This was originally published in the September 2015 newsletter. Subscribe here!
When I asked you all a few weeks ago to send in your requests for desk yoga pro tips, the majority of you asked for suggestions on how to combat the desk hunch back. This is a position I catch myself in a lot while working and have also noticed other times when I'm in a similar shape — sitting on the subway, on my bike, leaning on the back of a bar chair waiting for a drink.
To counterbalance The Hunch, the muscles across the front of the chest and shoulders can be stretched, the muscles in the upper back can be strengthened, and the nervous system can be encouraged to relax leading to overall reduction in stress and tension.
Here are some ways to do all three!
This may not look like a backbend based on the photo, but after spending several hours (weeks? months? years?!) in a rounded position, this Lil Baby Desk Camel pose action will help to gently create space across the chest and shoulders.
1. Begin by sitting upright with shoulders stacked over your hips. Bring your palms to your low back to support and maintain the natural curve in your lumbar spine.
Lift the center of your chest towards your chin while keeping your chin parallel to the floor and your shoulders down from your ears. Breathe into your chest and across the collar bones and exhale fully. Stay for a few breaths and then take a break in a neutral sitting position before trying the pose again.
2. If the first pose felt good, you can add on by interlacing your fingers behind your back with the palms touching. Slowly begin to lengthen your arms while keeping your head and shoulders in the same position. Hold and breathe for 5 cycles.
3. If interlacing your fingers behind your back is too intense or uncomfortable for your arms, you can keep your elbows bent and press your fists together at the middle of your back.
This accessible strengthening exercise is a great way to target the muscles of the upper back. I call these Wall Snow Angels. Set up close to the wall so that your entire back is flat on the wall. Bring your arms into a field goal shape (it's football season or something, right?). Inhale and reach your hands up over your head while keeping your shoulders flat against the wall. Exhale to bring your arms back down to the same starting position. Try out 10-15 reps.
When you get home from work, or if you have the space in your office, a gentle restorative backbend should hopefully feel pretty great. In a studio yoga class you might do this pose with blocks or a bolster, but this minimal version can be done with just a sweatshirt or a blanket.
1. Make a sushi roll with your sweatshirt or blanket :)
2. Place the sweatshirt/blanket sushi roll on the floor and sit in front of it with your knees bent and palms down just behind your hips. Place your feet hips width distance apart and parallel to each other.
3. Roll down slowly onto the sweatshirt/blanket so that it lines up underneath your shoulder blades and the center of your chest lifts slightly upwards. Adjust the placement as needed so that it feels comfortable.
4. Choose an arm position that feels best for you. I like to take my arms overhead to increase the opening across my chest, but resting your hands down by your sides or on your stomach is also great. Stay here for 2-5 minutes.