Yoga

7 Quick Practices to Refresh and Reset at Work

Person taking a break from work to practice neck stretches
Person taking a break from work to practice neck stretches

Out of all the environments we explore on a weekly basis, we show up to our workspaces perhaps most frequently. That might be a home office as the shift to virtual workspaces has been abundant in the past few years, or you might be transitioning back to an office or in-person setting. Whatever your workspace looks like, often when you arrive there it’s assumed that the only thing we can do is our work function. Which means that self-care sits on the back burner as we prioritize our production.

When we get caught up in work tasks it can lead us to sitting in one place for hours without taking breaks, either physically or mentally. If there is stagnation in our physical bodies, our minds will often follow suit. A buildup of stagnant energy can lead to lack of inspiration, creativity, and motivation. You might literally feel stuck and it becomes harder to complete tasks and stay focused.

Movement is a wonderful way to shift the energy in your body and release a buildup of stagnation, helping you get unstuck and remain inspired throughout the day. There is no requirement for the movement you practice – it doesn’t have to be 60 minutes or more to have a positive impact on your day. Simply standing up once or twice every hour or taking five minutes to stretch at your desk can be extremely supportive.

Refresh at Your Desk

Try these movements for a quick 10-minute refresh at your desk when you need it.

In a chair:

Neck Stretches

Sit on the edge of your chair and invite length into your spine. Slowly let your right ear move towards your right shoulder, pause here for a couple of breaths. Begin to circle your chin towards your heart until your left ear is resting over your left shoulder. Pause for a couple of breaths on this side. Then transition back to the first side. Continue with those movements, circling your head from one side to the other, as fast, or as slow as you’d like.

Bonus tip: When your right ear is resting over your right shoulder, use your right hand to massage your left shoulder and left side of your neck, then switch sides.

Shoulder and Upper Back Mobility

Sit at the edge of your chair and lengthen your spine. Place your hands behind your head so your elbows are pointing out to the left and right sides. This practice will connect breath and movement. As you inhale, lift your gaze and your heart towards the sky as you press your elbows back. With your exhale, curl your chin towards your heart and elbows towards each other as you round your upper back body. Inhale to lift your heart and press your elbows back. Exhale to draw your elbows together and round your spine. Practice this movement as many times as you’d like to find levity around your heart space.

Seated Cat/Cow

Seated Marjaiasana/Bitilasana

Begin by sitting towards the edge of your chair and connect your hand to your knees. As you inhale, lift your gaze and draw the shoulder blades together on your back, feel your heart and chest opening. With your exhale, press your hands into your knees, spread your shoulder blades, and draw your chin to your chest. Repeat this movement as many times as you’d like, letting every inhale lift the gaze, and reach your heart forward, and every exhale round your spine and gently move your chin moves towards your chest.

Ardha Utkatasana

Seated Figure 4

Begin by moving your seat towards the edge of your chair so your back is not connected to the back of your chair. Gently guide your right ankle to cross over your left knee. Activate this stretch by rooting your sitting bones into your chair and lengthening your spine. You might even choose to place your left hand on your right ankle and right hand on your knee to gently guide your knee towards the earth. Pause here for as long as it feels comfortable and then, when you are ready, switch sides.

Standing options:

Uttanasana

Standing Forward Fold

Start by standing with your feet firmly planted into the ground. Gently bend your knees and begin to hinge forward at your hips. When you’re ready extend your legs to any capacity that feels good. Allow your hands to land on your shins, on your feet, or on the ground. There is no need to reach your toes or the ground, if it feels most comfortable you can hold on to opposite elbows and allow your torso to be held by gravity. Pause here for a few breaths then slowly return to standing when you’re ready.

Parivrtta Uttanasana

Standing Forward Fold Twist

From a standing forward fold, place your right hand on the ground in front of you. If the ground feels far away, use a block, a book, a water bottle, or anything that will raise the floor towards you. Reach your left arm into the sky as you gently bend your right leg at the knee, creating a twist in your spine. Allow yourself to pause here for a few rounds of breath before switching sides. Once you’ve completed this movement on both sides, return to a standing position.

Parsva Urdhva Hastasana

Standing Side Crescent Shape

Begin by standing tall with both feet firmly rooted into the earth. Take a deep breath in and reach both arms overhead. As you exhale, lower your left hand down by your left side and reach your right arm over your ear. Gently press your right fingertips to the left to create a crescent shape with the body. Take a full breath in and a steady breath out. Inhale to return to center with both arms in the sky. With your next exhale, switch sides. Practice as many times on each side as you’d like, when you’re ready, return to center.

Work does not mean you have to toss your well-being out the window. Taking care of yourself is a necessity rather than an optional luxury. The mindfulness practices we engage with can and need to be weaved into our days so that we can find support and connection in all of our environments.

Movement, in any way that feels good, can help to simulate the body, connect with your mind, and find sustained energy throughout the day. You might try one of these shapes each day or practice with a few at a time. The invitation is to allow these movements to serve you best and give you time to refresh and reset. When stagnation is cleared from your body, mind, and heart, you have more space for creativity, motivation, and inspiration in all aspects of your day.


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