10 Yoga Poses: A Desk Worker’s Guide to Better Health

A typical week can mean balancing work, kids, school, sports, appointments, family, and so much more! Daily life is hectic and likely to make you feel frazzled.

Challenging tasks throughout the day stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, evoking the body’s fight-or-flight response. So, while your body shifts into survival mode, it puts a hold on all the other regular routine functions, such as proper digestion, metabolism, and even proper blood circulation.

Yoga, on the other hand, evokes just the opposite response in the body. It stimulates and activates the parasympathetic nervous system and hence stimulates a rest-and-digest response in the body. As a result, the body’s organs are restored to normal functioning, and your mind and body work in perfect symphony!

So instead of letting your body and mind burn out due to the physical, emotional, and mental ramifications of an overworked lifestyle, simply respond to the pressures by hitting the yoga mat!

To the uninitiated, yoga might seem like a reserve for people with superhuman abilities to twist and contort their bodies into the most impossible postures while seeking spiritual awakening and chanting mantras. Far from it.

Yoga goes much beyond these stereotypical tropes and offers something for everyone. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it in the beginning, it’s important to take the first step. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. Even if it’s your first time, all you have to do is simply put on some loose-fitting clothes, grab a yoga mat, and follow a beginner’s practice with basic yoga postures in a well-rounded format.

These yoga postures work on your inner muscles and joints to relieve pain, aches, and stiffness and helps to calm and soothe your mind and body.

They help in stretching and opening your chest, shoulders, and hips, creating more space for your lungs and abdomen, thereby improving your digestion, circulation, and overall health. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you start counting the additional perks that yoga has to offer, you’ll probably run out of fingers. Here are just a few:

  • Stretches and strengthens the ankles, knees, legs, arms, spine, and chest
  • Increases blood supply to the heart and brain
  • Improves overall posture
  • Stimulates weight control and tones the abdominal organs
  • Opens up the hips, shoulders, and neck
  • Strengthens and stretches the hamstrings and the calves
  • Strengthens the arm and back muscles
  • Stimulates proper bone and joint alignment
  • Helps relieve and even cure bunions
  • Reduces anxiety and stress
  • Relieves back pain and sciatica issues
  • Relieves frozen shoulders
  • Alleviates symptoms of sinusitis, asthma, high blood pressure, and allergies
  • Alleviates arthritis and osteoporosis

Yoga Poses to Enhance Health

Here are the basic yoga poses for you to begin with.

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

For a beginner, the Mountain Pose is the best yoga pose to get things started.

It is the quintessential foundational step for all other yoga poses and involves all of the body’s major muscle groups. It also functions as the perfect transitional pose between other poses and pose sequences, and mastering the Tadasana will only spur your progression to other more complex asanas.

Not only does it help in improving your posture; it also works wonders for your focus, concentration, stability, and confidence. What’s more is that it helps reduce back pain and induces relaxation.

  1. Stand straight, with your feet close together or hip-width distance apart. Slowly lift your toes, spread them wide, and then place them back on the floor (distribute your weight equally between your feet).
  2. Engage the muscles of the legs by pulling up your kneecaps and squeezing the thighs. Tuck your tailbone slightly under and align the hips over the ankles.
  3. Inhale and draw in the belly to engage your core muscles, lift the chest, and relax the shoulders, lengthening and neutralizing the spine.
  4. Breathe and hold for 8 to 10 long deep breaths.
  5. Exhale and drop the shoulders down and back.

You can practice this yoga pose several times throughout the day like while standing in line, riding the elevator, doing the dishes, or simply brushing your teeth. It helps promote better habits in daily life.

Caution: People with recent or chronic injury in the shoulders are advised not to practice this yoga pose.

2. Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

The Forward Bend, also known as the Standing Forward Bend, is another effective yoga posture for beginners.
It helps lengthen the spine and hamstrings and offers an overall stretch to your body, thus relieving stiffness in the vertebrae and muscles.

