Office Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Relief

Office Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Relief

Office Yoga

Stress and anxiety often occur at a workplace. An overwhelming workload, a nitpicking boss, some uncooperative coworkers and unexpected office blunders could all make you feel as though you were going literally insane. Your heart beats faster; your breathing becomes shallower; and your muscles all tense up. So how can we condition our body to handle this horrendous experience and resume our calmness? According to modern neuroscience, physical exercise and meditation are powerful medicines that can help us cope well with stress and overcome anxiety. Any kind of physical exercise can work off the accumulated stress hormone in your body. Any type of meditation will have a positive impact on your brain and increase your sense of well-being. For me, I choose yoga as my means to a healthy and stress-free life.

Yoga is a combination of both physical exercise and meditation. It trains you to be mindful of your breathing and state of mind through movements. And the best thing is yoga practice does not end after we roll up our mat. Many yoga practitioners continue to experience calm and mental clarity in their daily activities, outside of yoga class. Moreover, they tend to be able to use yoga breathing techniques to regain their focus and composure in stressful situations. Now some of you might say, “Too bad I don’t have time to attend a yoga class.” Not a problem! This office yoga routine can be done right at your desk. It will take only about 10 – 15 minutes of your time. Plus, you don’t have to be extremely flexible or athletic to do this. These are all simple poses for beginners.

3 Things to Remember

Before you adopt this office yoga routine as your daily exercise, there are three things I’d like you to keep in mind.

  1. Certain poses, such as seated cobra and spine twist, might not be appropriate for you if you have had a back injury or disk problems. Make sure you consult your doctor first.
  2. Don’t wear tight-fitted clothes. You don’t have to put on gym clothing, but should wear something that allows your body to move comfortably.
  3. Practice on a stable chair. If you can’t find a chair without casters, put the back of the chair against a wall or cabinet to prevent it from sliding.

Chair Yoga # 1 – Seated Mountain Pose

A lot of people have a slumped sitting posture, which can result in back pain, shallow breathing and compressed internal organs. This yoga pose helps align the spine and relieve the tension in the lower back.Seated Mountain Pose

  • Sit on a chair, with your knees and feet about hip-width apart. Rest your palms on your thighs.
  • Roll your pelvis forward slightly, without jutting your chest or chin forward. Your spine should be lenghthened instead of slouching. Your shoulders should feel open rather than rounded.
  • Relax your jaws and close your eyes. Do the alternate-nostril breathing and relaxation breathing exercises while staying in this pose.

Yoga Breathing Exercises

Alternate-Nostril Breathing

Most people are not aware of this, but we all breathe more through one nostril than the other. Predominate right-nostril breathing energizes the body and puts the nervous system into the fight-or-flight state. Predominate left-nostril breathing, on the other hand, induces calmness and relaxation. This yoga breathing exercise can restore a balance in your nervous system and improve your brain function. Whenever you feel stressed or anxious at work, take a rest and let this breathing exercise bring your serenity back.

  • Gently press your right thumb on your right nostril and deeply inhale through your left nostril.
  • Release the thumb and lightly press your right ring finger on your left nostril. Make a long and slow exhalation through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your right nostril. Release the ring finger and press the thumb on your right nostril again, then exhale through your left nostril.
  • Repeat the cycle 6 – 10 times.
  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Make your exhalation very long and slow. Pretend you are blowing out a candle. Repeat this a few times.
  • Now inhale and exhale through your nose again, making each breath long and complete. Focus more on the exhalation. If your exhalation is lengthened, the next inhalation will automatically be longer and deeper as well. Shunryu Suzuki, a zen master, once said that our inhalation is connected to our instinct of controling and holding on to our problems, whereas the exhalation allows us to let go and become more receptive to life. Every time we make a prolonged exhalation, we also encourage our body to unwind.
  • Observe each breath without creating any positive or negative thoughts. If your “monkey mind” wanders, just acknowledge that and bring it back to your breath without criticizing yourself or feeling discouraged. Simply witness your breathing and state of mind. Continue to breathe this way for the rest of this yoga routine.

Relaxation Breathing

Chair Yoga # 2 – Neck Stretch

When we experience so much stress and anxiety, the neck and shoulders are the first areas that usually tense up. This yoga pose will allow you to relieve that tension as well as improve your posture.OFC YOGA 2

  • Remain in the seated mountain pose. Take a deep inhalation, then as you exhale, slowly lower your chin toward your chest.
  • Roll your head to the right as you inhale.
  • Roll your head to the back and look up on the next exhalation.
  • Then roll your head to the left as you inhale.
  • Repeat the cycle twice. Then do it in the opposite direction 3 more times.
  • Once you are back at the center, extend your left hand slightly to the left. Pretend that the tips of your left fingers are pressing on another invisible chair next to you.
  • Lean your head to the right. Gently put your right hand over the left side of your head to deepen the stretch. Stay here for 3 – 4 long breaths, then switch to the other side.

