Afternoon is the time of day when your energy can hit its lowest. You’re yawning at your desk and thinking about coffee. A little fresh air or exercise would wake you up but there is no time for the gym or even a walk around the block. Take five minutes to try these four simple yoga poses to get your blood moving, without ever leaving your chair.
Seated Twist: Sit deep into your chair with your heels against the inner chair legs. Plant your feet parallel to each other with your knees lined up over your ankles. Lift your chest and roll your shoulders back. Keeping your knees in line, inhale and turn to the right, placing your left hand on the right chair arm––pull, and with your right hand on the chair’s backrest––push. With each inhalation make yourself as tall as possible, and with each exhalation twist a bit more along your spine. Keep your head in line with your shoulders, rather than just turning your neck. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Exhale as you release and come to sit facing forward again. Repeat to the left.
Boat Pose: Sit at the very front of your chair and lift your chest. Lean back as you lift and straighten your legs until your feet are at least the height of your waist. Once you have your balance, lift your chest strongly and extend your arms parallel to the floor. Hold for ten seconds, breathing evenly. Lower your legs and return to a seated position. Repeat three times. You can hold the pose longer as you become more familiar with it.
Forward Bend: Sit at the front of your chair. Straighten your legs with your heels resting on the floor. Lift your chest as you place your hands on your upper thighs. Slowly slide your hands down your thighs, but only so long as you can keep your chest lifted at the same time. If you are stiff, you will stop somewhere above your knees. This is fine. If you are more flexible, your hands may reach your ankles or even the floor. Remember to breathe regularly. Stay in the pose for one minute. Keep your legs firm as you slide your hands up your legs and sit up.
Modified Forward Bend: If your lower back is bothering you, or if you feel overwhelmed by stress, try this relaxing variation of the Forward Bend. Sit at the front of your chair with your knees bent and lined up over your ankles. Heels should be hip width apart. Bend forward and place your palms on top of your feet or on the floor. Relax your head and neck, breathing normally through your nose. Hold several minutes. Inhale as you place your hands on your knees to push yourself up. Practice this pose on its own or at the end of your mini-yoga practice.
Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new health or exercise regime.
Rebecca Taggart is a San Francisco yoga instructor. Photos courtesy of Mikkel Aaland