Many of us spend hours each day sitting at a desk, hunching over keyboards. As well as making it difficult to switch offmentally, it can cause major muscles to become tight and hold onto tension. Spending a few moments daily incorporating some back bends and hip and shoulder stretches can feel blissful, allowing us to ‘reset’ the body and release the pressure of the day.
The following poses, practiced mindfully, can help to reawaken the muscles, energise the body and release tension. Yoga postures like these allow us to move inwards, taking note of how the body feels in each posture and transition – a valuable skill on and off the yoga mat. (As with any yoga practice, proceed with caution if you suffer from any injuries or illness or are new to yoga.)
Wide-Legged Forward Bend- Prasarita Padottanasana
- Standing sideways on your mat, raise the arms out to the side and position the feet roughly underneath the wrists, or as wide as feels comfortable.
- Bring the hands onto the waist, inhale and feel the entire torso lengthen, as if being pulled upwards from the crown of the head. Exhale and hinge forward at the hips, bringing the torso parallel to the floor before lowering down, drawing the crown of the head towards the floor.
- Release the arms down, if this feels comfortable, and draw the abdomen in towards the spine at the end of each exhale, feeling the lower back release and lengthen.
- You can bring the first two fingers to hook around the big toes, releasing the shoulders, let the palms rest on the mat, elbows dropping out, or keep the hands on the hips if this feels best. Relax the shoulders, neck and head.
- Stay for up to 1 minute, rolling back up on an inhale slowly with the hands back on the hips.
This is a great posture to stretch and release tension in the spine, hips and shoulders. If you’re feeling stressed, you can come into this position, inhaling deeply through the nose and sighing out loudly a few times through the mouth, feeling tension release with each exhale. You can also shake out the arms, moving side to side, to release tension. Practice noticing what feels good for you.
Sphinx Pose – Salamba Bhujangasana
- Lie on the stomach and bring the elbows underneath the shoulders, forearms parallel. Tops of the feet resting on the floor.
- Firm the buttocks and draw in the abdomen, lengthening and protecting the lower back as you inhale and raise the upper torso from the floor, pressing the pelvis and forearms into the mat.
- Draw the shoulder blades together.
- Gaze just ahead of the top of the mat, keeping the neck long and imagine drawing the chest through the arms towards the front of the mat, opening the chest and strengthening the shoulders.
- To release, slowly lower back down with an exhale, resting in Crocodile Pose or pushing back to Childs Pose.
A wonderful stress reliever, shoulder strengthener and mild back bend to counteract the effects of a day spent hunching forward.
Eagle Pose – Garudasana
- Begin in mountain pose, relaxed and stable. Exhale and bend the knees slightly, raising the right leg up, wrap the right thigh over the left, tucking the right foot behind the left calf if possible, pushing strongly into the standing left leg. Drawing in the abdomen lengthens the lower back and promotes balance from the core.
- Stretch both arms out in front, crossing the left arm above the right at the elbow, bending both elbows, try to bring the palms to meet.
- Pressing the palms together, raise up the arms so the elbows are in line with the eyes, fingertips pulling towards the sky. Sinking lower in the leg aids stability.
- Continue to breathe steadily here.
- To release, slowly push into the standing leg on an inhale, unwinding the arms and coming back to Mountain Pose before repeating on the other side.
Due to the balancing nature of this posture, it helps clear and calm the mind. It opens and releases tension in the shoulders and strengthens the legs.
Seated Twist – Marichyasana III
- Begin seated, with the legs outstretched in front.
- Bend the right leg and place the sole of the foot next to the left leg, as close to the groin as is comfortable.
- Press into the right foot as you bring the left hand to the right hip and place the right fingertips behind the hip. Gently contract the left buttocks as you press into the right foot, twisting the body.
- Draw the right shoulder back, keeping the spine long.
- You may feel that with each exhalation, you can twist a little deeper from the core.
- Release on an exhalation, gently unwinding before resting in Dandasana (Staff Pose) before switching sides.
Another great stress reliever, the twists help aid digestion and lubricate the spine. Take care not to strain the neck, ensuring the neck muscles stay soft as the head simply follows the rest of the upper body.
The Wild Thing – Camatkarasana
- Starting in Downward Facing Dog, roll the weight into the right hand, fingers spread wide, coming on to the outside edge of the right foot as the hips raise up.
- Roll the hips, on the inhale, lifting the left foot off the ground as the left arm lifts and expands outwards, expansively, placing the left foot down, to the side and behind the bent right leg.
- This is a very intuitive pose, a deep heart-opening posture that flows from tuning into the body and a desire for opening and counteracting a habitual closed posture.
A wonderful feel-good pose to neutralise and balance a stressful day, it opens the chest and strengthens the shoulders and back. As with any yoga posture, practice with caution and full body awareness, taking care of any tension or injuries you may carry.