Take a Yoga Break at Work

If your workday consists of sitting in front of a computer, you may want to take a yoga break. Yoga can help immensely to release the tension in your body. A brief yoga break also eases the stress of the work environment. To take a yoga break at work, focus on simple poses and stretches that can be done while seated. If you have the space, you also might try some standing poses to get your blood flowing and take a break from sitting all day.[1]


Releasing Tension

  1. Maintain correct posture. Before you do any office yoga poses, especially those you can do seated in a chair, make sure you're sitting with good posture. Move to the edge of your chair so that your feet can rest flat on the floor.[2]
    • Generally you want to sit in a stable chair rather than a chair with wheels, if at all possible. If no non-wheeled chair is available, lock or block your wheels if you can so the chair won't roll.
    • Keep a neutral back and roll your shoulders back so that your shoulder blades are falling down your back in line with your spine.
  2. Try a wrist stretch. The wrist stretch is particularly good for releasing tension if you have to type a lot at work. Doing wrist stretches periodically throughout the day can help reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.[3]
    • Extend your arms in front of you so that your wrists are over your desk or table. Bend your hand upward so that your fingers reach upwards towards you. Try to flatten your palms as much as possible.
    • Hold the stretch, breathing deeply. Make sure your shoulders aren't hunched over and your shoulder blades are flowing down your back in line with your spine.
    • Repeat the stretch as needed, either relaxing and stretching several times. You can do this stretch periodically throughout the day whenever your wrists feel tight or tense.
  3. Loosen your shoulders with seated cow pose. If you find you hold a lot of tension in your shoulders, the seated cow pose can help open them up. This is especially helpful if you have the tendency to hunch over your desk or computer.[4]
    • Lift one arm overhead and bend it at the elbow so that your hand drops behind your head. Don't touch the back of your head with the top arm. Avoid dropping your chin, which can close your airway. Reach your other arm up from behind and below until you can clasp the fingers of your top hand. If your fingers don't reach each other, that's okay.
    • Pull until you feel a good stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, breathing deeply. Then release and repeat with the other side.
  4. Do neck stretches. Yogic neck stretches can provide a gentle counter-stretch for the muscles that often get contracted or tightened when you're hunched over a computer, or stressed out at work.[5]
    • You can do these stretches sitting or standing, so they are perfect for any office environment. If you're sitting, check your posture and make sure both feet are flat on the floor.
    • On an exhale, drop your head to the left while lowering your right shoulder. Reach your right hand down and away from your body to deepen the stretch. Inhale back to center, then exhale and drop your head to the right. You can reach your arm overhead and use it to gently push your head in the direction of the stretch. Use the arm below your head when you're stretching.
    • When you feel slight discomfort, hold the pose rather than stretching further. Exercise caution so as not to injure your neck.
  5. Use the sitting reed pose to align your spine. The sitting reed pose gives your spine a good stretch and helps improve your posture, especially when you're seated at a desk all day. Start by moving to the edge of your chair so your feet are flat on the floor.[6]
    • Put your hands together in front of your chest with your fingers interlaced and breathe deeply for a few seconds to connect with your breath.
    • On an inhale, stretch your arms over your head and towards the ceiling, keeping your fingers interlaced. Engage your core to keep your back neutral and your shoulders rolled back with your shoulder blades dropping down your back. Don't allow your upper body to push out forward and avoid hunching your shoulders up around your ears.
    • On an exhale, lean to the left until you feel a stretch. With the next inhale, rise back up to center, then lean to the right with the next exhale. Inhale back to center. Repeat for 10 to 20 breath cycles.
  6. Encourage blood flow to your extremities with chair pose. When you're actually sitting in a chair, your leg muscles aren't active or engaged. Simulating sitting in a chair with chair pose releases tension and increases circulation to your lower body.[7]
    • Since this is a standing pose, you need to make sure you have enough space. This pose is appropriate in an open office environment, but if you work in a cubicle you might find you don't have enough room. Try to find an empty conference room.
    • Come to a standing pose and breathe deeply two or three times, or as long as it takes you to connect your mind with your breath. On an inhale, lift your arms overhead. As you exhale, bend your knees as if you are going to sit in a chair. Tuck your pelvis under and knit your ribs together while lifting up through your chest. Keep your weight in your heels.
    • Ideally, you will lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor. However, you shouldn't go any more deeply into chair pose than you can without pain or discomfort.
    • Press your palms together in front of your chest and breathe deeply. Hold the pose for 8 to 10 slow breaths before returning to a standing position.
  7. Ease lower back pain with the sitting eagle pose. The sitting eagle pose may be difficult for you if you have tight hips or significant lower back pain, but over time it can help ease the symptoms associated with sciatica and other lower back problems.[8]
    • Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Cross one leg over the other, bending your knee, so that your ankle is sitting on the opposite thigh.
    • Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hips and buttocks. If you can fold all the way forward so that your forehead rests on your leg, do so – but don't lean forward any further than you can without pain or discomfort.
    • Hold the pose for a few breath cycles, breathing deeply, then lower your leg and repeat on the other side.

