandmoney.com/s/11-yoga-poses-you-can-do-at-your-desk-817027439e104424
Derosa, Megan. “Stressed Out at the Office? 5 Practices You Can Do at Work for Instant Calm.” Yoga Journal, November 8, 2018. https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/stressed-out-at-the-office-5-practices-you-can-do-at-work-for-instant-calm
Lighten, Elaine. “10 Desk Yoga Poses.” Adventure Yogi https://www.adventureyogi.com/blog/10-desk-yoga-poses/