Let’s face it, your workday looks a lot different than it used to. And while working from home can be great, it can also prove very hard on our mental and physical wellbeing. We’re working for longer periods of time and the workday feels less defined. We’re sitting for long stretches of time and often the furthest we walk on our break is to the kitchen. Maybe you even eat lunch at your desk, putting you right back into that same chair, staring at a screen, perhaps with less than ideal posture while you’re at it. There are countless articles available explaining the risks of a sedentary lifestyle: cardiovascular disease, sluggish digestion, cancer, depression and anxiety, just to name a few. There are plenty of resources available that argue sitting is bad for you — I even found a few “sitting is the new smoking” takes.

 

Your body will adapt to the stresses you give it, so it’s not really sitting that’s to blame. The body responds to force — when we add variety to our day, our body learns to do more, in more situations. By sitting all day, we eventually reinforce bad habits in the body. Perhaps leading to the risks above but it also causes us to feel less healthy.

 

Does your back hurt? Do your legs or hips feel tight? How about your neck and shoulders? Does your mind feel cloudy? Do you feel overwhelmed? I could go on and on and I’m sure you could too. Luckily, there is a simple (I won’t say easy) solution to breaking bad habits — building good habits! An excellent one you can add to your day is a yoga break. Stand up, leave your work zone, move your body, breathe, clear your head and decompress. All of these things can and will greatly improve your quality of life day to day and over a lifetime as the benefits add up!

 

Now, does the word “yoga” make you want to stop reading? If so, hold tight! If not, maybe you are already in the habit of using yoga as your movement tool, or aspire to, and that’s great. Consider creating a practice space that’ll draw you to your mat. Do you love your mat? That could help. Leave it unrolled so you are more drawn to it. Add a notebook to write down your thoughts or a book of mindfulness quotes. Remember, any amount of time on your mat is great. There’s no need to feel you can’t practice yoga because you don’t have an hour to take that Zoom class. Start with 10 minutes!

 

Okay, say yoga isn’t your thing. Can we call it movement? Stretching? Postures? Sure! Call it anything you want and focus more on the benefits you’ll experience, such as:

 

• Improved strength, balance, flexibility and mobility

• Relief from neck, shoulder and back pain

• Better heart health

• Increased energy, focus and memory function

• Relief from stress and anxiety

 

You can start with: “What do I need today?” And then take time to move in a way that directly serves you in that moment. Another component of physical practice is breathing. Taking time to lengthen your breath (on exhales especially) has tremendous benefits. It reduces stress by calming your nervous system, increases alertness and mindfulness, reduces hypertension and can even boost immunity. Commit to taking a break! Move and breathe — you’ll love the way you feel.

 

Here are a few movements to get your started:

 

  1. Cat + Cow — Come to your hands and knees, spread fingers well and press hands down into the mat as you round through the spine and heavy your head. Then drop the belly and lift the gaze. Move between these shapes a few times. Notice the tilting of the pelvis, the lifting of the chest or gaze. You can add circling your hips, moving side to side, or whatever feels good. Try linking your breath to your movement by inhaling as you lift the head and chest, and exhaling as you lower it. Just can’t make it to your mat today? Try to mimic these shapes while sitting upright in your chair. Every little bit helps!

 

  1. Standing Side Bend — Stand comfortably, stacking the crown of your head over the center line of your body (think long back of the neck and slightly heavy chin). Bring the left hand to your hip and reach the right arm straight up overhead. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, reach the right arm over to the left (leaning and opening up the right side of the body). Hold for a few breaths and then switch sides. You can also do this from a comfortable seat. Instead of hand on the hip, bring the hand to the floor to help support your shape. Think of it as rooting into the floor to create more space in the opening side and try not to collapse into the hand on the floor.

 

  1. Standing Forward Bend – Stand comfortably and inhale with both arms over head. Exhale and slowly fold the body over the legs. Slightly bend the knees to create more availability in the back of the legs and lower back. Now bring fingertips to the floor, a yoga block, shins or hold opposite elbows. Allow the head to feel heavy, try to relax the neck, maybe nod yes and no — whatever feels good. You can sway the body side to side or shift the weight around in the feet to access different muscles of the body. You could also do this seated with the legs stretched long in front of you, knees soft and body folding over the legs. Allow gravity to help soften your shape. In both variations take long, slow breaths.

 

  1. Reclined Spinal Twist – Lie on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet to the floor. Gently sway the legs side to side. When you feel ready, allow the legs to gently drop over to the left side. This can be really organic — let them land as they are or choose to stack the thighs. Bringing the knees closer or further from your body will give you different sensations. Arms can be in any comfortable place, try a cactus shape, bent at the elbows with the back of the hands heavy on the floor, or hands can rest on the body if that feels better in your shoulders. You can also gently turn the head to the right. During this, deeply inhale and exhale. After a few rounds of breath, gently move the body back to the starting bent-kneed position — perhaps widening feet and bringing knees together to rest the low back. Repeat on the other side, taking as much time in a neutral spine as you need in between sides.

Visit one of these Staples stores to shop our selection of Oak and Reed yoga props and mats to get you started!