A sticky mat seems de rigueur for modern-day yogis, but that doesn’t mean a long piece of rubber is required to take part in the ancient practice.
Yoga first and foremost is about being present, and it starts with attentive breathing. You can do that anywhere and without props.
Once you’ve got the hang of steady breathing, matching inhales and exhales to movements helps your body relieve tension and your muscles wake up. In fact, the key to the physical practice of yoga is matching conscious breath to movement. It’s also a big part of what makes yoga feel great. Without it, you’d be doing calisthenics.
We’ve rounded up a few yoga exercises you can do easily and safely at work. All require standing – good news, given sitting is pretty bad for us. It’s best to do them with your feet flat on the ground.
This is the second in a series of three articles that explain the benefits of yoga and how to tap into the ancient practice at work, anytime – whether you’re in a suit, scrubs or construction boots.
Part 1: The Breath / How to tap yoga’s benefits on the job
Part 2: Movement/ No mat needed, yoga at your desk
Part 3: Balance / How yoga can help you have better balance – literally (coming soon!)
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Inhale as you bring your arms overhead. Keep your chin level with the ground. Exhale as you soften your knees and twist your torso to the right, letting your head follow and dropping your arms to shoulder-height. Inhale as you turn back to center, lifting your arms overhead. Do the twist to the left. Repeat this pattern several times.
Benefits: Strengthens abdominal muscles, shoulders and upper arms. Stretches back and chest. Lubricates joints of the spine, including in the neck, and shoulders.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, arms at your sides. Inhale as you lift the crown of your head. Exhale as you bend your knees (typically you want to track each knee over the middle of its corresponding foot), like you’re sitting back in a chair. Hinge at your hips, tilting your torso forward up to 45 degrees. Lift your arms to a comfortable height. Inhale as you return to standing, crown lifted, arms lengthening down. Repeat several times.
Benefits: Strengthens front thighs, buttocks, core, upper back and upper arms. Stretches calves and side torso. Lengthens spine. Lubricates joints of the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, toes pointing same direction as your chest, then turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right, and your left foot about 15 degrees to the right, making sure your left toes point the same direction as your left knee. Inhale as you extend your arms out from the shoulders and lengthen your spine. Exhale as you tilt your torso to the right, releasing your right arm toward your right leg and your left arm up to a comfortable height. Don’t turn your chest toward your right leg. Drop your gaze to the ground if you feel tension in your neck. Hold for several breaths, and repeat with the left leg.
Benefits: Strengthens front thighs, buttocks, side torso and neck. Stretches calves, back thighs and side torso. Lubricates joints of the hips and shoulders.
Journalist Mitra Malek has taught yoga regularly since 2006. She was a senior editor for Yoga Journal and still does research for the magazine on wellness, fitness and nutrition. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.