Even if you love your job, spending 40-plus hours at a desk every week can sometimes lead to more than just a headache; it can also be a pain in the neck, shoulders, back, feet, and eyes.
Being chained to your desk starves your extremities of blood, oxygen, and other fluids, resulting in tight muscles and stiff joints. But before reaching for the industrial-size bottle of Panadol, try these poses from yoga instructor Karin Wiedemann. She suggests spending three minutes every two hours doing the following moves to relieve some tension.
The pain: wrists and hands
The cause: "Typing is a very repetitive motion, and we do it for hours," says Wiedemann. On top of that, we hold our hands in a very tense position, so the muscles get stiff and blood doesn't circulate as well (as evidenced by how chilly your hands can get even in summer).
The yoga fix: Sitting at your desk with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, lengthen up through the crown of your head and let your shoulders gently drop away from your ears.
Bring your hands together on your lap, interlacing your fingers.
As you take a deep breath in, reach your arms out in front of you and press your palms away. As you exhale, raise your arms overhead and try to straighten your elbows as much as you can without scrunching your shoulders. If your shoulders rise up, keep your elbows slightly bent.
Hold this pose for 10 complete breaths and lower your arms on the last exhale. Repeat twice more.
The pain: feet and ankles
The cause: High heels push body weight to the front of the foot. "And the pointy styles we wear shove our feet into unnaturally narrow spaces," says Weidemann. High heels throw off your entire skeletal system because your foundation, your feet, doesn't have a solid connection with the ground.
The yoga fix: Remove your shoes. Next, sitting in a chair, cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Weave the fingers of your left hand from the bottom of your foot up between your toes as if you were holding hands with your foot.
Begin making circles with your ankle. Make 10 circles in each direction.
Next, carefully release your fingers and hold onto the top of your foot. Bend your toes back towards your shins and then down toward your heel. Do this five times in each direction.
Now, using your thumbs, gently massage the bottom of your foot, especially the arches. Switch sides.
The pain: neck and shoulder
The cause: Typically, we slouch, rather than sit. Your head is as heavy as a bowling ball, so when you push, drop, or tilt your head forward to squint at your strategic plan, your neck is bearing a lot of weight.
The yoga fix: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on the corners of your lower back with your fingers pointing toward the floor. Rotate your shoulders up, back, and down, bringing your elbows close together without pressing your hips, shoulders, or head forward. Take a deep inhale.
Now, root your feet firmly into the floor as you lift up through crown of head and bend back very slightly. Press your elbows closer, lifting up through your heart. Hold for five deep breaths.
The pain: eyes
The cause: "You may be unaware of it, but while staring at your monitor or reading, you probably tense up your face," Wiedemann says. Plus, recent studies say hours in front of the glowing computer screen may fatigue the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain.
The yoga fix: Turn away from your computer so your eyes are focused on a completely different object. Sit up in your chair with your chin parallel to the floor.
Now, without moving any other part of your body, look up to 12 o'clock, over to 3 o'clock, down to 6 o'clock, over to 9 o'clock, and up to 12 again. Do that five times in each direction.
The pain: back
The cause: When you're sitting at your desk, the discs in your back are bearing three times more weight than when you're standing.
The result? Spinal fluid - which keeps your spine flexible instead of brittle - gets squeezed out. This means discs can slip out of place, rub up against each other, and cause excruciating pain. To top it off, a brittle spine increases your risk of injury because there's less fluid to act as a shock absorber, which means bending down and lifting your weighty handbag can cause a lot of damage one day.
The remedy? "Twisting poses strengthen and lengthen your spine to create more space," says Wiedemann. This allows fresh fluid to flood in, relieving compression and bringing sweet relief.
The yoga fix: Keep your chair facing forward, but turn your entire body to the right. Keep your thighs parallel and knees over your ankles. Next, place your hands on the back of your chair.
As you inhale, lengthen up through the crown of your head. As you exhale, rotate from your belly, ribcage, and shoulders (but keep your shoulders relaxed and chin parallel to the floor).
To enhance the twist, push with your right hand and pull with your left hand.