Working from home is wreaking havoc on our posture.
Slouching over desks, beds and dining tables can have a negative impact on our bodies – with pain, aches and niggles all popping up from time to time.
In fact, it’s hardly surprising that one in five workers are reporting musculoskeletal disorders as a result of their new WFH routines.
But the good news is there are a plethora of exercises that can help build strength and target pesky areas.
Brienne Derosier, of Mache, has rounded up a few yoga flow moves which can help strengthen the core to improve posture, while also increasing your flexibility and giving you a much-needed mental break.
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Exhale as you step one foot back.
Your front foot remains pointing towards the top of the mat, while the back foot pivots inwards to a 45 degree angle. Then, align your front heel with the arch of your back foot, and keep both sides of the pelvis turned towards the front of your mat.
Press your weight through the outside edge of your back foot while you exhale, then bend your front knee over the front ankle. Your shin should be perpendicular to the floor to protect the knee.
Lift through the arches of both feet while rooting down through foot pads and heels.
Reach up strongly through the arms, broaden across the belly, lengthen the sides of your waist and lift through your chest – keeping your palms and fingers active and reaching. You can keep your arms parallel to each other or press your palms together.
Gently tilt your head back and gaze up at your hands while keeping shoulders dropped away from ears, blades pressing together.
Press down through the outer edge of your back foot while keeping your back leg straight.
Hold the pose for up to one minute, while you continue to breathe deeply.
Release by pressing down through the feet and straightening your front leg. Lower arms and reverse position of feet to repeat on the opposite side.
Brienne says: ‘This helps build focus, power and stability. It stretches the front side of the body and is great for building strength in the legs, core and back.’
Going from warrior, release both arms down and place hands on the mat, on either side of the front foot.
Step your front foot back to meet your back foot, and then lower the hips until your legs, torso and head are straight in one line. Stack wrists directly under shoulders and, with fingers splayed, press down through the length of each finger and try not to let your chest collapse downward.
Gaze down between your hands and lengthen the back of your neck while resisting the urge to tuck your chin – keep your head aligned with your straight body.
Draw your abdominal muscles towards your spine and hold the pose while breathing evenly for five whole breaths. Hold for up to five minutes for strength and stamina.
Breinne adds: ‘This works all major abdominal muscles, while also strengthening your shoulder, chest, neck, glutes, quadriceps and back muscles.’
Going from plank, transition into side plank by first stepping your feet together.
Next, press your weight down through your right hand, as you begin to shift the weight into the right hand and foot. With both arms straight, lift the left hand off the mat, send it to the sky and stack the left arm directly on top of the right arm.
Shift your lower body weight to the outer edge of your right foot, stacking your left foot on top or slightly in front of your right foot.
With stacked shoulders, breathe across your open chest and keep your head, shoulders, hips, and heels in one straight line.
For less of a challenge, bend your right knee and bring it to the mat to support you, placed directly under the right hip. Or, for more of a challenge, turn your gaze up to your top thumb while pressing down through your bottom index finger.
Engage your abdominal muscles and keep your body steady. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then exhale as you lower the left side back to plank pose. Then, repeat on the other side.
‘This pose strengthens muscles in shoulders, hips, and sides of core, stabilises deep spinal muscles that help to avoid back injuries, improves balance and overall core strength,’ adds Brienne.
The next step is to press hips back towards your feet then reach lower pelvis up to the ceiling, then draw your pelvis towards the wall behind you.
Bring your body into an A-shape, pressing the floor away from you as you lift through the pelvis, press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands with fingers spreading wide.
Gently play with straightening the legs, but don’t lock out the knees. Bend one leg at a time and send your breath to the backs of your legs, or hamstrings.
Draw shoulder blades down alongside the ribs and towards your tailbone and rotate your lower arms internally and your upper arms out externally: elbow creases facing one another.
After, draw your chest to your thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing your spine.
Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your pelvis high and sink your heels to the floor – then hold for 5-100 breaths.
Brienne says downward dog stimulates organs and increases blood flow, loosens nasal congestion, strengthens upper body and builds bone density, and opens anterior chest wall and shoulders for better posture.
One-legged downward-facing dog
From downward-facing dog pose, step both feet together, keeping arms and legs straight. Then, inhale and lift your right leg straight back and up, high in the air, flexing your right foot, reach back through your heel and imagine you are pressing your foot onto a wall.
Rotate your lifted leg so your knee and the top of your foot point down towards the mat and keep your standing leg strong and your shoulders squared to the top of your mat.
Press the floor away from you as you lift your pelvis, pressing your index fingers into the floor, and draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and towards your tailbone – broadening across the collar bones.
Inflate the back of your heart space and hold the pose for 5-20 breaths. To release, exhale as you lower your right foot to the mat and place it next to your left foot. Repeat pose on the opposite side.
Brienne adds: ‘This quiets the mind, strengthens the arm and shoulder muscles, stretches hamstrings and hip-flexors, and develops balance of mind and body.’
Knee to nose
Following on from one-legged downward-facing dog, try and keep your hips squared while you shift your body weight forward.
Align your wrists directly under your shoulders (wrist crease should be parallel with the top edge of your mat) and spread your fingers wide, pressing firmly through your palms and knuckles to distribute weight evenly.
Draw your lifted leg into the chest with a bent knee, round your back, and tuck your chin, bringing your knee close to your nose.
Engage your abdominals while counting through 3-5 steady breaths. Then, return your lifted leg and foot back to downward-facing dog, or straight into plank for added strength conditioning.
Repeat the same movement on the opposite side.
‘The knee to nose pose improves core balance, strength, and muscle definition; revs up metabolism and boosts endurance and stamina; strengthens upper body and improves circulation,’ adds Brienne.
From standing on your hands and knees, spread your knees wider apart than hip distance, and draw the feet together with big toes stacked behind you.
Sit your hips back to rest on your heels, as you press into your hand prints and lengthen your arms. As you bow forward and drape your torso between or on top of your thighs, allowing your forehead to come to the floor or yoga block.
Keep your arms long and extended forward along the mat, with palms facing down. For deeper relaxation, position arms alongside the body with hands extended towards feet and palms facing upward.
Let your upper back to broaden and relax your weight as you breathe evenly and softly. Allow all tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to release as you inflate your back body with breath.
Hold pose for up to a minute or longer.
To release, place your hands on the mat below your shoulders and press into engaged palms to carefully float your torso upright to sit back onto your heels.
Brienne says: ‘Child’s pose stretches your spine, hips, thighs and ankles, calms the mind, reduces tension, anxiety, and fatigue, and increases blood circulation to the head.’
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