Technically, work from home yoga can be performed anywhere. Before 2020, work from home yoga would have just been doing yoga at home, no working-from-home required. Now it’s got more meaning since we’re seeing more and more people switch from an office setting to a cozy sitting-on-the-couch situation. With the cozy, come some definite downsides. I’m not sure if you’ve experienced them, so let me tell you how my body has been dealing with it.
- The lack of walking to the bus stop to catch the subway to work means I don’t get up early in the morning to get ready for work. Knowing I don’t have a commute means I can just roll out of bed and start replying to emails as soon as my eyes are able to open. All of this from the comfort of my own couch.
- My condo is small. I barely have to take 10 steps to get to the fridge or the water filter (my two favorite distractions). This means I don’t get many steps in if I don’t purposely plan a walk or run in my day. My hip flexors have their own way of reminding me of this frequently throughout the day.
- Although my chair provides great support, I don’t often use the backrest, as I find I need to be sitting more upright. Leaning back makes me too relaxed. This means my back is always on high-alert – not a bad thing if you strengthen it regularly. Otherwise, you feel a nagging pain throughout work and into your sleep, kind of like I was experiencing…
- Sitting all day has definitely affected how my body metabolizes food! I know that my body just holds onto food now and that my muscles have begun to atrophy! That basically means that the tissues in my muscles are breaking down. So I have gained fat and lost muscle.
This is the glamorous life of working from home! But, you can change that! If you want to experience less pain and more mobility while working from home for the foreseeable future, follow this routine for just 7 days and see how your body transforms from feeling like mush to toned! I’m not saying you’ll start gaining back a bunch of muscle, but you’ll certainly notice that your body isn’t nagging at you anymore.
Because many of us sit all day, strengthening the entire posterior chain is a great place to start. While sitting, the muscles in the backside of our body are lengthening, but not doing anything. By strengthening the posterior chain muscles, you even out the strain in your body so that it isn’t only in the anterior muscles on the front. Your whole body will be working to support you!
Muscles on the posterior chain that need strengthening:
- Back muscles (strengthening back muscles and the spine – sacrum, lumbar, thoracic, cervical)
Muscles on the anterior chain that need stretching:
You can use none, one, or all of these props:
- Blocks or a stack of books
- Lacrosse ball or stress ball
- Towel or blanket on wood floor
- Yoga mat!
I understand that not everyone wants to get up and spend 30 minutes stretching, so I’ve made sure that some of these can be done from your desk. That means that excuse is eliminated! There is no right order to do these in, but this is technically the order I would teach it in if we were in a class together. Feel free to mix them up or make them easier or harder depending on the day. Regardless, it’s a good way to stretch and move frequently throughout work if you’re sitting at a desk all day. Find reasons to get up from your desk, such as keeping your water or tea away from your work station, making sure you’re hitting your step-count every day, or setting a timer on your phone that reminds you to get up and move!
Now it’s time to start…
Work From Home Yoga
Strengthening & Stretching
Hold each position for 5 breaths OR perform reps if you do not like static positions
1. Cat/Cow: Get the spine moving. Seated or on a mat. If in your seat, place your hands on your knees and curve your spine so that it arches forward and then arches backward. Let your eyes and head follow: in Cat, staring at your bellybutton, in Cow, looking up at the ceiling. You can also move your spine from side to side. If you are on your mat, try this from a tabletop position.
- Stretches the front and back torso; releases the neck; gently massages internal organs; calms the mind.
2. Plank to Chaturanga: Planks are great for core strength, stability, and overall help strengthen your whole body. Depending on your skill level, scale this movement by either starting at a wall (beginner) or doing it on the ground (intermediate). For an added challenge, place your feet on blocks or books to elevate your lower body (advanced). Bending into the elbows, perform chaturanga or a push-up. I like to go all the way down to the ground so I can reset my back and triceps and make sure the effort isn’t coming from the front of my shoulders. This provides a great stretch for the pecs, as well!
- To strengthen the triceps, keep the elbows tucked into the body. Keeping everything tight to the body will ensure the upper back and backs of the arms are helping guide the movement.
- Instead of a static hold, see how many push-ups you can perform with good form – don’t let the shoulders round forward.
- Another favorite of mine is simply performing scapular pushups: keeping the arms straight in plank, I squeeze my scapulae together and push them apart. This is great for the upper back!
