Amazing Cumulative Benefits of Desk Yoga


The idea of something like desk yoga can seem a laughable topic. Perhaps just try it for a bit before laughing about it.

Health issues are exacerbated by doing the same activities on a routine basis. Issues don’t simply resolve themselves. As we get older, problems increase.

Hypertension affects at least 26% of the worldwide population. Different levels of problems create the need for different types of therapy, but as Americans tend be all or nothing when it comes to exercise, we need to find a some kind of starting point to cut down on problems. Medications appear to create more problems and are clearly not the best response.

Alternative therapies appear to be a good compromise between resorting to hypertension medications and becoming a tri-athlete. Hand grip exercises, strength and resistance training, aerobic training and even more relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga and biofeedback have shown positive results.

The workplace, where many people spend hours doing the same tasks, becomes a perfect venue to promote a reduction of sedentary activity. The CDC studied such activities in the Take-A-Stand Project, which showed dramatic differences with simple breathers in preventing cardiac disease. The take home message was to do what is possible to counter the effects of sitting.

These types of true relaxation will do more for heart rates, than break time spent with colleagues that complain about things. They make sitting at the desk a less hostile attack on your daily existence. It’s kind of like saving up change. It may not seem a lot at one time, but added up makes quite a difference.

Try changing from sitting cross legged, to putting legs on a footstool and other off kilter poses that force the body into different positions. In times of not typing, various hand and arm positions can take an incredible amount of strain from your body. By far, easing compression on the spine is the number one thing to be concerned about. It’s not the only thing as all body movements are related to each other. Here are some prime exercises to try at your desk routinely.

Seated spinal twist
This simple pose is made even simpler while sitting in a chair. Wrap your arm around the opposite side of the chairback and then grasp the chair back with your free hand. Twist to about a 90 degree angle, slowly as far as feels comfortable. Hold for a few seconds and do the reverse side.  

Wrist release & wrist stretch
Reach your hand out directly in front, flexing wrists back, fingers pointing to the ground, palm facing forward. Hold for a few breaths. Vary these by spreading fingers open and gently pulling back. Also try different shoulder positions.

Neck rolls
This can be a dangerous move, so please review some safety pointers. Lower right ear toward shoulder, roll chin down to chest and around until left ear is above shoulder.

Desk shoulder opener
Stand a few feet from your chair or desk far enough that your hands reach. Bent over about 90 degrees, drop your head between your arms.

Standing back bend (photos and example from yoga journal)
Stand with feet together and bend knees slightly. Fold down over your legs (or as close as possible). Hold your hands next to your legs or touching the floor beside your legs.

Seated forward bend (photo and detailed positioning from yoga journal)
A basic toe toucher. Sit up straight with legs together, feet pointing up. Stretch hands up, lengthening your spine. Bend forward from the hips, reaching toward your feet as you come down.

Seated cat (photo and detailed positioning from about health)
Sit in chair with feet flat on floor, hands on knees. Bend back in, moving head unitl looking at the ceiling. Do opposite stretch with back out, spine rounded. Basically like a cat.

Eagle arms (photo and detailed positioning from about health)
Seated or standing, cross left arm over right elbow with palms up. Wrap right arm over left forearm and clasp hands together.

Desk pigeon
Sitting in chair, cross leg with ankle on top of knee. Variations: Bend forward slowly or twist grasping the knee.

These are the most common moves I try to do at some point during every work day. There are a multitude of other twists and turns you will easily figure out. Once you’ve started the process, your body will literally ask for more. Other online materials for desk yoga are abundant, for example from the links above and the yoga coach. These are a good start to build toward. If nothing else, they add more air and blood flow, significantly decreasing blood pressure and body stasis from sitting at work all day.

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Daniel is a freelance writer and observationist, former English teacher and failed comedian. His interests include mindfulness, poverty, the environment and support for disenfranchised people worldwide. He is an ardent champion of terrestrial, freeform radio and a DJ at Radio Boise.