A Seated Yoga and Breathing Sequence You Can Do at Your Desk

Reset your body and mind with a simple breathing practice and seated yoga sequence that you can do at your desk, or wherever you are today.

Feeling a little flat this week? You are not alone, a combination of poor weather, the Christmas come down and long-forgotten New Year resolutions make the 3rd Monday in January Blue Monday, officially the most depressing day of the year. But at Seasalt we are determined to keep calm and positive.

We’re lucky enough to be offered yoga and meditation sessions at our head office as part of our staff wellbeing programme all year round, but sometimes getting away from your desk is the hardest part. So we asked Sophie Baker – yoga teacher and Seasalt copywriter – to talk us through a short mindful breathing exercise and a few stretches you can do at your desk or wherever you happen to be slouching today.

Watch the video for an easy-to-follow guide or see full instructions below.*

A Mindful Breathing Practice

Sit up straight

  • Press down gently through your sit bones and lengthen your spine.
  • Imagine an invisible thread gently drawing you up through the crown of your head.
  • Let your shoulders relax, softening down away from your ears.
  • Make sure your legs are at a ninety-degree angle, propping your feet up if you need to.
  • Relax your palms in your lap.

Become aware of how you feel

  • Begin by becoming aware of physical sensations in the body.
  • Become aware of the points of contact. Your bottom on the chair and your feet on the floor.
  • Feel the symmetry and stability of your body.
  • Feel how your clothing drapes on your body.
  • Notice any sensations of warm or cold.

Tune in to your breath

  • Then bring your awareness to your breath. Notice as you inhale. Notice as the breath flows out.
  • Become aware of the cool flow of air in your nostrils as you inhale and the warmed air as you exhale.
  • Become aware of the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe and the gentle swelling and settling of your belly as you breathe.
  • See if you can become aware of more subtle movements as you breathe. Maybe you can feel a subtle broadening of the pelvic floor or a widening of the collar bones as you inhale then notice the complete stillness, the sense of settling in your body at the bottom of your exhale.
  • Now take ten full, nourishing breaths in and out. The longest, deepest breaths you’ve taken all day. Counting back from 10 to 1 in your own time.
  • Feel the belly fill and the chest expand in every direction as you inhale slowly, then feel the relaxing quality of a gentle exhale.
  • Feel the energising quality of every inhale and the complete release in every out breath.
  • Let your breath be smooth, soft and gentle.

I often say in my classes that there are three rhythms in the body. The first is the mind, the flow of thoughts and emotions. Then there’s your circulation, the flow of blood around the body, the beating of your heart. And the third is your breath. And the breath is the boss!

Consciously slowing and softening your breath is the simplest way to calm your entire central nervous system.

Chair-based Stretches

Wrist circles

For those of us who do a lot of typing, wrist exercises can be very beneficial.

  • Take a few gentle rotations in each direction.
  • Then, if it’s not too sensitive, gently lengthen the back of the wrist, resting the back of your hand on your chair.

Hand to shoulder rotations

For those of us who work at the computer a lot, it’s common to develop poor postural habits, like a rounded upper back and shoulders, causing your head to protrude.

  • Bring your finger tips to your shoulders and take slow exaggerated circles.
  • Try to bring the elbows together as you come forward and draw the shoulder blades down and together as you circle back.
  • Change directions.

Neck stretches

  • Drop your left ear to your left shoulder and hold for a few breaths.
  • Then tilt your chin gently upward, towards the ceiling and feel how the sensation changes.
  • Switch to the other side.

Seated Cat / Cow

  • Rest your hands on your knees and with an inhale, press down into your sit bones, gently arch your spine and look up towards the ceiling.
  • As you exhale draw your belly in, round your spine and look down between your legs.
  • Repeat several times moving with your breath.

Circle the spine

  • Keeping your pelvis still and grounded, draw your belly gently in and take exaggerated circles with your spine, tracing the circle of the pelvis.
  • Take a few circles in each direction.

Side Stretches

  • Sit tall and draw your belly gently in.
  • Inhale and reach both arms up, keeping your shoulders down.
  • Take your right wrist in left hand and reach across to the left.
  • Focus on breathing into the space you’ve created and take several slow breaths in the stretch.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Spinal Twist

  • Again, sit tall and take a long slow inhale.
  • As you exhale bring your right palm to the outside of your left knee and twist your body to look over your left shoulder.
  • Each time you inhale, lengthen your spine, as you exhale and draw your belly in, it might be that you can find a little more depth in your twist – but don’t force it.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated pigeon

  • To gently open the hips from a seated position, lift your left leg and rest your ankle on your thigh, just above the knee.
  • It may be that your knee is pointing upwards quite a lot. Over time, work towards bringing the leg into parallel with your chair or the floor.

Simple Standing Poses

Downward dog with a chair

Get the benefits of Downward-facing Dog without having to put your bottom in the air in the office!

  • Fold halfway forward with your arms reaching out to rest on the back of your chair.
  • Make sure your body is parallel with the floor and draw your belly in softly.
  • See if you can work towards straight legs but the important thing is to feel the hamstrings lengthening. Press your feet into the floor to activate the legs.
  • Try to think about how a posture feels rather than creating any text-book shape.
  • Take several slow breaths here.

Tip toe raises

A really simple way to gently work your core.

  • Inhale long and slow, then as you exhale switch on your centre.
  • Imagine your body is a tube of tooth paste and someone is gently squeezing the centre, so it’s a 360-degree engagement.
  • On your next inhale, rise up to your tip toes slowly, using your strong centre to keep you stable.
  • Lower down as slowly as you can on an exhale.
  • Try not to wobble or pitch forward as you rise and fall with the breath.

Tree Pose

Another familiar one and great for opening your hips and engaging your core.

  • Inhale and grow tall. As you exhale begin to shift your weight to your left leg, getting lighter and lighter on the right.
  • Lift your right leg, bend and turn out the knee.
  • You can bring you tip toes to the floor beside your left arch or bring the sole of the foot to the inside of the left calf or thigh, depending on your mobility.
  • Use the chair for support. Or if you are nice and stable, bring your hand together at the centre of your chest.
  • Take several slow breaths here, paying attention to all the tiny adjustments your body makes to keep you stable.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Side swings

Finally, if you have space, step your feet apart just a little more and take some gentle twists from side to side, lifting the opposite heel as you go.

*Please check with your health care professional before starting any exercise or yoga programme.

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