3. Warrior 2: I love Warrior 2 because your legs are both doing something different. So much is happening here! The front leg: knee bends in direction of the front of the mat, the ankle is dorsiflexed (great to maintain since we lose this when we wear shoes with an elevated heel). The back leg: Back leg is extended and straight. The hip is in external rotation. Reach the arms toward the front and back of the mat as if someone is pulling you either way.
- Engage your front hip’s external rotators by turning your pelvis toward the long side of the mat. Keep extending out strongly through your back leg. The combination of the external rotation of the front thigh and the extension of the back leg creates balanced action in the pelvis, which both strengthens and opens the deep hip muscles.
- Instead of holding a static Warrior 2, deeply bend into the front knee while keeping that heel planted 5-10x.
4. Warrior 3: Great for balance, and for working on single-leg strength – your glutes and hamstrings will feel this one (gluteus medius and minimus on your standing leg and gluteus maximus and your hamstrings on your lifted leg)!
- You don’t need to rely on your own balance to get into this position; Prepare for the pose with a chair positioned in front of you, and then slowly push the chair away or lean on it as lightly as possible! Arms can also come out to your side or by your torso if your shoulders get too tired or are too tight.
- If you do not want to hold this static position, you can perform reps of Single-leg deadlifts. Notice how many reps you can do before you start to feel the burn in your standing leg!
5. Salabhasana: Also known in the fitness community as Superman, Salabhasana is a great way to strengthen your lower back and tone your glutes! It also helps improve flexibility in your erector spinae, the muscles that surround your spine from your head to your hips.
- Lie face down on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Keep your neck in a neutral position. Simultaneously lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling to form an elongated “u” shape with your body — your arms and legs may lift. If they do not, that’s fine too! Engage your core so that your lower back does not carry the strain of your legs and arms lifting.
- Do up to 12 of these. They are great for waking up the body and the mind!
6. Hamstring curls in Bridge: Yeah, this one is kind of evil! I know… But, so so important for strengthening the hamstrings. If you do not want to do the curl, feel free to just step your feet out about a foot and then step them back, as if you are marching forward and back. Ensure that your pelvic bones stay neutral. Otherwise, you can place a blanket or towel under your feet and push the feet out and pull them in, making sure to use the hamstrings to do so. This is NOT easy. It will take practice to make sure your hips aren’t sinking.
- The basic bridge isolates and strengthens your glutes and hamstrings (back of the thigh). When done correctly, the move can also enhance core stability by targeting your abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back and hip. Adding the push and pull of the towel is fairly advanced, but is more challenging for those who do not want to perform a static exercise.
The Grand Finale!
7. Grab your ball (lacrosse or stress ball), and place it on a flat surface. Place your forearm on top and roll along the bottom of your forearms to release any knots you may have picked up while using your keyboard, mouse, or writing. This is so amazing for loosening up the fascia in your forearms, and it doesn’t stop there. You can roll this ball over most of your muscles and it would likely feel much tighter. Start with your forearms since you can control how much pressure you place on the ball.
- I tend to do this for about 5 minutes just because it is relaxing for me. I can do it while watching a show, so it doesn’t feel like such a chore. Doing this for about a minute on each side, every day can drastically improve your wrist mobility. It also helps break up the connective tissue (or fascia) surrounding your muscles and organs that can get rigid from lots of sitting at your computer or on your phone — or exercising.
There are so many other ways to stretch and strengthen throughout your workday. These are just a few yoga poses to get you going. These are not easy or hard, necessarily. The first step is to remember to get up from your desk and MOVE! Start with just one of these exercises or try them all. I’ll leave that up to you! Make sure to comment with your favorite yoga poses. Add your own if you think I’ve missed out on anything. Is there anything you would have wanted to see more of? I’d love to hear about it!
Chelsea has been active most of her life, which led her to become a Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor for the past 7 years. Health and Fitness are not solely dependent on movement, though, and with that understanding, she addresses her client’s other needs, such as diet, mindfulness, and stress management.
When she is not training clients or teaching Yoga, she is finding new activities that keep her mind and body active, such as rock climbing, hiking, listening to podcasts, or playing Board Games with friends. She is constantly working towards: Finding natural solutions to live as long as possible, inclusive Yoga for all body types, and aiming to find mindfulness is everything she does.