Simple desk yoga poses (that won’t freak out your coworkers)

What’s your work environment like? Chances are, you’re one of the millions of workers out there sitting at a desk. It can be difficult to keep physically motivated when your screen time consumes your day-to-day existence.

An excessively sedentary existence is also incredibly bad for your health, according to a wealth of research and scientific studies.

We’ve spoken to some of NYC’s leading yoga studios to find a few simple poses you can do to keep you moving at your desk. Here are five top tips from Dana Covello, founder of the Twisted Trunk Yoga studio on 580 Broadway:

1. Take a Breath

Set a timer on your phone for every hour, or whatever time period your job will allow, to direct your attention inward. Dana explains: “When your breath is uninhibited by a physical or emotional posture, it should move in three dimensions.”

a lady doing some yoga at work

Take a breath (or two or three) down into your low belly feeling the belly expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale (if no one is looking you can even put your hands on your belly). Take another breath into the sides of the ribs so that the breath moves laterally. Take a few last breaths into the back of your lungs.

Spending a few minutes breathing can help you minimize stress and refocus to the task at hand. Dana adds: “I also suggest people get in the practice of taking a few mindful breaths before walking into the office and few before walking into the door at home - particularly if you know you tend to work on autopilot during the job time.”

2. Check Your Sitting Posture

Ergonomics has nothing to do with what's best for your body and everything to do with work output, so trying to sit on the edge of the chair with a neutral pelvis versus a tucked pelvis.

human spine and other bones illustration for a more comfortable sitting position at work

A tucked pelvis is where you sit on your sitting bones - the two bony protrusions on either side of your pelvis and not the bottom of your sacrum. Dana says: “This can take some time if you have spent years/decades sitting so that the chair does the work so, again, multiple times a day try switching your posture to this more optimal shape for the body.”

Even sitting on the edge of your chair and straightening your legs can be a stretch for the back of the legs, particularly if you tend to keep your knees bent all day.

Also, check your head’s position in relation to your spine and bring your head back in line with your torso. A lot of people shift their heads forward when doing screen work.

3. Look Away From Your Screen

Try to look away from your screen for 10 to 30 seconds a few times a day so that your eye muscles get some variety. Again, try to set a time - or just make sure you look away every time you check your emails, or social media.

If you’re near a window, take three breaths focusing on something close to the window and then three breaths focusing on something very far away to vary the points of focus.

4. Try a Few Moves At Your Desk

Depending on how brave you’re feeling, try out a few simple moves at your desk. This simple sequence can be repeated a few times without you even having to stand up. Just remember to sit on the edge of your chair.

yoga movement you can do while working in the office

If you want to get out of your chair, these moves are a little bit more adventurous and give you the chance to stretch a few more muscles to reinvigorate your body and mind:

different yoga positions you can do while working

A Few Final Tips

Yoga isn’t the only way to prioritize your health and wellbeing from your desk. Dana advises: “Drinking plenty of water so your body forces you to get up and walk from time to time, taking the stairs, parking at a further distance away, walking to get your lunch - really anything that forces you to move more and sit less.”

This change of mindset to move more and sit less is important, as Mike Taylor,  co-founder, guide and resident healer at NYC yoga studio Strala on 632 Broadway, said: “Our everyday desk time can be extremely rough on our bodies and minds, leading to all kinds of stress, tension, and chronic pain. But we don't need to throw away our jobs and desks just yet - we can transform this time from something that hurts into something that helps. It doesn't take much, we just have to do it!”

Here’s a video from Mike demonstrating a few more simple chair moves for you to try out:

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