Chair Yoga # 3 – Seated Twist

OFC YOGA 3The manipura chakra is located in the navel area. In yoga philosophy, this chakra is connected to your self-image. When too much energy is confined in this area, your body would feel sluggish; your stomach can’t digest food very well; and you might become more unhappy with yourself or lose your inspiration to enjoy life. A spinal twist is a powerful pose that will allow energy to go through your manipura chakra, relieves back pain, increases flexibility in the spine, improves digestion, and last but not least, increases your overall sense of self-satisfaction and pleasure.

  • Sit sideways on your chair. Inhale and lengthen your spine.
  • As you exhale, twist and grab the edge of the chair back with your hands. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  • Stay in this pose for 6 – 10 breaths.
  • Come back to center, then do the pose on the other side.

Warning: If you have had a back injury or disk problems, ask your doctor or physical therapist whether this pose is appropriate for you.

Chair Yoga # 4 – Seated Cat and Cow Stretch

OFC YOGA 4It is a common thing in a yoga practice to pair these two poses. Together they effectively decrease tension in your neck, shoulders and back. You would feel almost like you’re giving the entire spine a gentle massage.

  • Start in the seated mountain pose. Inhale and as youOFC YOGA 5 exhale, round your back and lower your chin to your chest. This is called the cat pose.
  • Inhale and come up. Tilt your pelvis forward. Lift your chin and arch your back just slightly. Now you’re in the cow pose.
  • Exhale and move back into cat pose. Then inhale and resume cow pose. The transition should be very slow. Let your spine gradually ease into each pose.
  • Do 4 – 6 more cycles.

Chair Yoga # 5 – Seated Cobra

The cobra pose or any other back-bending poses are the key to unlock your anahataSeated Mountain Pose chakra, located near your heart. In chakra study, when this area is flooded with trapped energy, your mentality could also be hindered by anxiety, wariness and pessimism. A backbend signifies a liberated heart, courage, and readiness to face whatever life might bring. You can cultivate an optimistic attitude from this pose, so to speak. On the physical level, it improves the functions of your internal organs as well as relieves tension in your shoulders.

  • Bring your hands behind you and place them on the seat, with your fingertips pointing away from your body. If your palms can’t reach the seat, just rest your fingertips on it.
  • Inhale and arch your back. Lift your ribs and chin slightly. To avoid straining your neck, try to just look up instead of tilting your head all the way back. Stay in the pose for 6 – 10 breaths.

Warning: If you have had a back injury or disk problems, ask your doctor or physical therapist whether this pose is appropriate for you.

Chair Yoga # 6 – Hip Stretch

Now we are moving to the muladhara chakra in the hip area. This chakra is considered theOFC YOGA 7 “root support” of our being. When it is overly tigthened, our body could lose its overall vitality and our temperament could be off-balance. Forward-folding poses can release stored energy in your hips, increase flexibility and relieve knee strain. And by opening this chakra, you can also restore the sense of stability in your emotion and stay grounded in challenging times.

  • Place your right ankle on your left thigh. Flex your right foot.
  • Put your hands on your hip creases.
  • Lengthen your spine as you inhale.
  • Exhale and lean forward. Don’t round your back; keep it flat and lengthened. Just lean forward from the hip creases as low as your back will allow.
  • If you’d like to deepen the stretch, place your right hand on your right knee and gently press it down.
  • Stay here for 6 – 10 breaths, then do the other side.

Chair Yoga # 7 – Seated Forward Fold

OFC YOGA 8Just like the hip stretch pose, this pose aims to set free the locked-up energy in your muladhara chakra. It is an incredibly relaxing pose. The heart and belly rest softly on the thighs (or pillow). The neck is completely relaxed. And the whole spine is stretched. Most people sense the calming effect of it as soon as they settle into the pose.

  • Start in the mountain pose, then slowly lean forward.
  • Rest your stomach and chest on your thighs. You may hug your shins or just let the arms go limp. Pretend you were a ragdoll. Completely let go of everything and relax the whole body.
  • If your upper body can’t lower all the way to your thighs, place a pillow on your lap, then rest your chest and head on it.
  • Stay for 6 – 10 breaths.

Chair Yoga # 8 – Corpse Pose or Savasana

Some of you who work in a very cramped office might not be able to do this pose, which isOFC YOGA  9 okay. Savasana is usually the last pose to do in a yoga routine, as it helps relax all the muscles and allows our body to fully cultivate the benefits from our practice. However, since this office yoga routine is not a strenuous one, it is all right if you would skip savasana.

  • Lie down in front of the chair. You may put a folded blacket or a very thin pillow under your head if you like.
  • Put your legs on the chair, making a 90-degree angle with the hips.
  • Place your arms on the floor, with your palms facing the ceiling.
  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth a few times, then resume your normal breathing. Continue to focus on your breathing. Cherish the comfort you’re experiencing.

Stay in this pose for about 1 – 3 minutes.