6 Yoga Poses to Counter Chronic Sitting
Do you have a desk job? Are you a student spending countless hours hunched over your books? Do you like to spend your evenings sitting on the couch watching TV? If you answered yes to any of these questions (I know I already have), you’ll want to keep reading. I’m going to bring you 6 yoga poses that specifically STRETCH the muscles that get TIGHT when we sit for long periods of time. And let’s face it, we all do.
Before I get into the poses, I want to give you a brief anatomy lesson. Spending the past 3 years of my life in Physical Therapy School, I’ve picked up a tidbit or two. There are plenty of things that happen to our bodies in prolonged sitting, but I’m going to focus on just two.
First, while we’re sitting, our hips are flexed up to about 90 degrees. The group of muscles that keep our hips up at this angle are known as the HIP FLEXORS. They are being shortened the entire time we are sitting. When we are driving, when we are sitting at our desks, when we are watching TV on the couch, basically ALWAYS. As a result, they tighten up. Just craving to be stretched.
Second, our upper backs may hunch and our shoulders become rounded. Most of the time, our eyes are focusing on something in front of us that is not at eye level. We may be looking slightly downward at our computer screens or bowing our heads into a book, without realizing all of the strain that puts on our neck, back and shoulders. As a result of this, the muscles that make up our CHEST become tight and ache to be stretched!
This brings me to our 6 poses. These poses are designed for ALL levels of yogi. That even includes if you’ve NEVER done yoga before! You can do these poses when you wake up in the morning, on your lunch break, and when you come home after a long day of sitting. I guarantee you will feel a difference not only physically, but mentally as well. Just remember to BREATHE…
The first 3 poses are focused on stretching the hip flexors.
1. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Starting in downward dog (see pose #4), bring the right leg up and place it between your hands so that your right knee is near your right hand and your right foot is near your left hand. Allow your left leg to lie behind you flat on the mat. Square your hips so that both of your hip bones are facing forward as much as possible. (THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!) Either stay on your hands, or allow yourself to come down to your forearms, if able. Feel the left hip flexor stretch and hold for 5-10 breaths. Switch legs!
2. Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
From standing, place your right foot out in front of you, and step your back leg to the back of the mat. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, keeping your knee in line with your toes (Don’t push your knee forward over your toes!) Square your hips. (Again, SO IMPORTANT!) Option to drop the back knee down onto the mat. Tuck your tailbone and feel the hip flexor of the back leg stretch. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Switch legs!
3. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
From downward dog, lift your right leg and place it on the outside of your right hand. Make sure your knee is in line with your toes! Option to come down onto forearms for a deeper stretch, or stay on your hands. Option to keep the back leg lifted, or bring it down to the mat. Square your hips! (See a theme here?) Feel the hip flexor of the back leg stretch. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Switch legs!
The last 3 poses are focused on stretching the chest and shoulders.
4. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start on all fours in a table top position. Press firmly through your hands into the mat. Exhale and tuck your toes under, lifting your knees off the mat. Press your chest through your arms and focus on keeping your back straight as you lift your pelvis higher. It is OK to keep knees bent and/or heels off the ground if necessary. Feel the stretch in shoulders and chest (and hamstrings and calves!) Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
5. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Begin by kneeling on your mat. Place both hands on your low back. Press your chest up towards the ceiling as if a string is pulling you up by your heart! Release hands down to hold your heels. Focus on pushing up through the chest! Feel the stretch in shoulders and chest. Hold pose for as long as comfortable. (To get out of pose, bring hands back to low back before coming up to protect your low back!)
6. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Begin by lying face down on your mat. Place your hands slightly out in front of your shoulders. Keep your elbows tight to your body, and press firmly into the mat, lifting your head and chest up off the mat. Keep your elbows slightly bent, and your hips and legs on the mat! Think about leading the movement with your chest, while keeping your neck in a neutral position. Feel the stretch in your chest! Hold pose for as long as comfortable.