Yogalates – The Big Stretch…at Work, too!
Yogalates, also known as Yogilates, is a combination of Pilates and yoga. It’s ideal for reducing workplace pain and stress—automatically increasing energy and productivity. According to Neal Healy of the Pilates Union, desk work itself is the culprit. “Human beings are designed to walk around in an upright position and lie down to facilitate sleeping primarily. Sitting at a desk for 6 to 8 or even more hours a day was never in the original design specification. This causes huge changes to our bodies posturally and also mentally in how our brain connects to and uses our muscles.” Companies such as Genie Scientific have used Pilates and/or yoga to reduce injuries amongst their employees.
Think about your work day and try to choose three words that describe your activity and/or emotional experience while at work. For most of us the answer would be something like sedentary, stressed and pressed for time (ok that last one isn’t a word). Well, grab a sturdy chair and devote the next 10 minutes to learning how simple stretching and breathing techniques can reduce tension, increase focus and give your body the chance to do something other than sit idly by while you work.
As with any exercise, check with your doctor if you have a history of poor health or injury before trying the stretches below.
The Benefits of Pilates
Jonathan Urla, creator of Yogilates, says, “Your posture is key to living efficiently. You can exercise all you want, but if you don’t properly position yourself in good alignment in your everyday activities, you will increase wear and tear on your body.” Pilates is widely regarded as the single best method for strengthening your body’s core muscles. These muscles support your spine and protect your discs from your body’s weight.
Ever sit at your desk so long you feeling like your spine and shoulders are rounding and soon you’ll be ready to audition for the Humpback of Notre Dame? The Spine Stretch Forward will help you release the tension you’ve accumulated and right the wrong you’re doing to yourself. Inhale fully while stretching your spine as tall as possible, then nod your chin and chest down and forward while exhaling, stretching the muscles again, then stretching back up as you inhale again. You can also stretch your neck and sides by stretching your left arm towards the ceiling as you inhale. As you exhale, reach over to the right side of the body with your left arm and drop your head to the right stretch the entire left side of your body. Inhale as you lift back up, and then repeat with your right arm to stretch the right side of your body. Really try to breathe into these stretches and let your muscles relax and lengthen. (Yes I know it sounds odd, try it anyway.)
The Benefits of Yoga
Urla goes on to say that “Breathing well is living well.” Breathing deeply oxygenates the blood, improving brain function, and breathing is central to the practice of yoga as well as Pilates. Feeling sluggish? A Standing Backbend will help you breathe deeply. Stand tall about an inch from your desk, or any other support, such as a wall. Touching your support with your fingertips, rotate your tailbone in and up while leaning into the support with your hips. Press down on your support while breathing. With each inhalation, stretch your spine upward, focusing on lengthening your lower back. Expand your chest outward and upward, pulling your shoulder blades down from your neck. To release yourself from the Standing Backbend, pull your hips away from your support. Repeat several times.
Two More for the Desk
Here are a two more simple stretches you can do at your desk.
Foot Stretch – Sit tall in the middle of your chair (no leaning) and plant one foot firmly on the floor then lift and stretch the other leg. Flex your foot forward and back, then rotate (make circles with your toes) in both directions. Now the other foot.
Seated Twist – Sit tall in the middle of your chair with your feet firmly on the floor. Exhale, take your right hand to your left knee and twist gently to the left. Your left hand goes behind you to the back leg or edge of the chair. Inhale back to center, repeat other side.
Advantages for the Busy Exec
Yogalates can be practiced in an extremely sophisticated manner, but its hybrid nature is its strength and its appeal. Its non-strenuous nature means that you can practice appropriate exercises in your office clothes, although women should probably remove high-heeled shoes. A shower is not required.
A basic understanding of Pilates and Yoga exercises combined with a similar understanding of your body and your emotions means that you can fit these exercises into the free moments of your day. Deliberately—and gently—targeting tense muscles in your shoulders, for example, can prevent overuse injuries. Conscious breathing techniques are virtually never inappropriate, whether you are dealing with a stressful project or simply transitioning from the office to your home and family.
Susie Brown is a FastUpFront Blog contributor and business author. Fastupfront offers cash flow solutions to small businesses. Visit FastUpFront
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