  1. Begin with the Mountain Pose, with your feet hip-width distance apart.
  2. Inhale deeply, sucking your stomach in.
  3. Then exhale, gently bending forward as you hinge at the hips, not from the waist.
  4. Keeping your legs straight and strong but your knees soft, bring your hands down toward the ground. (If this isn’t possible, cross or interlock your arms or put your hands somewhere on your legs.)
  5. Let your head hang and hold the posture for 5 to 10 breaths.
  6. Repeat 5 to 7 times daily.
Caution: Those with recent back or knee surgery must avoid this exercise.

3. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

The Seated Forward Bend yoga pose stretches the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings.

This pose helps relieve stress, soothes anxiety, mild depression, and headache troubles. This is also the recommended pose if you’re looking to shed some extra pounds, as it helps reduce belly fat.

  1. Sit on the floor and ground into your sitting posterior bones.
  2. Extend your legs out and engage the leg muscles, keeping them straight and solid but not rigid. Keep your knees strong but soft.
  3. Draw in the belly as you inhale and extend your hands straight upward.
  4. Hinge at the hips and slowly and gradually lead the chest down towards the knees.
  5. Lead with your chest towards the knees and squeeze the shoulder blades in the back towards each other to avoid rounding or arching the back.
  6. While still bending, extend your hands out straight and place them somewhere on your legs or feet or flat on the ground.
  7. Stay in this position for as long as is comfortable, taking nice long breaths.
  8. Gently come back to the starting position and repeat the pose several times helping you to go gradually deeper into it.
  9. Do this daily at the end of your day to relax before bedtime.
Caution: Those with asthma or diarrhea issues should avoid this pose or should only perform it under the strict supervision of an expert.

4. Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

The Tree Pose is one of the most effective poses as it provides a complete-body workout, stretching and strengthening almost all the muscles and joints in your body.

This balancing pose helps stretch and lengthen the spine, corrects your posture, and centers your body balance in addition to strengthening the legs, ankles, thighs, calves, and spine.

It also helps you gain focus, concentration, and coordination.

  1. Stand strong and tall in the Mountain Pose feet hip-width distance apart.
  2. Keep your spine and neck extended and neutral, your chin slightly tucked in.
  3. Shift all the weight onto the left leg and draw the belly in to activate the core muscles.
  4. Slowly lift the sole of your right foot and place it on the inside of the left leg, either below or above the knee.
  5. Keep your left leg straight and balance yourself on the standing leg.
  6. Inhale and slowly raise your arms over your head or bring your hands together in front of your heart. Relax your shoulders.
  7. Keep your erect leg strong and your core engaged.
  8. Maintain this pose by holding your gaze for 5–10 breaths.
  9. Slowly exhale, bring down your hands, and release your right foot and leg back down to the ground.
  10. Repeat with the other leg.
  11. Practice the Tree Pose a few times each day, and with practice, learn to gradually hold the pose longer, bring the foot up higher, and bring the lifted knee further out to open the hip.
Caution: Those suffering from headaches, insomnia, and low blood pressure are advised not to practice this yoga pose. People with high blood pressure should not raise their arms over their head.

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

The Triangle Pose is a beginner’s pose that engages every part of the body, stretches the legs, strengthens the core, and opens up the hips and shoulders.

It also stimulates abdominal organs, improves digestion, and helps relieve symptoms of menopause.

