Poor posture can cause back, neck and shoulder pain and negatively impact your productivity -- poor posture. While a healthy spine has a slight S-shaped curve, the majority of us slouch into a C-shape when sitting at our desks.
"The human body was built to move more than sit in a chair, car and couch for a large chunk of the day," says Seattle-based yoga instructor Michael Huffman. Leaning too far forward to look at a computer monitor or slouching can cause neck and back aches, stiffness and cartilage compression.
"No matter how good your posture is, when you're sitting at a desk all day, your muscles are working very hard to hold your spine up, so just releasing tension from those muscles and allowing them to stretch takes a lot of pressure off the spine and is also energizing," says Alameda,Calif-based yoga instructor Sandy Blaine and author of Yoga for Computer Users (Rodmell Press, 2008).
Good posture allows the muscles around the lungs to stretch, allowing you to take fuller breaths, boosting productivity and improving concentration and focus. But you don't have to go to a yoga studio to get these benefits. The following yoga poses can be done even when you can't leave your desk.
1. Seated Spinal Twist. [This pose is beneficial in] releasing back tension that collects when you're holding a seated position all day," says Blaine. Plant your feet on the floor and elongate your spine with the crown of your head in line with your tailbone. Next, cross your right leg over your left and on the exhale, twist from the lower belly towards the top leg, allowing the upper body to follow. Hold the pose on each side for 30 seconds to one minute.
2. Forward Bend (Seated Uttanasana). Sitting towards the front edge of your chair, plant your feet slightly wider than your hips so your shoulders can fit between your knees. For those with less flexibility or a sensitive lower back, lean forward, resting your forearms on your knees and elongate the spine into a half-forward bend. If you can go further, drop your shoulders between your knees so your head hangs toward the floor. "Forward bending brings fresh oxygen to the brain and puts some needed space in the rear section of the spinal disks," says Huffman.
3. Hands Alive.This pose is a variation on Urdhva Hastasana or upward facing salute, it stretches your shoulders and armpits, helps relieve mild anxiety and improves circulation in the back and arms.Sit tall, pushing your sit bones into the chair. Imagine a string is attached to the top of your head that gently lifts the crown up, putting space between your vertebrate. Inhale and raise your arms towards the ceiling with palms facing each other, make sure to relax your shoulders away from your ears. Spread your fingers wide, then close them into fists six times. Keep your spine long and make sure your rib cage isn't jutting out. Exhale and bring your hands down.
4. "I dream of Genie." Sit up in your chair and fold your arms at shoulder height like a genie, keeping your torso stable. Swing your arms from one side to the other in that position, keeping your ribcage and spine stable. "Everyone has tight thoracic spinal muscles -- the rhomboids and paraspinals that run along the spine between the shoulder blades. [This pose] breaks up tension in these muscles," says Blaine.