STRETCH BREAK

With many working from home, it seems the 9 to 5 day is now more like 24/7. Mini breaks like chatting to a colleague at the water cooler about the weekend, walking from meeting to meeting, and unwinding on the commute home are no longer part of the workday. This means that adding mindfulness and conscious movement is more important than ever to prevent burnout and increased risks for disease from prolonged inactivity associated.

The following 10-minute midday yoga routine was inspired when I started experiencing the realities of the COVID lockdown. No longer did I have an office to commute to, back-to-back meeting rooms to run to, flights to catch. All these vanished overnight. As an executive leading a top fitness company, I found myself locked down not only in my home but also behind my desk.

I realized that not only were my workdays longer but I was also more sedentary than ever before. Within only days of my new reality I felt increasingly tired by day’s end and it showed as my posture worsened and my hips, back and shoulders became stiff from hours of sitting. I needed to find a way to stretch and move throughout my workday, even when time did not allow me to leave my desk to exercise. With the inspiration of some colleagues, who were feeling the same, I offered to lead a 10-minute chair-based yoga stretch class at the end of each of our virtual staff meetings.

Incorporating mindful stretching and deep breathing into your workday will help you mentally and physically. It will help you to recharge your mental batteries, tune into the present, improve focus, elevate mood, and increase energy. Tight muscles will relax and overall stiffness will decrease.

If you schedule this movement break just before lunch, you will eat more mindfully by choosing healthier food and savouring your meal. These benefits will add long-lasting value to your health and happiness.

WARM-UP

BEGIN WITH THIS FOUR-PART SEQUENCE TO SHIFT YOUR FOCUS ENERGETICALLY TO YOUR PHYSICAL BODY:

  1. Place feet firmly on the ground, hip-width apart. 
  2. Shift hips back as far as you can in your chair, then tilt your pelvis forward to introduce a natural inward arch in your lumbar spine (low back). 
  3. Place palms on your thighs or in front of you on your desk, lift your chest and pull your chin back (align ears over shoulders).
  4. Take a slow deep breath in (through your nose) as you lift your shoulders up towards your ears, hold for 2-3 seconds then let your shoulders drop and release while exhaling through your nose or mouth.

REPEAT 2-3 TIMES.

THE 10-MINUTE MIDDAY YOGA ROUTINE

ENERGIZING CIRCLE BREATH SEQUENCE:

Interlace fingers and draw palms in towards your heart, breathe in and lift up through your chest.

Extend your arms out in front of your chest and round your back as you exhale.

Allow shoulders to lift up and shift forward.

Inhale, lift arms overhead and gently extend your spine.

Reach arms out to your side and lower slowly as you exhale.

REPEAT 4 TIMES.

LATERAL SPINAL STRETCH

Lift one arm overhead as you inhale, then exhale as you lean to the side with the opposite arm crossed underneath to the thigh or armrest to anchor hips in the chair.

Inhale as you return to starting position.

Exhale.

Try extending one leg out to the side with opposite heel on the ground.

REPEAT 2-3 TIMES EACH SIDE.

SIMPLE SPINAL TWIST

Cross one leg over the other, opposite arm crosses under and presses down to anchor hips in the chair.

Breathe in, lift up through your spine and rotate towards the top knee.

Exhale and hold the twist pulling your navel in to brace your core.

Breathe in as you release and return to starting position, exhale.

 

SWITCH SIDES AND REPEAT 2-3 TIMES EACH SIDE.

SHOULDER OPENER

Cross one knee over the other, with one elbow under the other at shoulder level (opposite elbow to the top knee).

Bring the back of hands together.

Inhale as you lift both chest and elbows, gently extending the spine as you look up towards the ceiling.

Breathe in and return to starting position.

Exhale. Switch sides.

REPEAT 2-3 TIMES EACH SIDE.

“POWERFUL” CHAIR POSE

Shift your hips to the front edge of your chair.

Lift arms up in front (with elbows bent) at the same time you lift hips up off your chair.

Inhale as you lift and hold a half-squat chair pose for 2-3 seconds.

Exhale and stand up. 

LOWER AND REPEAT 5-10 TIMES.

UPPER BACK & CHEST OPENER

Place your hands behind your head (head pressed gently back against your hands with fingers interlaced) and open the elbows out to the side as you breathe in, lifting your chest.

Pause, then exhale and slowly pull your elbows forward to the front and round your spine, pulling your chin gently towards your chest.  

PAUSE, THEN REPEAT 2-3 TIMES.

HIP OPENER

Sit at the front edge of your chair with one leg crossed over the other and knee open to the side, with ankle flexed (toes pulled up towards knee).

Place hands on the armrests of the chair or alongside your hips so you can push down to lift chest and lengthen spine.

Breathe in, lift up and lean forward as you exhale. Pause, breathe in and return to start.

Repeat 2-3 times on the other side.

Try reaching forward with your arms, hands on your desk for support.

Inhale as you lift your chest and exhale as you hinge forward and reach out.

Return to start. 

SWITCH SIDES AND REPEAT 2-3 TIMES EACH SIDE.

HAMSTRING STRETCH

Sit at the front edge of your chair with one foot planted on the ground and the other leg extended out in front (heel down, toes up).

With hands at your side, inhale while pressing down on the armrests or seat to help you sit tall.

Exhale and lean forward while maintaining a long straight back (chest lifted). Pause and breathe.

Return to start. 

 

SWITCH LEGS AND REPEAT 2-3 TIMES EACH SIDE.

MODIFIED HIP BRIDGE

Sit at the front edge of your chair with one foot planted on the ground and the other leg extended out in front (heel down, toes up).

With your hands at the side pressing down on the armrests or seat of the chair to help you sit tall, breathe in.

Exhale as you push down through your arms and press up through your hips, pushing them forward as you lift.

Exhale as you lower to start. 

 

SWITCH LEGS AND REPEAT 2-3 TIMES EACH SIDE.

REPEAT THE ENERGIZING CIRCLE BREATH SEQUENCE

Notice the change in both the depth and pace of your breathing as compared to when you started.

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