Working at a desk can be more stressful to your body than you may think. Spending long periods of time in a desk chair can cause your circulation to slow down, meaning your muscles aren't getting enough oxygen, and that often results in muscle tension. And if you have the added stress of a type-A-personality boss, you could be on your way to a major ibuprofen moment. This stress can carry over into your personal life as well, resulting in increased anxiety and even sleepless nights.
Fortunately, as many have discovered, yoga can offer great relief from many of the stresses associated with working in an office. Certain yoga movements can even be accomplished in just a few minutes, right at your desk.
"Yoga stretches and breathing exercises oxygenate the blood, improve blood flow to the muscles and relieve tension," says Sarah Schain, a certified yoga instructor and the founding director of Little Yoga Studios headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland.
Schain says the first step to relaxing in the office is learning proper breathing techniques.
"When I'm having a tough day and I'm ready to blow up at my boss, I'll take an anger-management breath," says Lori Wiley, a certified yoga instructor at New Generation Yoga in New York City, who also works as an administrative assistant.
Try the following techniques:
- Schain's Office Refresher: Breathe deeply into the bottom of your stomach (diaphragm), watching as your belly expands like a balloon. Your shoulders might even crack as new air replaces the old. Then breathe out slowly. Repeat this process for at least one minute. Close your eyes if you can, and try to take deeper, slower and longer breaths every time. Don't hold your breath, but keep it moving as you relax your body and let the tension slip away.
- Wiley's Anger-Management Breath: Breathe in through your nose for one second, then breathe out through your nose for a second. Repeat this process, adding one second to breathe in and one second to breathe out each time. You will feel much calmer by the time you build up to 10 seconds.
"Stretching is one of the best ways to cool down, relax and center yourself during the workday," Schain says. "There are therapeutic yoga poses that can be done while sitting in your chair that will work wonders for your posture, your peace of mind and the chronic neck and shoulder tension that happens so easily at a desk job."
Schain recommends "cat pose in a chair." Sit on the edge of your chair, resting your hands on your knees. Rock your spine forward, squeezing your shoulders forward as you create a slump in your back. Hold the position for a second or two, and then sit up tall bringing your shoulders all the way down. Repeat this process until you feel your back relax.
In addition to breathing and stretching exercises, Wiley recommends bringing a few items that will help you unwind during the day to work. She suggests:
- Aromatherapy: If you keep a moisturizer at your desk, make it a lavender-scented one, because the scent has soothing characteristics. You may also consider bringing in some lavender potpourri. Just be sure the aroma is subtle enough so it doesn't bother your coworkers.
- Tea: Instead of taking a midday coffee break, indulge in some chamomile tea. Chamomile can help you calm down after a stressful bout with your manager or coworkers.
- Visual Aids: Keep a photograph of your favorite place, an inspirational quote or even fresh flowers at your desk -- treat yourself.
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