  1. Stand in the Mountain Pose with your feet hip-width distance apart and then widen your feet as wide as your wrists if you raise the arms up to shoulder height.
  2. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and then turn your left foot in about 45 degrees.
  3. Keep your feet firmly buried into the ground and balance your weight equally on both feet.
  4. As you inhale, raise and outstretch the arms to shoulder height, and as you exhale, relax the shoulders.
  5. As you inhale again, stretch out the right side of the body as you reach the fingertips beyond the toes of the right foot.
  6. As you exhale, bend over the right hip as you bring the right hand down to the right leg and the left arm reaches up to the sky.
  7. Rotate the chest towards the long side of your mat, and if you can, look up at the outstretched arm as you lengthen and stretch your arms.
  8. Make sure your body is bent sideways and not forward or backward.
  9. Take long and deep breaths, and stretch as much as you can.
  10. Hold for at least 5 breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Caution: Those with recent or chronic injury to the hips, back, or shoulders or with issues like diarrhea, low blood pressure, dizziness, and headaches are advised not to practice this pose. People with heart problems may practice this posture against a wall. Those with troubles in the neck should avoid gazing upward and look straight ahead instead.

6. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra is yet another pose that works on lengthening and strengthening most of the muscles in your body, especially the back.

This helps strengthen the spine, firm the buttocks, stretch the lungs and chest, stimulate abdominal organs, and open up the heart and lungs. It is beneficial for treating asthma and soothing sciatica issues.

  1. Lie on your stomach, legs and feet together with the upper surface of the feet on the floor.
  2. Place each hand down on the floor under each shoulder.
  3. Press into the belly, the pelvis, and the legs as you slowly inhale and lift the chest and head up while keeping the chin slightly tucked in.
  4. Keep your elbows bent and pressing into the body.
  5. Make sure the pressure is equally distributed on both palms.
  6. Keep the shoulders relaxed and far from the ears as you keep your head and neck in a neutral position; gaze slightly forward and down a few inches in front of your mat.
  7. Slowly, exhale and come back down in a controlled manner to the starting position.
  8. Repeat this pose up to 5 times daily.

Caution: Pregnant women and those suffering from headaches, back injury, or carpal tunnel syndrome are advised not to practice this yoga pose.

7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

The Child’s Pose for beginners is perfect for stretching and calming your entire body, mind, and soul.

This posture tones your abdominal organs, lengthens the lower back, and stimulates digestion and elimination. It also opens up the hips and helps us to draw inward, relieving stress and anxiety.

  1. Kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels.
  2. Keep your hips on your heels, while rolling your torso forward and lowering your chest onto your thighs and your head on the mat.
  3. Extend your hands forward out in front of you.
  4. Press your thighs against your chest and breathe lightly.
  5. Hold for 20 to 30 breaths or longer, breathing softly yet deeply.
  6. Practice this as many times as you like, especially before bedtime.
Caution: Pregnant women and those with recent or chronic injury to the knees are advised not to do this yoga pose.

8. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This pose lengthens your spine and stretches your hamstrings and chest, facilitating proper blood flow to the heart and brain.

It primarily aims at the larger muscles in the body that form your lower back.

  1. Begin with knees bent and hips sitting on your heels.
  2. Come into the Child’s Pose as you stretch your arms forward on the mat, lowering your chest and head towards the thighs and the floor, respectively.
  3. Slightly lift the hips, curl the toes, and then straighten and lift your hips and knees up and away from the floor and upwards toward the ceiling.
  4. Make sure your feet are hip-width distance apart and your hands are shoulder distance apart.
  5. Drop the head as you relax your neck muscles and gaze at your thighs.
  6. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths.
  7. Gently revert to your starting position.
  8. Repeat this pose 5 to 10 times every day.
Caution: Those with severe carpal tunnel syndrome or injuries to the back, arms, or shoulders are advised not to practice this pose. Women in late-term pregnancy must also steer clear from it.

9. Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana)

The Warrior Pose strengthens the back muscles, arms, shoulders, and thighs, all in one go.

For those with frozen shoulders or deskbound jobs, this posture is a boon. Plus, this posture specifically benefits pregnant ladies during the second and third trimester.

