[Featured in Sonima, September 2015]
When midday stress or aches arise in your body, take a break with this simple yet powerful office yoga sequence.
When we’re happy, we can thrive in our work. This practice will make your whole body happier in just a few minutes at your desk. Yes, yoga at the office—we dare you to try it! Based on my burgeoning understanding of Katonah Yoga, an alignment-based yoga system developed by Nevine Michaan in New York City and Bedford Hills, NY, here are a few postures to help you get through each day a little happier and healthier. This sequence incorporates quiet meditation, invigorating breath-work, and deep stretches. When practiced regularly it can give your immune system a boost, open your interior spaces, and clear your mind so you can perform at your peak.
Take a seat with your hands resting on your thighs, feet resting on the floor. Breathe and feel your body for two minutes. Hear all the sounds around you; simply let them in and out of your awareness smoothly.
Staying seated, inhale your arms high and bring your hands to touch above your head. Keeping your arms super straight, lift your inner body off of your hips, and breathe space in your belly as you take five breaths.
Stand tall and take your right wrist with your left hand; lengthen over to your left side. Extend the spine tall, keep the right foot grounded, and lift both lungs up evenly; gaze underneath your right arm for two to five breaths.
Then take your left wrist with your right hand; lengthen to your right side. Extend the spine tall, keep the left foot grounded, and lift both lungs up evenly; gaze underneath your left arm for two to five breaths.
Place each elbow into the opposite palm. Take a moment to really fit the center of each elbow bone into the center of of each palm.
Once you have that fit, imagine that you’re pulling your arms apart, even as you hold them together well, and feel the opening in your lungs and liver. Breathe spaciously for five breaths, pulling out to the sides, holding in to the center, and lifting up the frame of your arms.
Extend both arms out in front of you, then cross your left arm on top of your right. Bend your elbows and back your forearms up toward one another until your hands touch, as much of the palms touching as possible. Lift that structure up in front of your face, rest your chin on your left upper arm, then breathe your chin and your arms away from your face and up; hold for three to five breaths. As with your frames, keep “separating” your arms while you hold them in this twist, and swallow if you can to flush your thyroid. Cross your arms the other way and repeat.
Supported Chair Pose
Rest your fingertips on your desk and lift your heels up so you’re standing on the balls of your feet. Bend your knees, reach your seat back and out, and turn your pelvic floor to face the floor. Lengthen the front of your spine, keep lifting your kidneys, and let your lungs open for five breaths.
Framed Chair Pose
Frame up your arms in your chair; be in your hip joint rather than your thighs, smile big and breathe for five more breaths. Cross your arms into the ‘other’ frame—the way you don’t typically. Keep smiling; this is hard work but a great flush for your whole body.
Heels down, arms tall. Smile big for three full breaths. Feel the flow of energy coursing through your entire body.
Stand tall, frame up your arms and fold forward. Important: Keep in mind that your knees are bent so you can breathe deeply. Belly on thighs, armpits on kneecaps, send your sitting bones high and breathe deeply for three to five breaths.
Listening, Hands to Heart
Release your arms to dangle down; roll up slowly to stand. Keep your chin down for a few moments to recalibrate, and place your left and then your right hand on top of your heart. Breathe there sweetly for a couple of breaths until you’re ready to move on.
Sit back down and place your left hand across your front body; let your fingers rest on your right side [where your liver sits]; place your left palm on the base of your skull. Well-grounded, breathe deeply.
Seated Cat and Cow
Inhale to round your spine, exhale to open your lungs wide. Enjoy the expansion and the clearing.
Seated Simple Twist
One hand in front of you on your desk or chair; one hand behind you. Breathe your spine tall and bring your heart around for three to five breaths on each side.
Breath of Fire
Extend arms out to 60 degrees, cup hands, and take 100 swift exhalations from your belly out your nostrils like you’re blowing out a candle with your nose; let this clear your sinuses and your respiratory system, and most importantly, your busy mind. To end, inhale deeply, hook your thumbs above your head, sip in three more tiny inhalations. Now exhale and bring your hands down to your heart as you empty your breath out of your nose.
Sit quietly for a moment; feel your radiant clarity.
Liver Flush Frames
Once again, frame up your arms (this gets easier with time and practice) and inhale your arms up, exhale your arms down.
Let this movement flush your liver and leave you more peaceful and steady.
Rest your hands on your thighs once again, and sit for as long as you wish, resting in your body and sensing a fresh flow and fluency throughout.
Photos by Hailey Wist