Guest Post: Tiffany Soi
These days whatever kind of work you do, whether it’s office based or freelancing from your home desk/coworking space/coffee shop, you’re likely spending hours with your fingertips attached to some form of computer, tablet or phone. We are all guilty of letting the hours pass by strapped to our seats waiting for that twinge in the neck or back or wrists to really start aching before deciding we might need to check out for five minutes, especially if we have deadlines approaching. The reality is that your brain can only concentrate effectively for chunks of 40-60 minutes at a time before it needs a break in order to process information properly, allow you to make smarter decisions and/or ignite that creative thought. More so, a stiff body with stifled blood flow and revved up adrenalin levels does little to boost your brain function. Make it a mission to get moving at least once every hour and also, once a day, try out these yoga based stretches to ease bodily tension, calm the nervous system, realign your body and boost your circulation. All it takes is a mere 5 minutes: your body and brain will thank you, and you may even inspire a colleague or co-caffeine-consumer or two.
1. Standing Side Stretch
Stand up! This is great for opening up the rib cage and stretching out the sides of the body all the way to the hips. Stand with a couple of inches between your feet, tuck your tailbone under slightly and keep a micro bend in the knees. Interlacing your hands, take a deep inhale to turn the palms out and sweep your arms overhead. Exhale to lean the arms and torso to the right, bending from the waist, whilst gently moving the hips to the left, keeping that slight knee bend (it’s tempting to lock the knees out). Take 5 inhales and exhales here, aiming to slow the breath down and open the ribs. Inhale to rise back up through centre and repeat on the left side.
2. Upward Desk-Dog
Stand about 2-3 feet back from your desk. Place your palms shoulder width apart at the edge of the desk. Activate your bottom muscles and engage your thighs as you allow the hips to sink towards the desk-not touching-as the heels rise. Draw your shoulders back to open the chest and press the palms down to lengthen through the torso and gaze upwards slightly. Move the chest forwards and upwards, draw the shoulders down from the ears to create lots of space (shrugged shoulders will do nothing for your neck pains!). This is an active pose, so stay engaged through the bottom muscles and the thighs directing the hips to the desk, whilst creating length through the torso and opening through the front of the body. If you want a deeper opening, you can walk the feet back even further and you may come up right to your tip toes. Take 5 inhales and exhales here, slowing the breath down, and staying long through the back of the neck.
3. Seated Figure of Four
We store a huge amount of emotional tension and cumulative stress in our hips. Try this to get things flowing: Keeping your left foot flat on the floor, knee at 90 degree bend, cross your right ankle over your left knee and flex the right foot. Place both hands on the ankle. Take an inhale to draw up tall through the spine, open in the shoulders, exhale to hinge forwards at the hips, keeping the spine long and using the right elbow to gently press the right knee open. You should feel a stretch in the back of the hips and in your glutes. Take 5 really deep breaths here, with each inhale creating some more length through the torso and each exhale sinking in a little further. Repeat on the left side.
4. Shoulder and Chest Opener
Alleviate your shoulder hunching syndrome with this spacious stretch (although, you can take a more conservative approach by sitting on the edge of your chair, pushed back away from the desk to achieve the same thing): Step about three-four feet back, feet hip width apart. Bend at the hips to make 90 degrees with your legs, palms are resting flat at the edge of the table. Take an inhale to lengthen through the legs and reach through the arms all the way through the fingertips. Exhale, to soften the knees, sink down and open through the shoulders, letting gravity assist. Relax through the neck. In this space, take five deep breaths: with each inhale allow yourself to spread wide across the back and open the ribs, with each exhale allow yourself to soften and sink further through the shoulders. This is also wonderful for stimulating blood flow to the head and boosting brain function.
After all that, take 30 seconds to settle in a standing pose, tailbone tucked under slightly, slight bend in the knees, allowing yourself to be tall through the spine and neck and open across the chest. Take 5 more gentle breaths. Boom! You’re ready to get back to it, with a focused mind and recharged body in a way that hopefully you will notice and those around you will too.