If you feel like sitting in front of a computer from 9 to 5 is slowly killing you, you’re not too far off. Sitting too much is seriously bad for your health. “[But] yoga can help declutter your mind and allow you to refocus on your priorities. It combats poor posture, muscle soreness, and lower back pain by releasing endorphins into your body’s system,” says Sophie George, the founder of Firefly Yoga. Ready to take a stand? Here are five yoga poses (with modifications) that will undo the damage of your desk job.
Standing Forward Bend with Shoulder Opener (Uttanasana)
Bust workplace anxiety, depression, and insomnia with a standing forward bend. Start in Mountain Pose. Clasp your hands behind your back. Then take a deep breath to open your chest. Exhale and fold forward, letting your head fall toward the ground while shifting your weight to the fronts of your feet. Hold for one minute.
Modifications: Stiff? Use a resistance band to clasp your hands behind your back and bend your elbows.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Relieve neck and back pain by bending into Camel Pose. Begin by kneeling with your knees hip-distance apart. Then rotate your thighs slightly inward, and push your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor. Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis with the bases of your palms on the tops of your buttocks and your fingers pointing down. Stretch your tailbone toward the floor and widen the back of your pelvis. Lean back. Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest and press your palms into your heels. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Modifications: If you’re not flexible, keep your thumbs on your sacrum and pull your lower belly up and in to work your inner thighs and pelvic floor. Prevent lower back pain. When you bring your fingertips to your heels, curl your toes.
Gate Pose (Parighasana)
If you need a little breathing room at the office, you can open up your ribcage and your lungs—relieving asthma, allergies, and colds—with Gate Pose. Kneel on the floor with your hips and buttocks lifted up off your legs. Then slide your right leg straight out to the side with your foot flat on the floor and your toes facing the side wall. Inhale your left arm, palm upward, toward the ceiling while keeping your right hand resting palm down on your right thigh, shin, or ankle. Then exhale your left arm to the right, dropping it over your ear. Slide your right palm down toward your toes. Keep your chin off of your chest, looking straight ahead. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat on the other side.
Modifications: Place a folded blanket under your bent knee.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Extended Puppy Pose works the kinks out of your spine and shoulders. Start in Table Top Position. Then slowly walk your hands forward a few inches, lowering your chest down toward the ground. Gently drop your forehead to the floor. Draw your shoulder blades onto your back and stretch your hips toward the ceiling. Then press into the palms of your hands and lift your elbows and forearms away from the ground. Breathe into your back, feeling your spine lengthen in both directions. Hold for up to a minute.
Modifications: Use a rolled-up blanket or bolster between your thighs and calves. If you have back spasms, place a yoga block—or large book—between your feet and another between your inner thighs.
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
Reverse Warrior clears your mind and skyrockets your confidence, focus, and willpower. Start in Mountain Pose. Then spread your feet 3.5 to 4 feet apart, turning your right foot 90 degrees while pivoting your left foot slightly inwards. Raise your arms out to the side to shoulder height. Exhale and bend your front knee, aligning it directly over the ankle of your front foot. Then flip your right palm over to face the ceiling, and raise your right arm up overhead and begin to reach up and back. Place your left hand, palm down, gently on the outside of your left leg. Keep your hips and shoulders square so that you can achieve a side bend. Tilt your head slightly and bring your gaze to your right hand’s fingertips. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, shorten your stance and straighten your front leg. No upper-body strength? Place your hands on your hips and work on lifting your chest and lengthening your spine.