by Lisa Bracken
Sitting at a desk – in a car, or on a plane – for extended periods of time constricts the rib cage, compresses the spine, and builds congestion in our digestive tract. The next time you get in your car after a long day at work see if you don’t find yourself adjusting the rearview mirror. Have you shrunk? In fact you have! Our spines begin to compress after only 20 minutes of sitting so yes, we do indeed get shorter as the day goes by. If you find yourself chair bound most of the day, you must make time to move your spine.
A thorough yoga practice, whether done in a public class or sequenced on your own at home or in the office, should take the spine in all six directions: folding forward, bending backward, moving laterally to the right and left, and rotating/twisting to the right and left. These six simple movements are like giving your spine a shot of WD-40. Here’s a simple three-minute “desk yoga” sequence I call the “Spinal Quick Lube.” So easy, you can do this from any chair, anywhere:
Sitting tall with your hands on your lap, inhale deeply while slightly arching your back taking your chest upward; exhale and round your back, rolling your shoulders forward and bringing your chin to your chest. This is your forward-backward move. Do this three to five more times.
Next, inhale and lift both arms up overhead; exhale and fold your torso to the right, bringing your right hand to the edge of your chair and reaching your left arm out beyond your left ear. Breathing in, lift yourself upright bringing your arms up with you, and exhaling to fold your torso to the left. Voila – lateral movement. Your spine wants you to do this a couple more times as well.
Congratulations! You’ve just completed four out of six moves towards keeping a healthy, youthful spine. Now, facing forward, lift your arms up again as you breathe in; when you breathe out, turn your torso to the right bringing your right hand to the back of your chair and your left hand to the outside of your right leg. Breathing in, lift your arms and bring yourself back to center (always inhale to untwist). Breathing out, turn your torso to the left taking the left hand behind you and the right hand to the left leg. Continue to lift your upper body tall even as you turn from side to side. Do this twist three to five times.
I frequently hear students lament they wish they’d discovered yoga when they were younger. Not to worry! One can begin a yoga practice at any age. I once read that the Queen of Belgium began doing headstands when she was 86. Whether you’re practicing headstands in a palace or simple lateral bends at your desk – keep moving that spine. Motion is lotion.