Working long hours at a desk can wreak havoc on your posture. When we spend too much time sitting in front of a computer, our heads tend to move forward . . . and stay there. This forward head posture (FHP) can cause a chain reaction from tight neck muscles, increased pressure on the spine and discs, to neck pain, headaches and breathing problems. Additionally, FHP can contribute to the risk of developing repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, because it shortens the muscles in the front of the chest and puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the arms.
Yoga can help you break the hunching habit by teaching you to pay attention to your alignment throughout the day. If sitting at a desk is becoming a pain (literally) add a little yoga – daily if you can – to get your body back in proper alignment and feeling better.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Benefits: Improves posture, firms abdomen and buttocks, and relieves sciatica
Stand with your feet together, big toes touching, heels slightly apart. Adjust the weight on your feet so that it is even on the inner and outer edges of both feet and on the heels and soles. Use your front thigh muscles to lift your kneecaps.
Extend your arms alongside your body, your palms facing your thighs and fingers pointing down. Keep your head and spine in a straight line. Relax your face; soften your eyes. Stay for 15 seconds to 1 minute, breathing normally.
Modification: If you are knock-kneed or feel unstable with your feet together, stand with them hips-distance apart and parallel. Standing against a wall can also help reset your posture.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Benefits: Stretches the back, shoulders, and hamstrings.
Kneel on all fours with your hips over your knees and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers slightly turned out.
Turn your toes under and lift your knees away from the floor. Lift the buttock bones toward the ceiling.
With an exhalation, push your top thighs back into your hamstrings and stretch your heels down toward the floor. Stay for 15 seconds breathing evenly.
Cobra Pose (Bjujangasana)
Benefits: Strengthens the back and core muscles.
Lie on your belly with your forehead touching the floor. Place your palms face-down by your middle ribs. Draw your legs together. Lengthen your legs from your pelvis to the tips of your toes. Press your hands down evenly as you draw your elbows close to the sides of your body.
Using the strength of your back, not the force of your hands, slowly weave back and forth as you lift your chest off the floor. Do not jam yourself into this pose. Your arms are for support while the muscles of your back and legs are responsible for the back-bend.
Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, breathing evenly, and then release to the floor.
Modification: If your spine or the fronts of your hips feel stiff, prop yourself on your elbows.
Cow Face Arms (Gomukhasana modified)
Benefits: Opens the shoulders and upper chest.
Stand with the feet firmly planted on the floor hip-width apart. Lift your right arm into the air beside your right ear.
Next, bend your right elbow, reach your right hand behind back, palm facing your back and place it down between your shoulder blades.
Bring your left arm behind your back and climb it up to clasp your right hand. If you have tight shoulders, use a towel, neck tie or yoga strap between your hands. Hold for 10 seconds, breathing evenly.
Release and repeat on the opposite side.