There’s a big danger lurking around your workplace and it’s not mandatory HR team-building exercises. It’s something even more insidious because you cannot escape it. We’re talking about sitting at your desk all day.
Yes, the simple act of sitting for long hours, often without realising, is causing long-term damage to your health.
“A desk job can have a serious impact on your health. Nowadays, we see an average of 8-10 hours of sitting in front of your computer in a day with hardly any physical activity; this can be extremely detrimental to your health, scientists even say that it can be as dangerous as smoking,” says Mumbai-based fitness instructor and co-founder of The Moon Village Samiksha Shetty, “The issue with sedentary behaviour goes beyond the concerns of obesity, aches and pains. It can lead to life-threatening conditions such as blood clots, cancer, depression and heart diseases.”
Shetty is right as researchers have linked highly sedentary lifestyles with shorter lifespans and an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart health issues and diabetes, amongst other serious health problems. “Our bodies are meant to be either standing or lying down, thus when we sit, we create tight hips, tight lower back, tight glutes, hunched shoulders and spine as we are sitting all day.”
But all is not lost, says Shetty. There are still ways you can reduce the damage done by your desk job. “One needs to make sure to take movement breaks by maintaining a constant stream of activities, like taking a short, two-minute walk every one hour, or standing at your desk while working. You can also give your seat to someone else while traveling to work, if you’re commuting via local transport. Taking regular breaks will not only help in easing the effects of your workaholic lifestyle but will also help in boosting your mental health,” she says, “Additionally, closing your eyes every hour for some time, doing exercises and rotations like looking up and down, or eye palming (rubbing your palms together and creating some heat and placing it on your eyes) is also a great way to relieve stress.”
But while these suggestions can help alleviate the short-term effects of sitting down all day, Shetty believes yoga is the answer. “Yoga is considered to be a holistic practice for one’s overall wellness because it’s not only physical, and it’s not only asanas. It also focuses a lot on breath, and movements that lead to active meditation. It also focuses a lot on your mental state,” she says, “So, yoga can be really helpful in reversing these negative effects before they turn to damage, as not only do yoga asanas open up the body and strengthen it but performing asanas can help you go inward and realise that you can choose if you feel stressed or not.”
According to Shetty, you can revert the damage that is created by sitting all day with yoga as it can open your hips, and your glutes, and help open the chest, and the upper back. Also, yoga for the eyes can help reduce all the stress caused by laptops or computers all day, and it also relaxes and de-stresses you from all the work stress.
So we asked the expert to share some essential yoga asanas that we can do to undo the damage done by our desk jobs every day and here’s what she had to say…
5 Essential Yoga Poses You Should Do Everyday
Vyaghra Swasa (Tiger Breathing)
This pose is most commonly known as the ‘Cat-Cow’ pose. Shetty says that, with synchronized slow breathing, this asana can help relieve the spine, back and neck muscles and create mobility in your spine. This will help relax and ease the entire body.
“Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Keep your palms shoulder-distance apart with your wrist right below your shoulders. Keep your knees hip-width apart. Start by keeping your spine in a neutral position. Inhale and roll your shoulder blades back, lifting your head up and arch your back. Then exhale, round your back by pulling in the naval up into the spine. Tuck your chin towards your chest. Continue this fluid movement and connect your breath to each movement,” she says. You need to repeat this 10 times.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
“I’m sure you’ve heard of this one,” says Shetty, referring to one of the most popular yoga poses out there. The fitness instructor says it strengthens the arms and shoulders, lengthens the spine, calves, and hamstrings, and energizes the entire body.
“Start on the floor by placing your hands and knees down. Straighten your legs by lifting your knees off the floor and then push your heels down as far as they can go. Extend the spine by pushing away from the ground using your palms. Stay here for 5 to 9 breaths.”
Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard pose)
Shetty wants you to take the asana name literally and pretend to be a lizard. “By embodying the spirit of the lizard, we can strengthen our shoulder muscles, arms, chest and work on our glutes. This pose can also engage and strengthen the abdominal muscles and reduce excess fat around the belly and the hips,” she says.
“Start by getting into a downward-facing dog position. Inhale, step your right foot forward to the outside edge of your right palm, coming into an extended lunge position. Now sink your hip, while keeping your arms straight and spine flat and lengthened. If you’re comfortable here, only then slowly lower onto your forearms. Press onto the ball of your left foot as you straighten up your left leg. Stay here for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.”
Shetty suggests that you can also add in a little mobility and movement to this static pose and treat muscle pain. Here’s the quick flow that she recommends:
- Exhale-Downward Facing Dog,
- Inhale- Raise your right leg up towards the ceiling ( Three-legged Downward Facing Dog).
- Exhale- Lizard Pose on the right leg,
- Hold your breath.
- On your next Exhale back to Downward Facing Dog.
- Inhale- raise your left leg up to the ceiling (Three-legged Downward Facing Dog).
- Exhale- Lizard Pose on the left leg, hold for a breath.
Perform this movement in coordination, while breathing in and out, around 5 to 10 times on each side and you’re good to go.
Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
This pose helps relieve back pain and can counteract slouching, something that can get developed when you spend hours hunched over your laptop at work.
“Start by lying down on the mat on your back. Bend your legs from the knees and place your feet hip-width apart. Inhale, lift your hips up to the ceiling pushing into the feet. Exhale slowly with control and drop the hips back onto the floor. Repeat this movement 10 times.”
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
“It’s an easy yoga asana for beginners,” says Shetty, “In Sanskrit, bala means child and asana means one’s posture. Hence, it is also called the Child’s Pose.” According to her, it helps by keeping the body energetic and calms the mind. It is a great pose to ease anxiety and stress. “This pose is also great for anyone who is facing issues with their blood pressure.”
“Sit on your heels and either keep your knees together or apart. Bend forward by lowering your forehead in order to touch the floor, exhaling as you do so. Keep your arms along your body with your palms facing up. Now, finally press your chest on the thighs gently and relax.”