  1. Stand in the Mountain Pose with your feet hip-width distance apart.
  2. Turn your right foot out by 90 degrees and left foot in by about 45 degrees.
  3. Inhale and lift both arms up and out sideways to shoulder height parallel to the ground and, relax the shoulders as you exhale.
  4. On your next exhalation, bend your right knee, carefully keeping it above the ankle.
  5. Gently turn your head and look to your right.
  6. Stretch your arms further and slowly push your pelvis down.
  7. Hold the position for up to 5–10 breaths over 1 minute.
  8. Exhale and slowly bring your hands down to your sides and step back into the Mountain Pose.
  9. Repeat on the other side.
  10. Practice this pose 8 to 10 times daily.
Caution: Those with a recent or chronic back injury, high blood pressure, diarrhea, or arthritis are advised to avoid this asana.

10. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

This simple yoga posture helps lengthen and strengthen your glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and lower back.

It provides instant relief from a tired back and offers a good stretch to the chest, spine, and neck.

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Bend your knees and bring your feet flat on the floor, hip-width distance apart and close to your bottom.
  3. Slowly inhale, and pushing through your feet and upper shoulders, lift your hips and lower back off the floor.
  4. Make sure your hips are in line with your shoulders and knees, the feet are rooted into the floor, and the knees above the ankles
  5. Keep breathing and tighten your glutes and hamstrings.
  6. Hold for up to 5–10 breaths or more, and then slowly exhale and with control lower the hips back down to the ground.
  7. Repeat 10 to 20 times daily for effective results.
Caution: Those suffering from neck or back injuries must avoid this posture.

Resources:

  1. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Yoga Breathing, Meditation, and Longevity. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04394.x. Published August 28, 2009.
  2. Büssing A, Michalsen A, Khalsa SBS, Telles S, Sherman KJ. Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3447533/. Published 2012.
  3. Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/. Published 2011.
  4. Cohen DL, Wintering N, Tolles V, et al. Cerebral Blood Flow Effects of Yoga Training: Preliminary Evaluation of 4 Cases. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155099/. Published January 2009.
  5. Kim DJ, Cho ML, Park YH, Yang YA. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4499985/. Published June 2015.
  6. Ross A, Brooks A, Leonard KT, Wallen G. A Different Weight Loss Experience: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Behavioral, Physical, and Psychosocial Changes Associated with Yoga That Promote Weight Loss. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4995338/. Published 2016.
  7. Rshikesan PB, Subramanya P, Nidhi R. Yoga Practice for Reducing the Male Obesity and Weight Related Psychological Difficulties-A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198375/. Published November 2016.
  8. Ebnezar J, Nagarathna R, Yogitha B, Nagendra HR. Effect of integrated yoga therapy on pain, morning stiffness and anxiety in osteoarthritis of the knee joint: A randomized control study. International Journal of Yoga. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276929/. Published 2012.
  9. Smith C, Hancock H, Mortimer JB, Eckert K. A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229906000434. Published June 21, 2006.
  10. Chang DG, Holt JA, Sklar M, Groessl EJ. Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of orthopedics & rheumatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4878447/. Published January 1, 2016.
  11. R M, P K, Peters D. Sahaja yoga in the management of moderate to severe asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax. https://thorax.bmj.com/content/57/2/110.short. Published February 1, 2002.
  12. Udayakumara K. Yogic approach for the management of sinusitis. International Journal of Yoga. http://www.ijoyppp.org/article.asp?issn=2347-5633;year=2017;volume=5;issue=1;spage=14;epage=17;aulast=Udayakumara. Published 2017.
  13. Cohen D, Townsend RR. Yoga and Hypertension. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-7176.2007.tb00008.x/full. Published June 21, 2011.
  14. Moonaz S, Bingham CO. Yoga for Arthritis : Benefits of Yoga for the Arthritis Patient. Arthritis Information. https://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/patient-corner/disease-management/yoga-for-arthritis/. Published March 30, 2018.
  15. Lu YH, Rosner B, Chang G, Fishman LM. Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851231/. Published April 2016.

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Published by
Jennifer Eubanks, Yoga Instructor

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