Relieving Stress

  1. Breathe deeply in easy pose. You may remember easy pose from your childhood as "criss cross applesauce" – it's the same position. This position allows you to sit with good posture and breathe deeply, focusing on your breath and meditating briefly to relieve stress.[9]
    • If your office chair is not large enough to accommodate you in this position, you may have to sit on the floor. In some office environments you may not feel comfortable sitting on the floor. If the weather is accommodating enough, you might try going outside.
    • Stack your ribcage over your pelvis to make sure your spine is straight and neutral. You may need to lean forward, backward, or sideways to find your center. Keep your shoulders rolled back so that your shoulder blades are tucked into your back along the sides of your spine.
    • Breathe deeply, focusing on your breath. If your mind starts to wander, allow it to do so and gently guide it back to the breath. You may want to set a timer so you know when to come out of this state and don't stay here too long at work.
  2. Use the chest opener to breathe more deeply. The chest opener is a standing pose that will help you release tension in your chest and ease the symptoms of stress and anxiety by allowing you to breathe more fully.[10]
    • Stand with your weight evenly balanced through all four corners of your feet. Raise your arms overhead, then bend them at the elbow to let them drop behind your back. Clasp your hands together and breathe deeply.
    • Gently squeeze your shoulder blades down and back, and lift your elbows up and open. Keep your chin in a neutral position and hold for 2 or 3 deep breaths, then release. Repeat 2 to 5 times, focusing on opening your chest and breathing more deeply with each repetition.
    • If you feel weird standing up to do this pose in your office environment, you also can do it while sitting. Make sure you're sitting on the edge of your chair with good posture and both feet flat on the floor.
  3. Break up lactic acid build-up with shoulder rolls. Stress can cause lactic acid to build up in your shoulders, leading to pain and the feeling of tightness in your neck and shoulders. Shoulder rolls can help relieve this symptom of stress and tension.[11]
    • You can do shoulder rolls while standing or sitting. If you're sitting, make sure you've moved to the edge of your chair and are sitting with a straight back and both feet flat on the floor.
    • Rest your hands loosely on your shoulders, and draw circles with your elbows. Start small, and make the circles larger and larger to encourage more movement in your shoulders. Go clockwise and counterclockwise, forward and backward, taking care to breathe deeply.
  4. Practice bee's breath to cut yourself off from the world. Breathing exercises reduce stress with their rhythmic and meditative qualities. Given the nature of bee's breath, you may want to find some privacy, particularly if you work in an open office environment. Otherwise you risk distracting others (and you may get some stares).[12]
    • Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Cover your eyes with your bottom 3 fingers. Gently press the cartilage flap at the front of your ear into your ears with your thumb to cut off sound.
    • Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you exhale, create a buzzing sound deep in the back of your throat, keeping your lips closed. It may take some practice to get this sound right, but ultimately you want to sound like a bee.
    • Take 3 deep breaths with buzzing exhales, then bring your hands to the front of your chest, keeping your eyes closed, and rub them together until you feel heat. Place your warm fingers back on your eyes and take a few more deep breaths.
  5. Try spinal rocking to ease stress in your lower back. Spinal rocking will only work if you have room to roll around on the floor (and feel comfortable doing so), but it can do wonders for lower back pain brought on by sitting in an office chair.[13]
    • If you work in a cubicle farm or an open office environment, it may not be appropriate for you to roll around on the floor. If you really want to do some spinal rocking, try to find a vacant private office or conference room, and maybe lay down a towel or yoga mat to protect your clothing.
    • Sit on the floor and hug your knees to your chest, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Breathe deeply to connect with your breath and lower your chin to your chest.
    • Drop to your back and rock or roll on your rounded spine, breathing deeply. You also can start this pose from your back, by drawing your knees up to your chest.
  6. Do legs up the chair to relax your nervous system. If you're comfortable lying on the floor, this pose will improve your circulation and relax your nervous system to help relieve stress.
    • You may want to spread out a towel or blanket on the floor to protect your clothing. If you work in an open office environment, tell your coworkers what you're doing – they may want to join in.
    • Lie on the floor in front of your chair, and lift your legs so that your calves are resting on the seat of your chair. You can stay in this position as long as you want, breathing deeply.
    • You also can extend your legs up the wall as an alternative to this pose that achieves a similar effect on your mind and body.

