Many of us sit for hours on end each day. Whether at work, at home, watching television, playing on our phones… the list goes on. Over time, sitting for extended periods has an impact on our bodies, which can present as pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.
When we sit, certain muscles are shortened, while other muscles are lengthened. In very general terms, the muscles on the front of our bodies tend to get short and tight, while the muscles on the back of our bodies get lengthened out and can become weak. Some common muscles that get tight include our hip flexor muscles (the muscles that help lift your knee toward your chest) and our pectoral muscles (the muscles on the front of your chest). It is important that we reverse this shortening and lengthening to restore balance in our bodies and avoid pain and injury.
If you sit a lot (we all do!), here are 4 yoga poses for you to counteract the negative effects of sitting.
1. Lunge (Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana):
The lunge is a great way to stretch out the hip flexors and quadriceps. It allows you to come into the opposite position in the hips that you are in when you sit. To perform the lunge, step back with your right foot and come up onto your right toes. You want to be able to straighten your back leg and square your hips (your hips should be in line with each other). Think about tucking your tailbone under. You are looking for a stretch through the front of your right hip, and maybe down into the front of the right leg. For a low lunge, lower your back knee to the ground. Take 10 deep breaths here, and then repeat on the left side.
2. Heart Opener:
This stretch helps you open up through the chest, releasing and lengthening the pectoral muscles. Sitting leads to slouching and our shoulders rolling forward. This helps reverse this movement and return to better posture. To perform the stretch, reach back behind you with both arms, either clasping your hands together or holding opposite elbows. Roll your shoulder down and back, feeling a stretch through the front of the shoulders and chest. Take 10 deep breaths here, and then release.
3. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana):
Now that we have done a couple of stretches, we will do a couple of poses that also strengthen through the back body. As I mentioned before, the muscles on the back of our body can get lengthened out and weak from sitting. Bridge pose will help strengthen those muscles while continuing to open up the front body. To perform the pose, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. With your knees over your ankles, press through your feet to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Squeeze your bum to lift your hips a bit higher. Relax through your upper body. Take 10 deep breaths here, and then slowly lower your hips back to the floor.
4. Superman (Viparita Shalabhasana):
This last pose will continue to strengthen your back body. To perform the pose, lie on your stomach with your arms extending in front of you. With your neck relaxed and gaze down, lift your legs and arms of the floor, squeezing your glutes and between your shoulder blades. Take 10 deep breaths here, and then slowly lower your arms and legs back to the floor.
I hope you try these out these yoga poses and feel some relief from sitting. You can perform these poses everyday, and even do them a few times each.
Kiah Loewen, RYT200