As someone who has spent most of her working life in an office, sitting hunched over a keyboard, staring at multiple screens and tottering around in high heels for important meetings, I am keenly aware of the various ailments that plague an office worker. Backaches, neckaches, tight shoulders and wrist pains (or worse, carpal tunnel syndrome) are common afflictions. Aside from physical tension, the mental stress and anxiety caused by a stressful job can cause headaches and even depression.
Yoga is often touted as extremely helpful to relax the mind and restore the body. In this post, I will lay out the various poses that can help to address some of the common ailments.
Sitting is the new smoking – the Wired Magazine
Sitting over a keyboard for hours can contribute to tightness in the hips and legs, in addition to neck, shoulder and back pain and discomfort as one hunches down and one’s neck protrudes forward. To undo some of the spinal compression, a few rounds of Hatha or Asthanga sun salutations can help to stretch out the spine. Upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) and downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) postures, stretch the back and improve posture while strengthening the spine, arms and wrists. Standing forward fold (Uttanasana) warms up your entire spine, lower back, hamstrings, and calves, relieving the stress in your back and neck while improving the flexibility of your spine.
For hip tightness and release, Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) works as a hip opener and forward bend, stretching your thighs, groin, back, piriformis, and psoas muscles. Garland Pose (Malasana) aka the Yoga Squat opens your hips and groin while stretching your ankles, lower hamstrings, back and neck. Those with tight shoulders from hunching over, can watch your pains swim away when you do Fish Pose (Matsyasana), which releases tension in the neck, throat, and head, helps stretch the chest muscles and opens up the lungs.
Typing is an insidious threat. – Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University
Each tap of the keyboard seems small, but cumulatively, small amounts of force add up to big amounts of force on the body. Hand to foot pose (Pada Hastasana), Prayer hands (Anjali Mudra) and simple wrist actions such as fist to fan and rotations can all help to strengthen and stretch out the wrist muscles.
American Institute of Stress reports 120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress
The psychological toll that work can take on our mental health cannot be underestimated. Practicing different pranayama breathing techniques can have amazing effects on our stress levels and help us develop more resilience. Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana) helps to slow the heart rate and increase feelings of calm and relaxation. Cooling breathing (sheetali) cools the mental, physical and emotional systems and reduces internal heat – this in turn reduces stress and creates a sense of tranquility and peace.
In conclusion, pranayamas and asanas can be immensely helpful towards alleviating both the physical ailments and mental strains that we encounter at the office!