7 yoga moves for the 3 o'clock work slump
Shoulders tense from to-do lists. Hips cramped from stiff office chairs that agitate the lower back. The 8-to-5 workday can take a toll on the body. At the end of the day, many employees already feel the weight of eight hours spent sitting at a desk.
"When you sit in the same position, all day every day, and it's not a natural position we were born to do, it can really do some negative things to your body," says Ashley Jonas, yoga instructor and director of teacher training programs at Mojo Fit Studios.
Thankfully, alleviating stress and tension doesn't have to be hard.
"You never really get into yoga to do yoga," Jonas says. "It's more because you want to help other areas of your life — your work, your job, your family."
Jonas says yoga in the workplace makes sense because one of the main benefits is stress reduction.
"(With any yoga practice) you're going to feel longer, looser, leaner — all the physical components are there," she says
"You'll feel a little more mindful, maybe less forgetful."
What is yoga?
"Defining yoga is very challenging because a lot of people have different takes or ideas of what it is," Jonas says. "From an outsider's perspective, you might think it's just stretching and breathing — and it's it. But yoga as a whole is more about finding and creating space in stuck areas of your life — whether it's emotional, physical or mental."
Whether you're feeling that 3 o'clock slump or the overwhelm of short deadlines, here are seven yoga poses and stretches that will help to alleviate stress and re-energize your body.
Seated figure 4
In a seated position, keep your left leg bent at a 90-degree angle, crossing it over the opposite leg until the left ankle rests on top the right knee. For a deeper stretch, push the left knee toward the floor to open and stretch the hips and glutes. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat on the other side.
Standing desk stretch
In a standing position with arms overhead, bend your knees slightly and fold forward at the hips. Reaching your arms out in front of you, rest them on a desk or table to create a stretch in the upper back and shoulders. To further open the chest and front deltoids, release the weight of your head between your arms.
Seated forward fold
In most yoga poses, "folding forward is more relaxing and opening up is more energizing," Jonas says.
Starting in a seated position, fold forward at the hips, bending in half until your chest rests on your lap or as deep as you can stretch. To further the stretch, reach for the bottom of your feet to compress your body.
Cow face pose
While seated, bend the right arm in half and raise the elbow up to the right ear. Meanwhile, bend the left arm in half, tucking it behind the back to reach for the opposite fingers. Fingers should connect and align down the spine to create a stretch in the shoulders and triceps. For modification, use a belt or strap to connect hands behind the back. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat on the other side.
Seated hamstring stretch
Sitting in a chair, straighten the left leg parallel to the floor. Reach forward, using both hands to grip the left ankle. Pull the leg upward to activate the core and energize the legs.
"If you use a belt or strap around your foot, that could add a little bit more stretching and relaxing," Jonas says.
Assisted "Y" shoulder stretch
Starting in either a standing or sitting position, use a belt or scarf to connect both arms above the head in a Y-like position. Roll the arms forward and back to create mobility and alleviate tightness in the shoulders some people get from using a keyboard.
6 spinal stretches
When it comes to upper body stretches, Jonas says to think of the six directions the spine moves: side-to-side, front and back and twisting motions.
Side bend: In a seated position, lift your left arm above your head, reaching across to the right side to feel the stretch in your left oblique. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat for the other side.
Seated cat-cow pose: To perform the cow pose, inhale while lifting your chest. Arch your back and push your shoulders back. From there, flow into the cat pose, exhaling and rounding your back by dropping your head, tucking your chin and drawing your navel to your spine.
Seated twist: Twist your upper body to the left, using your right arm to pull deeper into the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, twisting deeper with every breath; repeat for the other side.
"Twists are very neutralizing for your spine," Jonas says. "They help you to reset to a strong, stable position."
These six quick stretches increase both core strength and posture.
"If you are stressed or tense at work, focus on your breathing," Jonas says. "If you're sitting and working — concentrating really hard — you'll only use about 30 percent of your lungs. Take deep belly breaths into the lower part of the belly rather than up in the chest. That can help you feel more calm, less stressed."
Dot sticker accountability
Using small red, blue and yellow stickers, employees can utilize color for a purpose — to encourage self-awareness.
• Red symbolizes posture. "Wherever you need to sit up tall — whether it's in your car, at your desk — you see the red dot and you're like, 'Okay I need to sit up tall,'" Jonas says.
• Blue stands for breathing. "We'd place little blue dots on my phone, my computer. When you look at the blue dot that means you take a deep breath," Jonas says. "Eventually every time you see the color blue, you take a deep breath."
• Yellow reminds you to smile. "If you see the yellow dot, you smile," Jonas says. Post yellow stickers on the bathroom mirror, office computer and cell phone to jumpstart a new habit.