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Office Yoga, ‘The at-your-desk chill-out’

by Sudha Chandrasekaran
(Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India)

Transform yourselves…………..from tension and fatigue in your workplace to alertness, stamina and greater productivity. What’s the four-letter word for something you can do every day and anywhere to improve your flexibility and strength, release muscle stiffness, help you relax and make you more alert? The answer is YOGA!

If you think of people in seemingly impossible and weirdly twisted poses when you think of "Yoga", then you may have just an inkling of what yoga is. Yoga is much more than those poses. Derived from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to unite or integrate", Yoga is all about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through the means of various breathing techniques, yoga postures( asanas) and meditation. Yoga works for everyone from people engaged in desk jobs to professional cyclists to runners to people looking for weight loss to housewives to students.

This ancient practice has many different styles, but there are only two things you need to know: Yoga is for everyone — no matter what your age or condition — and can be done anywhere, even in the workplace. In fact, yoga is especially beneficial for office workers, since sitting can be hazardous to your health. Making time in the day for healthy habits often drops to the bottom of our to-do lists. If investing in property can yield good monetary returns, investing in yoga can result in a happy and healthy future. Several multinational companies are also waking up to the importance of yoga in improving creativity and work efficiency, providing yoga and meditation rooms on campus.

In earlier days it was only the software professionals who sat in front of computers the whole day. But times have changed and now. Whatever might be the job, from academicians to receptionist, we spend long hours in front of the monitor. “Our body needs all kinds of movement and is not designed to handle immobility for long. Therefore, over a period of time, this may cause asymmetry of the spine, various aches and health issues. Doing yoga in short bouts disrupts immobility, prevents asymmetry from setting in and averts a build-up of health problems,” remarks K. Geetha, Yoga therapist, director of Y Way Yoga Margam,

Walking, stretching and bending are all part of our day-to- day activities. If you are an office worker, these activities might not be an everyday part of your work life, and that's where office yoga can benefit you. With wireless printing and office intranet, we now have no reason to get up from our desks, unless nature calls! Due to this sedentary style of work, incidence of back pain, headaches and neck pain continue to rise. These can put strain on the neck, shoulder and back muscles which in turn can lead to tension and stiffness. If left unattended, it could also impact your ability to function effectively at work and your overall quality of life. Today's professional life in the office is notably pressured––relentless noise, constant sitting, many interruptions and urgent deadlines, all lend themselves to stress and strain. While an office job primarily keeps you sitting behind a desk daily, be rest assured that there are exercises to be done right there in your chair. While you may dream of escaping for good, a more realistic approach is to find ways to cope that ease your feelings of stress and allow you to feel happier in the workplace. And one such way of achieving this is to perform Office Yoga, a way to preserve your health and increase your inner happiness, all while at the office and right at your desk. This indeed is contrary to the popular perception that yoga is all about postures (asanas) that require twisting yourself into knots.

Office Yoga may help alleviate the pain and other symptoms by releasing tension and increasing muscle strength and flexibility. Take a few minutes for yourself and incorporate some Office Yoga into your daily routine. Breathing is very important in the practice of Yoga. When doing the exercises you need to take deep, slow breaths in and out. Office yoga is defined simply as stretches and relaxation positions that can be properly executed in the office environment. Since office yoga is all about stretching, relaxation and posing, you need not purchase or bring any equipment with you to the office. Doing yoga in the office can be fun, innovative and relaxing with many long term benefits. Office Yoga comprises of a sequence of simple exercises you can perform quite unobtrusively at your desk, at any time of the day. The exercises do not demand much time, and can be done in spurts throughout the day, sparing you from unnecessary discomfort in the long run. If you are wearing tight, uncomfortable footwear remove them before starting the stretches. You may also wish to loosen your tie and belt.

While you are sitting at your cube you can try these exercises to make you feel better
Here are a five office yoga exercises you could try for a start. Release tension from your spine, increase your muscle tone and flexibility, let go of tightness in your lower back, lengthen those hamstrings, and give your organs a gentle detox with a twist. You do not have to sit cross-legged on the floor to do yoga. There are yoga-derived movements that can be practised from the comfort of your own office chair.

Here are a five office yoga exercises you could try for a start:
Neck Roll : Close your eyes; Let your chin drop down to your chest; Begin the circular motion of your neck slowly, by moving the right ear to the right shoulder, taking the head backwards and then bringing the left ear to the left shoulder; Keep your shoulders loose and relax; Rotate your neck 3-5 times and then switch directions.

Cow Stretch: Keep your feet on the floor; bring both hands on your knees; while inhaling, stretch your back backwards and look towards the ceiling; while exhaling, stretch your back forward and drop your head forward; Repeat this exercise for 3-5 breaths.

Seated Forward Bend: Push your chair away from your desk; Remaining seated, keep your feet flat on the floor; Take your arms behind the lower back, keep your back straight and interlace your fingers behind your back; Bending forward from the waist, bring your interlaced hands over your back; Rest your chest on your thighs and relax your neck.

Eagle Arms: Stretch your arms straight in front of your body and parallel to the floor. Palms facing the ceiling; Cross your right arm over the left (bend your arm slightly at the elbow if needed). Bring both palms together; Lift both elbows. The shoulders slide down your back; Repeat this exercise with the left arm over the right.

Seated Spinal Twist: : Sitting sideways in your chair; place your feet flat on the floor. Holding the back of the chair with both hands, twist your waist to the right towards the back of the chair; and turn to the other side. Repeat this exercise a few more times.

Temple Rub: Keep your elbows on your desk and place your hands on your temples; with small circular motions gently rub your temples first clockwise and then anti-clockwise; Do this for 10 – 15 long deep breaths.

A short 20 minute session can make all the difference in your ability to focus, and function effectively in your hectic and demanding workplace environments. One needs to remember that being out of stress does not necessarily mean that it will never come back. Make Yoga a part of your life to keep tension and stress away.


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