If you spend a lot of time at a desk during the day, here are our recommended “ABC’s” for quick workplace yoga:
C – Choose the correct muscles to stretch.
Since this is part 3 of this series, the focus is on C - choosing the correct muscles to stretch. (The other two parts can be accessed by clicking on the links above.)
Part 3 can almost be seen as a recap of Part 1, as choosing the muscles to stretch is also about targeting areas of inactivity. I think is is extremely important that those individuals who spend many hours of their day at a desk realize that they need to think in terms of opposites when it comes to stretching muscles that seem tight. Let me explain:
Often, people who feel the need to stretch after being at their desks for awhile choose to stretch like the photo on the left shown below. Even though this may feel like what your body needs, notice that the shape your body was in while at the computer is actually exaggerated in this stretch: more rounding of the shoulders, more rounding through upper back, more neck flexion (moving forward and down). You are simply practicing more of the same posture that you've been in all day when you stretch in this manner.
The same is true for the lower body. Consider the position your lower back, hips, and legs are in while seated, and find ways to move them in the opposite way. Don't recreate the same joint actions sitting requires; instead, find ways to move your body that look less like a seated posture. Notice in the photo to the right how the left thigh is moving away from the front of the body to stretch the hip flexors that have been inactive and shortened while seated. The hips remain facing towards the desk. This stretch should also be done with the right leg back.
After some time at your desk, give you body what it truly needs - movements that stretch the correct muscles (e.g. chest, front of shoulder and neck muscles and hip flexors). These are the muscles that have been shortened and/or inactive while at your desk, so stretching them will help counter the effects (and often pains) that working at a desk can cause.