I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of sitting and waiting. Whenever I have to sit and wait somewhere, like at a doctor's office or for my number to be called at the DMV, for example, I find myself reaching for my phone to check Instagram or Facebook—even though I know that this can have a negative effect on my posture. In fact, a recent study published in Surgical Technology International found that texting could add up to 50 pounds of pressure on a person’s spine! I would argue that anything we do while holding our phones in front of us and dropping our heads toward them can cause the same problem. This is why it’s a great idea to find something else (ideally something that’s healthy and useful) to occupy our time while waiting. Of course I’m talking about yoga!
A recent study published in Surgical Technology International found that texting could add up to 50 pounds of pressure on a person’s spine.
Just this morning I found myself waiting at the doctor's office, slouched over holding my head up with my fist as I scrolled through my newsfeed. I was feeling a bit achy, and instinctively I began moving my neck around to try to relax the tight spots. Then it hit me, Why don’t I use this valuable time to get a yoga practice in? After all, waiting can be stressful, and yoga combats stress. I could relax, stretch, and breathe while I wait!
I’ve put together five exercises that are accessible to almost anyone and that can be done seated. They focus on areas that don’t often get the attention they need and help to combat the slouching of everyday life. Next time you find yourself sitting and waiting, give these a try!
From a tall seated position, bring your chin to your chest and hold it there for a few breaths. Bring the tips of your right fingers onto the chair or table next to you, and walk your right arm out straight. Gently roll your left ear toward your left shoulder. You should feel a nice stretch in your neck muscles on the right side. You can move your fingertips closer or further from you, forward or back, and your chin closer or further from your left shoulder to feel a stretch in different areas. When you’re ready to do the opposite side, bring your chin back down to your chest, then lift your head. Repeat on the second side. Then, with your head in neutral, keeping your teeth together but not clenched, lift your chin up slowly, with control; and when you feel a stretch in your front neck, stop tilting back (this should be about halfway back). Enjoy a few breaths here, and then bring your head back to the starting position.
Benefits: This stretch can help to prevent tension headaches caused by tight muscles in the neck and scalp. It can also allow you to feel more comfortable sitting at your desk, and can relax muscles from a less-than-perfect night's sleep as well.
Move your back away from your chair and sit upright. Place your hands on your thighs or knees. As you exhale, round your back and drop your head. Draw your abdomen in as much as you can. On your inhale, arch your back, lifting your chest and head, relaxing your abdomen. Arms remain straight for this practice. You can alternate these poses as many times as you like before moving on to the next exercise.
Benefits: Seated cat-cow mobilizes the spine and warms you up for many other activities. It’s also a good way to practice conscious breathing since you do one movement on the inhale and the other on the exhale.
Stay forward on your chair and sit tall. Place your palms on your low or mid back; fingers can point up or down. On an inhale, gently press your hands into your back and roll your shoulders back. Lift your chest, and let your head tilt back about halfway.
Benefits: By doing this you’re reversing the forward hunching action that creeps into our daily routines via all the time we spend on computers and phones. Take deep breaths in this pose to give your lungs space for expansion.
Sit upright in the chair, feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in to lengthen your spine. On an exhale, cross your left arm in front of your body to hold onto the right armrest (if the chair has no armrests, place your hand on the side of your right leg). Place your right hand on the chair, right behind your right hip. Gently turn your head toward your right shoulder to bring the cervical spine into the twist. Hold here and take a few deep breaths in and out. When you feel complete, move slowly back to center on an inhale. Repeat this twist to the left side.
Benefits: This twist is a great way to get your body moving. When you've been sitting for a long period of time, it can feel really good to move from side to side.
Sit comfortably but upright in your chair with feet on the floor, using the chair back for support, if you like. If it helps you to stay focused on the breath, place your hands on your upper abdomen or your rib cage. On an inhale, feel your rib cage expand; relax your upper belly and let it expand. On the exhale, draw your low belly in. You can do this with your eyes closed or with a soft gaze toward the floor. Try to clear your mind and focus on the movement of the rib cage and abdomen during this exercise. Think of it as a kind of seated shavasana. Continue this for as many breaths as is comfortable, ideally for a few minutes.
This breathing exercise has so many benefits it’s hard to list them all, but it's safe to say that you likely will feel more calm and centered once finished!
With this short yoga practice, waiting can become an opportunity to tune in and feel great. I’d love to hear where you try this and how it works. Share in the comments below!