You may have heard it said that sitting is the new smoking. It's true. The effect of sitting for prolonged periods can cause strain on the neck and shoulders, back, hips, and legs. In addition, when we sit for long periods of time, we increase our risk for diabetes, heart disease, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic disease, muscular imbalances, organ damage, and musculoskeletal issues. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for death in people around the world. Scary? Yes.
The problem? Many of us have desk jobs that require long hours sitting in front of a computer, so sitting all day is almost impossible to avoid. What's a working mom to do?
Yoga to the rescue.
Yoga is low impact, can be done anywhere, and offers an incredible amount of postures that are good for beginners and advanced students, and best of all can be done in a chair. In addition to the long-term health benefits, yoga poses help improve your posture and eliminate nasty neck aches and back pain often associated with logging hours sitting (driving, typing, and even eating).
In addition to drinking enough water and getting up out of our seat every so often, incorporating any of these chair yoga moves will keep your blood flowing, mind active, and body healthy. Chair yoga will improve your strength, core muscles, balance, and flexibility. Chair yoga can be done anytime, anywhere -- in your chair.
Sun salutations: Helps link breath and movement, focus the mind, stretch the entire body, and open up lungs.
* Start seated at the edge of your chair with feet hip width apart. * Inhale, lift your arms overhead, and press your palms together. * Exhale, swan dive forward over your knees draping your torso on your thighs, and let your hands come down by your feet. * Inhale all the way back up to sit and touch your palms together overhead. * Exhale; release your arms by your sides. * Repeat 3-5 times.
High altar side leans: Helps stretch the sides of the body (which get compressed sitting), opens up the lungs, and prevents carpal tunnel, giving flexibility to the shoulders, arms, and wrists.
* Sit tall at the edge of your seat. * Lift your arms overhead and interlace the hands. * Invert your palms to the ceiling and lengthen the sides of the waist. * Exhale side bend to the right and hold for 3-5 breaths. * Come up through center and repeat on the opposite side.
Chair twist: Twists are great detoxifiers and help to renew our energy. They're also great for the abs and back.
* Sitting tall at the edge of your seat, place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand on the back of your chair. * Inhale, lengthen up through the spine. * Exhale, twist to the left. * Use your core to initiate the movement. * After 3-5 breaths, repeat to the right.
Eagle arms: Eagle is great for focus and also for opening up the shoulder region, as well as massaging the wrists.
* Sit tall at the edge of your seat and stretch your arms out in front of you, palms open to the ceiling. * Cross the right arm under the left high at the shoulder, and bend the elbows to bring the palms together. * If your range of motion is limited, press the backs of the hands together. * Hold 5 breaths, repeat on the opposite side.
Ankle to knee or tree pose: This pose is great for the legs.
* Sit tall at the edge of your seat. Place the right ankle over the left knee and let the right knee open to the side. * Lean forward over the legs to feel more of stretch. * Hold 5-8 breaths and repeat on the opposite side. * If you're wearing a skirt or pants that won't allow for this big hip opening, stand next to your chair and place your right foot on your inner left ankle or calf, coming into a baby tree pose. Press your palms together or hold the chair for support. Stay 5-8 breaths on each side.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates teacher and author of Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You (HarperCollins, January 2017). She can also be found at kristinmcgee.com.