Friday, February 12, 2016

Yoga Snacks for the Upper Body!

So, you're sitting in front of the computer.  What's your posture like?  Rounded spine?  Head jutting forward?  Crossed ankles?  Are you actually sitting on your foot and your spine is curving to one side?  Yikes!

You are not alone.  We all do it at one time or another while working, eating, driving, reading, watching tv--anything that involves sitting.  Many of us sit in front of the computer and don't even realize how terrible our posture is until we have to get up to grab something from the printer and it dawns on us that we've been hunched over like Quasimodo for the last 4 hours.  And that's when our bodies start yelling at us because by that point the lower back is stiff, shoulder and neck muscles are aching, the head is pounding, hands are ice cold from lack of circulation, and at least one leg has fallen asleep (or maybe it fell off...who knows?).  

So what's the fix?  If we're still working on being mindful about our posture, but haven't quite achieved that goal yet, what can we do to alleviate all the stress and strain we're putting on our bodies when we sit incorrectly?  The answer is:  Yoga snacks.  Little gentle yoga stretches you can do right at your desk.    

The following Yoga Snacks take only a few minutes and target those areas that get really tired, tight and stressed.  

Reminder:  Only do what feels good for your body.  You should feel stretching and working but no sharp pains and you shouldn't feel like you're out of breath.  If you feel pain or feel fatigued, stop and rest.
Before You Start Check Your Posture:  feet flat on floor, ankles under knees, sitting bones rooted, spine long, ribcage stacked on top of the hips, ears in line with the shoulders, chin tucked slightly to make length in the back of the neck
1.  Breathe First:  Close your eyes and bring awareness to your breath.  Notice how it sounds, feels, and moves.  Allow your breath to fall into its natural rhythm.  Tune in and enjoy.  Breathing deeply can help relax tense muscles, calm your nervous system and decrease your blood pressure.

2.  Neck Rolls:  To ease neck tension and warm the neck muscles, draw a “U” shape with your chin, moving your head from one side to the other.  Keep your jaw soft...try not to grind your teeth together. This move is great for preventing tension headaches.
3.  Neck Stretch:  Right ear to right shoulder, reach right arm up and over, reach left arm down toward the floor (stretching the L side of the neck)...repeat on other side

4.  Hand Clenching:  Reach arms out straight.  Palms up.  Slowly...Open hands, spread the fingers wide.  Feel the skin stretch across the palms.  Slowly...Close hands, thumbs in and fingers wrapped around the thumbs.  Squeeze.  Repeat open/close 7-10 times.  Really nice for people who type, do a lot of small motor movements, or who get stiffness in the fingers and hands.

5.  Wrist Bending:  Reach arms out straight.  Palms down.  Inhale Slowly...bending at the wrists, bring fingers to point up.  Exhale Slowly...bending at the wrists, fingers point down.  Repeat up and down 7-10 times.

6.  Wrist Rotation:  Reach arms out straight from the shoulders.  Palms down.  Curl thumbs under and wrap fingers around the thumbs to make a fist.  Keeping the arms still, slowly rotate the wrists in outward circles 7-10 times.  Then, slowly rotate the wrists making inward circles 7-10 times.

7.  Elbow bending:  Reach arms out straight from the shoulders.  Palms up.  Keeping the upper arms stationary, inhale and slowly bring the fingertips to the shoulders.  Exhale, slowly extend arms out.  Repeat 7-10 times.

8.  Shoulder Rotation:  Reach arms out straight from the shoulders.  Palms up.  Keeping upper arms stationary, bring the fingertips to the shoulders.  Move elbows in so they touch each other.  Inhale, and reach elbows up toward the sky, then exhale and pull the elbows back and then down. (Making a big circle with the elbows)  Repeat 7-10 times.  Then rotate the opposite way 7-10 times.

9.   Seated Cat/Cow:  Hands on knees, knees slightly apart...inhale, reach the heart up and lift the chin, exhale to curl the spine back pulling the belly button in, dropping the chin toward the chest and tilting the tailbone forward.  This can help ease back tension and stress.


10.  Seated Side Stretch:  Left hand on chair seat, right hand reaches up and over to the left, top shoulder rolls open, looking at the right palm if it feels ok.  Hold and breathe 3-5 breaths.  Repeat other side.

7.  Seated Spinal Twist--Cross Legged or Regular:  Keep the spine long, lifting up through the crown of your head. Sitting bones are evenly rooted into your chair.

8.  Chest Expansion:  Reach both arms behind and clasp hands.  Straighten arms if possible and squeeze shoulder blades toward each other and then down towards the hips.  Lift the heart.  Widen the collarbones. Tilt chin up slightly keeping the neck long.  Hold and breathe for 3-5 deep breaths.  This brings energy into the body and helps stretch out the front of the shoulders.

9.  Rag Doll: Widen feet and let the torso hang down between the legs or resting on the legs.  The body is soft.  Give the head a gentle shake and a gentle nod.  This helps release the muscles in the back, shoulders, and the back of the neck.

OK, Yogis!  Hope you are now feeling refreshed and energized!  Stay tuned for lower body Yoga Snacks that are not only great for doing at your desk, but are fantastic when traveling too!

Namaste, Friends!