On my list of top requests for class is upper back release. Between our desks, our cell phones, our steering wheel, and how much we just tend to live in our brains … the upper back gets very neglected and very tight. Here is a mini sequence to help get the upper back moving and to release some of the typical tight spots. Pick one or two poses from this sequence, or do them all. Either way, your upper back will thank you.
I recently taught an office yoga session at TedX Salem. For those of you who were wanting a reminder list of poses you can do at your desk – here it is!!
1) Sit tall and BREATHE!
If you find yourself sighing or yawning often through out the day, notice if you’re breathing … chances are you are not. So let’s breathe. Plant your feet solidly on the floor, stack your knees over your ankles, and root your sit bones into your chair. Sit tall (not leaning into your chair back) and place your hands on your legs – palm face up if you need a little extra energy, palm face down if you need some grounding. Close your eyes and start to breathe steadily, inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Find a count that’s comfortable … 7, 11, 15 … and count the length of your inhales and exhales, allowing them to become even. Continue for 10-20 rounds.
2) Neck Release
While sitting tall and breathing – let your head fall side to side in a half circle on the front half of the body (i.e. left ear to left shoulder; chin to chest; right ear to right shoulder). After 10-15 rounds, switch to some shoulder rolls – forwards, backwards, together and/or one at a time. Any movement to break up the stagnancy in the neck/shoulder area is encouraged!
3) Wrist Release
The reality is, most of us spend our day with our hands on our mouse and keyboard. This can translate into repetitive stress injuries if we’re not careful. Through out the day take your hands and SHAKE them. Side to side, letting your fingers flop. Start slow, and go faster and faster and faster. Eventually switch the shaking from side to side, to up and down so your hands flap like a little birdie. Maybe make sure no one is around before testing out your wings … 😉
4) Seated Cat/Cow
Still sitting tall in your chair, place your hands on your thighs. Continue breathing through your nose. On your inhale, draw your chest through your arms as your gaze up toward the ceiling. On your exhale, press into your thighs as your navel draws back toward your chair back and your head releases, gazing into your lap. Continue for 10 rounds.
5) Seated Thread the Needle
Remain seated in your chair, lift your right foot off the floor and keeping the right foot flexed, place your right ankle on the left thigh and let the right knee press itself toward the floor. Stay here and breathe … or if you are really open in the hips and want a bit more opening, begin to fold over the legs and release your hands toward or onto the floor. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the second side.
6) Seated Twist
With both feet solidly planted on the floor once again, keep your weight evenly distributed on both sit bones as you place your right hand on the outer left thigh and your left hand behind you (either on the chair seat if there’s room, or on the chair back). Gaze over your left shoulder. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the second side.
7) Forward Fold
Take the feet a bit wider than hip width apart, but still narrow enough that if you fold forward, your outer rib cage and abdomen will be supported by your inner thighs. Inhale and sit tall, lifting up all the way through the crown of the head. Exhale and begin to fold forward releasing the hands down onto the floor or grabbing opposite elbows as you let the head and neck release and hang toward the floor. Breathe steadily for 10-15 breathes. Slowly lift up to seated. This can also be done standing, using the back or seat of your chair to rest your arms on.