Improving Focus

  1. Use a forward fold to bring fresh blood to your head. You can do a forward fold from a standing position to increase blood flow to your head as well as ease any lower back tension.
    • From a standing position, distribute your body weight evenly and breathe deeply. On an exhale, hinge forward from the hips to fold over your legs. Only fold as far as you can without pain or discomfort.
    • Hold the position for 10 to 20 deep breath cycles. If you can't fold to a stable position resting your hands on the floor, you also can fold over your chair and rest your forearms and head on the seat.
  2. Revive yourself with the breath of fire. Breath of fire is a rhythmic breathing exercise that can help you revive yourself and renew your energy. You may even find you no longer need that afternoon coffee to pick you up.[14]
    • Come to a comfortable seated position with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few seconds to connect with your breath.
    • Alter your breathing so that you are breathing in and out of your nose. Keep your breaths sharp and short, creating a passive inhale and a forced exhale. If desired, you can open your mouth.
  3. Practice meditation to calm your mind and improve concentration. A regular meditation practice outside of work can help improve your focus and concentration. However, even if you don't have a regular practice, a few minutes of meditation during the work day can help you become more productive at work.[15]
    • To take a meditation break at work, find a cool, quiet place where you can sit without being interrupted. If you don't have a private office, you might try an unused conference room, break room, or even a storage room.
    • Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breath. Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth, and try to clear your head of any thoughts but your breath. Practice strengthening the mental muscles that help you focus, although you should expect your mind to wander and may need to return your focus to your breathing.
    • You may want to set yourself an alarm so that you come out of the meditative state after 5 minutes or so.
  4. Try a warrior flow to improve productivity. If you've got the space and more than a couple minutes to spare, flowing back and forth between the Warrior One and Warrior Two poses can greatly increase your focus at work.[16]
    • Step your right foot forward and walk your left foot back a little. Your right foot should be facing forward with your knee at a right angle directly over your ankle so your shin is perpendicular to the floor. Your left foot will face to the side, with your toes angled slightly inward. Keep your feet in line with your hip bones and your hips square to the front of the mat.
    • Drop your shoulders, imagining your shoulder blades melting down your back, and extend your arms over head towards the ceiling. Press your palms together over your head and breathe deeply. Then release and do the other side.
    • To move into Warrior II posture, open your arms out, extending them in front and behind you. Focus your eyes on the fingertips of your forward hand and breathe deeply. Square your hips to the side of the mat and align your front heel with the arch of your back foot. If you want to create a flow, move back and forth between these 2 poses with a breath for each movement.


You may like