We recently wrapped up a 4-week series of yoga classes for employees here at TOPS Headquarters. The series focused on reducing stress and provided a perfect opportunity to relax, reboot and calm our buzzing minds during the work day. I know that I personally left each class recharged and ready to take on the rest of the day. We are fortunate to have one of our employees training to be a certified yoga instructor, but you don’t necessarily need an on-site instructor to reap the benefits of yoga. The following practice* is light and simple and may be done during your next break.
Begin by connecting with the breath. Stand tall with your feet hips’ width apart. Feel steady through your feet as your spine grows tall. Keep your hands at your side and your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale through your nose as you fill your belly and lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your nose. Inhale and exhale just like this at least five more times.
Now interlace your fingers, turn them out, and stretch. On your next inhale, raise your arms over your head. As you exhale, keep your shoulders down your back and your chin parallel to the floor. Notice how your body feels, and continue breathing for maybe five more rounds of breath.
Now stretch your side body by moving your arms to the right. Breathe here for several rounds of inhales and exhales.
Come back to center, and let’s repeat that stretch on the other side, arms to the left. Breathe here for the same number of breaths you took on the right side, and then return once again to the center. Release your hands.
Next clasp your hands behind your back, pulling your shoulders down slightly into a mini backbend. Remember to breathe fully in and out for several rounds, and take care not to scrunch your shoulders together. This stretch should feel good, particularly if you sit at a desk most of the day or do other work that requires you to bend forward.
Come back to your original standing position, but place your hands on your hips. On your next exhale, lead with your chest and hinge forward at your hips, maintaining a flat back. Place your hands on your shins and fold over your legs. You can maintain a bend in your legs if that’s comfortable for you. Allow your head to feel heavy as you breathe, staying here for five or more full breaths. Let go of anything you’re holding onto.
To come back to standing, lift your gaze, place your hands back at your hips, and slowly lift yourself up.
For one final stretch, take your legs wide and keep feet parallel to each other. Clasp your hands behind your back like we did in the mini backbend, but this time hinge forward at your hips to come into a wide-legged forward fold. Feel the weight of your head pulling you down, and remember to breathe fully for several rounds.
When you’re ready, release your hands and place them at your hips. Just as you did to get out of the previous forward fold, lift your head and slowly raise yourself to standing. Walk your feet back to hips’ width, and let your hands rest at your sides. Take a few moments to breathe here and notice the changes in your body after this brief practice. Feel energized yet calm as you prepare to return to work.
*Thank you to Sarah Lange for putting together this practice. Sarah is the editor of TOPS News magazine and recently completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training.
If you would like additional stretching exercises, check out Stretches You Can Do at Your Desk.