Āsana Kitchen: Office Yoga

In the previous post, I mentioned that it is better to practice in small segments, but more frequently, especially when we are trying to change old patterns.

Here is a simple practice that can be done at your desk, in your work clothes and does not take more than 7-10 minutes. Aim for once every 1.5 or two hours. (When I was a desk slave at an investment bank, I used to sneak into a conference room and do this routine.)

All movement must be done with Vinyāsa for maximum benefit (see the article on Vinyāsa for more information). Essentially, every movement must be done with indicated breathing cycle in the figures below. For example, in figure 1, arms are raised over head as you inhale, preferably inhalation leading the movement.

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1. Stand tall with feet together or hip width apart (whatever provides better balance) and arms by the side. This is called Samastitiḥ (samasthithihi). Exhale here. Inhale and raise arms overhead. Keep the palms together or clasp. Stretch the arms up as much as comfortable. Exhale, keeping the arms stretched, bend laterally towards your right by pushing the hips to the left. Makes sure your head stays between the arms (ears touching biceps) and shoulders are square (on the same plane). Inhale and come back up to the center. Exhale and repeat the same on the other side. Inhale and come back up. Repeat 3 times. Try and stretch a little further every time, always keeping comfort and balance. After three repetitions, exhale and come back to Samastitiḥ.

2. Samastitiḥ. Exhale here. Inhale and raise your arms to shoulder height, arms stretched laterally square with shoulders and palms facing down or forward. Exhale and keeping the arms stretched, rotate your torso to the right, keeping the head neutral to torso (i.e. there is no neck rotation). Inhale and come back to center. Exhale and rotate to the left. Inhale and come back to the center. Repeat 3 times each side. Exhale and come back to Samastitiḥ.
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3. Samatitiḥ. Exhale here. Inhale, stretch your arms overhead, palms together and at the same time arch your torso back. Feel the extension. Do not hinge at the hips. Ground your feet strongly. Exhale, unwind and bend your knees to a quarter or half squat. Keep the arms stretched overhead and fold at the hips. Repeat 3 times. Fold at the hips a further each time.

4. Move into a lunge position, with right leg extended back. Left foot is strongly grounded and left knee flexed. Keep the right leg as straight as possible, with the right ankle lifted. You should feel the hamstrings of the right leg and glutes contracted and working. Inhale stretch your arms over head, if possible even bending your torso back a little bit. You should feel right hip flexors stretching. Now, keeping the upper body including the stretched arms as one unit, exhale and fold forward at the hips. Go as far as your balance permits. Inhale come back up. Repeat 3 times on each side.

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5. Stand with your back to a table. Place your palms on the edge of the table (fingers facing away from the table. Exhale here. Inhale, arch your torso back and look up. Do not throw your head back and crunch your neck. Push the desk down with your hands to push your chest up and forward. Avoid thrusting your hips forward. Exhale come back to standing. Repeat 3 times.

6. Stand in front of your chair, facing it. Feet hip width apart, toes pointing forward. Inhale, stretch your arms up, palms together. Exhale, keeping the upper body as one unit, fold forward at the hips. Go as for as your lower back comfortably allows. At the end of the range of motion, you can gently rest your palms on the chair. Push your feet down and push your hips up and back to feel the stretch on your back. Inhale come back up. Repeat 3 times.

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7. Sit at the edge of your chair. Feet hip width apart, toes and knees pointing straight. Inhale, sit tall, lengthen your back. You can push your hands on the chair by your side to create leverage to lengthen your spine. Exhale twist to your right. Make sure your left hip stays on the chair and the left knee stays in its place. You can use your left hand over the right thigh to create leverage for twisting deeper. You can also use the right hand either on the arm rest or at the back of the chair to create leverage for twisting deeper. Inhale come back to center. Through out the twist and untwist, hips stay square and face forward. Repeat 3 times on each side.

8. Sit at the edge of your chair. Feet hip width apart, toes and knees pointing straight. Cross your legs such that outside of the left foot is on the right knee. Check if your left knee is alright. If you feel discomfort or pain, you should not attempt this. If it is alright, inhale and stretch your arms up. Keeping the upper body as one unit, exhale, pull in your abdominal muscles and fold forward. Go as far as comfortable (watch out for the left knee). Inhale come back up. Repeat 3 times on each side.

If you have more time, it is ideal to end this with 5 minutes of alternative nostril breathing (see here for an example).

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