There’s simply no way around it: You must sit at your desk to get work done. So, what do you do when all that chair time causes pain to erupt in your shoulders, wrists, or lower back?
Kate Hanley, author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide: 77 Simple Strategies for Serenity, recommends doing some quick, easy exercises to relax. In The Daily Unwind, a 30-day email subscription available from MsMindBody.com, she offers a simple task you can do each day, in five minutes or less, to “keep your mind and body on speaking terms.”
Here are five exercises you can do at your desk.
- Extended exhale breathing — “When we get stressed, we tend to hold our breath in,” Hanley says. “This exercise gets any stale air out (as well as any tension that we may be holding on to) and encourages deep, energizing inhales to flow in effortlessly: Sit with both feet flat on the floor, and on the edge of your chair seat so your body is not pressed against the chair back. Inhale to a count of three then exhale to a count of six. Repeat five to 10 times.”
- Office-chair swivel — “Holding on to the edge of your desk, pick your feet up and push your chair back until your arms are almost fully straight,” she instructs. “Rotate your knees to the right and left, keeping your chest, shoulders and head facing forward. The twist wrings tension out of the back muscles and stimulates the kidneys, which are considered a source of energy (or qi) in traditional Chinese medicine.”
- Head down, time out — “Elementary-school teachers know that when kids put their heads down, things instantly get a lot quieter and calmer,” Hanley says. “That’s because resting the forehead quiets the mind (according to the yoga tradition). To quiet your own self down, stack your forearms on top of each other, scoot your chair back until your spine is fully extended, and rest your forehead on your top arm. Place your feet flat on the floor. Take between five and eight deep breaths.”
- Eyebrow massage/eyes-bright acupressure — “Rest one elbow on your desk and use the thumb and forefinger of one hand to squeeze the very top of the bridge of the nose,” she says. “Gently press your fingers up into the brow bone and take three to five breaths. This stimulates the acupressure point known as ‘eyes bright’; it refreshes vision and clears the head. Then use the thumbs and index fingers of each hand to squeeze the skin just below the eyebrow. Hold for one breath, release, then repeat a quarter-inch further out on the brow. Keep going until you get to the outer edges of the eyebrows. This helps tension drain from the face and counteracts over-thinking.”
- Seated twist — “Sitting on the edge of your chair seat with feet planted, rotate your torso to the right, draping the right upper arm over the back of your chair and bringing your left hand to the outside of the right knee,” Hanley says. “Stay in this position for five breaths, lengthening the spine on your inhale and twisting a tiny bit further on the exhale. Look over the right shoulder to get the top of the spine further into the twist. This stimulates digestion and refreshes the back muscles. Repeat on the left side.”