Desk yoga might seem like a new fad, and yet, it can be a potent tool to alleviate the physical and mental health problems associated with our hectic work lives. There was a time when health services in the office were concerned only with physical occupational hazards. However, in recent times, mental health hazards are considered to be equally important, if not more. Stress levels at work are rising and with it, so are cases of burnout, leading to loss of productivity and increased costs for employers. According to a study by Hartfiel et al., every year 175 million days of work are lost, and half of those are due to stress. Therefore many experts recommend desk yoga as a solution to this challenge.

Benefits of desk yoga for office workers

Organisations experiment with various ways to try and reduce the stress of their employees. One of the ways in which stress can be combated at the office is through yoga at your desk. According to an article by Timothy McCall, there are at least 38 ways in which yoga can improve physical as well as mental health, as documented in various studies in India and in the West.

Some of the physical benefits of yoga are improved body flexibility, muscle strength, reduced cartilage and joint breakdown, spine protection, and better sleep quality. Yoga also provides mental health benefits by relieving depression or anxiety, promoting happiness, bettering focus and concentration, providing peace of mind, improving self-esteem, and of course, calming the nervous system and providing relaxation. No wonder, then, that even the World Health Organization recognises yoga as a traditional and complementary approach to well-being.

Desk yoga for office workers combines postural exercises (asanas) with breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana) and requires little or no equipment. The ease with which it can be practiced anywhere makes it an ideal method to seek those elusive moments of relaxation at the office from the comfort of your own desk chair. Five-minute office desk yoga is a thing now, and it’s getting popular by the day. Yoga does not need elaborate preparation or a fancy ambience. So while the rest of the world is spinning like crazy, you can find your Zen in the eye of the storm through yoga at your desk. Here are a few simple desk yoga poses you can do at your desk.

Simple desk yoga exercises you can do right now

1. Simple breathing exercise: One of the main components of yoga at your desk is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the present moment, in mind and body. Start with slow, deep and deliberate breaths. Watch your breath as you let the air in through your nose, watch it as it fills your chest cavity, and watch it as you let it out through your mouth. When doing this, try to not let the mind wander to thoughts of the spat you had with a colleague, or the impending meeting with your boss’s boss. Stay in the moment and focus only on your breathing. Breathe 7-10 times and you will feel your tension easing.

2. Neck roll: A neck roll is a simple desk yoga pose to help you relieve the stress around the neck area. In fact, this may be something that you may be automatically already doing, without conscious effort. Close your eyes and drop your chin to your chest. Then slowly, move your head in a circular motion, from left to right, extending it as far as it will go on all sides. In this, your left ear will touch your left shoulder, your head will tilt backwards, your right ear will touch your right shoulder, and your chin will drop to your chest, completing one roll. Do the roll around 5 times, and switch direction to go from right to left. Do this and the stiffness in the neck will begin to ease.

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3. Shoulder roll: Another neglected area that routinely gets affected by sitting in the chair for too long is the shoulders. The shoulder roll is a desk chair yoga pose that makes them feel better. To do this, inhale deeply, and as you inhale, move your shoulders up getting them closer to your ears, push them back. As you exhale, bring the shoulders down and push them forward in one smooth motion. Do the back-to-front shoulder roll a few times and then switch to front-to-back. The stiffness in the shoulders will become a thing of the past with this simple exercise.

4. Wide-legged forward bend: Wide-legged forward bends are a great way to provide comfort to your lower back, when you have been sitting in your chair for too long. The soreness that you experience in the back can be relieved through this simple desk chair yoga exercise. This involves standing up, however, and so, you may want to choose the right time and place to do this. To do this desk yoga exercise, stand up and place your feet away from each other at a distance wider than your hips. Place your hands on your hips. Release your breath and as you exhale, bend forward, keeping the spine straight. You may bend your knees to feel more comfortable. This exercise does not require the back of your knees to ache without reason. Gently move your hands down and hold this position for 30 seconds, before pulling yourself back up to the upright position.

5. Progressive muscle relaxation: This is another desk yoga pose for the office that improves mindfulness, relieves stress, and promotes relaxation. To do this, sit comfortably, and close your eyes. In your mind’s eye, begin to focus on the different parts of your body and feel the tension leave you. Start with the toes of one foot, and clench and unclench them. Move to the other foot, then move to the ankles, the calf muscles, the thighs, and upwards. As you watch the body part in your mind, clench and unclench it (if you can) and let the stress slip away. This is a great way to relax your body and does not take much time. However, a word of caution. This desk yoga exercise may very well cause you to become so relaxed that you may fall asleep. You don’t want that in office, do you? Other than that, this is one of the best exercises to make you feel relaxed.

Our workdays are always crazy-busy and there’s a never-ending to-do list. There are deadlines to meet, targets to complete, and stakeholders to satisfy. All of this affects your mental health and robs you of your me-time. Finding time to join the gym or a yoga class in such a scenario may seem burdensome, or even impossible. Still, with these simple desk yoga exercises for office or remote workers, you may be able to kick start a small effort at maintaining your mental wellbeing at work.