Here are some suggested yoga exercises for those of you who spend long periods sitting, at work, in the car, at home on the couch etc, etc… Whilst maintaining a sitting position the body is forced into a static, rigid posture. Maintenance of this sitting posture for long periods causes postural strain, muscle fatigue, pain and biomechanical dysfunction. These simple yoga poses can be practiced daily to help counteract the detrimental effects of sitting for long periods.
Cat Pose – Marjaryasana
How to – Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Centre your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor. As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and hips in alignment with the wrists and knees. Exhale and release your head toward the floor and gaze toward the legs. Inhale, coming back to the neutral “tabletop” position.
Cow Pose – Bitilasana
How to – Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Centre your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor. As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look forward. Exhale, coming back to neutral “tabletop” position on your hands and knees.
Benefits of the Cat & Cow Poses
These two poses are often paired for a gentle, flowing exercise. Cat/Cow can be repeated up to 10-15 times to create a gentle but effective mobilizing exercise for the spine, as well as opening the chest, releasing the muscles of the back and the muscles of respiration.
High Lunge – Virabhadrasana (Variation)
How to – From standing, exhale and step your right foot forward, aligning your front knee over the heel. Keep your left leg strong and firm. Inhale and sweep your arms wide to the sides and raise them overhead, palms facing. Be careful not to overarch the lower back. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and reach back through your left heel. This will bring the shoulder blades deeper into the back and help support your chest. Gaze forward with the back of neck long and chin parallel to the floor. Be sure not to press the front ribs forward. Draw them down and into the torso by activating the core. Lift the arms from the lower back ribs, reaching through your little fingers. Hold for 5-6 breaths, breathing smoothly and evenly through the nose. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat each side three times.
Modifications – This pose can be performed with the back knee slightly bent or resting on the floor if the pose feels too challenging or unstable to begin with. Hands can also be placed in a prayer position at the heart centre/sternum for ease of balance or if the extended arm position creates tension in the shoulders and neck.
Benefits – Strengthens legs, hip and pelvic stabilisers. Opens and lengthens hip flexors, hamstrings and lower back. Improves balance.
How to – Sit with your knees bent and toe tips on the floor. Lengthen your spine, press your fingertips into the floor behind you, root your sit bones down and lift your chest. Draw your lower belly toward your spine and lift your feet up until your shins are parallel to the floor. Feel the strong contraction of your inner thighs, hip flexors and abdominals as they fire together and pull toward your centre. Now take your fingertips off the ground and reach your arms forward with your palms facing each other. Gently draw the inner borders of your shoulder blades toward your spine to create stability and awareness in your upper back. If your lower back rounds or your chest drops when you lift your fingers away from the floor, simply bring them back to the floor and maintain this position. After 5 to 6 breaths, lower your feet to the floor. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Benefits – this pose activates both the core and hip flexor musculature. Strengthening these muscle groups provides stability for the hips and spine and takes undue stress off the muscles of the back. Strong core is essential for good posture, back injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Bridge Pose – Setu Bandhasana
How to – Lie supine on the floor, bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Press your inner feet and arms into the floor. Whilst gently firming the muscles of the buttocks, inhale and lift the buttocks and slowly peel the spine away from the floor, working from the base upward. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Keep the back of the head connected with the floor and gaze to the ceiling. Do not turn the head. Stay in the pose for 5-6 breaths. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor with control
Benefits – Opens and stretches the front of the body, strengthens hip stabilisers and core and articulates spine.
As with any form of exercise, if you are a beginner, it is best to commence practice under the supervision of a trained professional to avoid injury and to ensure correct technique for best results
Melbourne Osteopathy Sports Injury Centre offers lunchtime yoga from 12.05 – 1.55pm every Thursday. Call us on (03) 9939 1289 to enquire or book. Casual classes or 10-packs are available.
If you have any questions for Lee regarding Yoga please comment on the blog or email Lee at:
Yoga Teacher and Remedial Massage Therapist at Melbourne Osteopathy Sports Injury Centre