As a culture, we work (and play) on our computers more today than we ever have before. Many jobs and even full-time educational programs are now fully operational online. Some of us even work solely at our computers in home-based businesses or co-working spaces. This wave digital lifestyles, e-commerce businesses, and general digital business trends keeps us screen-locked and tied to our desks. Depending on your lifestyle, all this computer time can add up to a hefty 8-10 hours a day or more.
While our increasingly tech-dependent lives have fostered incredible new discoveries, fast and easy research, improved communication – and even home-based or nomadic lives for some of us – it can also cause an increase in our health issues. Sitting at a desk all day can be troublesome for our bodies that thrive on regular movement.
What area takes the biggest hit from a desk-dependent job? The hips. In a typical desk chair, the hips are bent and stiff for hours on end. This leads to pain or trouble moving, and can even lead to increased risk of injury. Even if you don’t already have discomfort in your hips from excessive sitting or standing, it’s still good practice to keep them open and h2. Healthy hips will keep you young and mobile into old age, so let’s see how we can loosen them up while still working away at your laptop.
Ardha Padmasana — Half Lotus Pose
Half Lotus is an excellent pose to do either while sitting on the floor with your laptop, or on a supportive chair. Not only is Half-Lotus great for your hips, but it also strengthens your lower back – another vulnerable area for laptop junkies.
This crossed leg position should be switched every few minutes to keep good blood flow through the hip joints and the lower legs. Make sure not to slouch or compromise your neck while in this position, especially when working on the floor.
How To:Find a comfortable position on the floor with your legs extended in front of you (keep the computer off to the side for now). Draw your left leg in, bent in front of you. Exhale and bend your right leg over top, placing your right foot on top of your left thigh. Switch positions as necessary. For a deeper hip stretch, hinge your torso over your legs for a few breaths. Maintain a straight and steady back.
Tarasana — Seated Star Pose
Another great floor position, Seated Star pose also helps to open and spread the entire hip joint. This increase flexibility in the hamstrings, knees, glutes, and strengthens the back. Seated Star is also a great pose for the root and sacral chakras, providing stability and an increase in creative and confident energies. Who doesn’t need that when researching, working on projects, or coming up with great business plans?
How To: While seated on the floor, draw the soles of your feet together in front of you with your knees bent at about 90 degree angles. You can try bringing your feet in closer to you, or further away depending on your comfort level. Take a break every few minutes to grasp your feet and bend forward to complete the pose. You may feel a stretch, but be careful not to overstretch or strain during Seated Star.
Kapotasana — Pigeon Pose
Pigeon is one of yoga’s best hip-opening poses and an amazing pose to do either while working away, or as a break from your desk chair. Pigeon is great for strengthening the hip flexor, piriformis, and glute muscles. Switch your position every few minutes to maintain an even stretch on both sides. If you decide not to work in Pigeon pose, make sure to add this pose to your regular yoga practice for improved hip health.
How To: Start on all fours, then slide the right leg forward towards your head. Once the right reaches your right wrist, bend the leg so that the right foot now rests at the left wrist. Gently lower the left leg back behind you keeping your leg internally rotated and relaxed. You may either stay upright here or gently lower yourself to rest on your forearms. From here, take a few breaths with hands in prayer position (if taking a break from working) or type/scroll away with your forearms resting on the ground in front of you.
Supta Virasana — Reclined Hero’s Pose
The Half-Hero pose is an excellent pose to work from – just prop your laptop up on the couch or coffee-table at home, or a short filing cabinet or plastic tub if you are in the office. It opens and stretches the hips, strengthens the back and core, and benefits the knee joints. You can also choose to practice the traditional full Hero pose for a quick break. If you have knee trouble or stiff knees, however, it is best to avoid this pose or ease into for just a few breaths, rather than resting here to work.
How To: Kneel on the ground, then slide your feet apart slightly wider than your hips. Press your feet into the floor below. Stay upright and extend one leg out in front of you. You may also bend it so that the sole of the foot of that leg touches the knee of your opposite leg. Switch the leg placement after a few minutes to keep the stretch even on both sides.
Upavistha Konasana — Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend Pose
After sitting at a desk for long hours, the Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend can be an incredibly refreshing stretch. Use it to wake yourself up and increase your productivity, or bring the laptop down to the floor and work here in this position for a while.
This is a also a great pose to do some quick upper body stretches as well. Twist to each side, practice neck rotations, and reinvigorate the whole body for a fresh productivity session.
How To: Find a comfortable seated position on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Gradually widen your legs until you reach a good stretch. With a flat back, lean your torso forward and bring your forearms to the ground between your legs. Rest on your forearms, feeling the stretch in your hips and entire legs, and get back to work.
Salamba Balanasana — Wide-Leg Child’s pose
After all that hip-opening, you’ll want a gentle pose to retreat to for a few minutes. Wide-Leg Child’s Pose is a great pose to sink into after working in Pigeon or Half-Lotus to stretch your back. Rest in this pose for five minutes, or grab your laptop to get right back to reading or typing.
How To: Begin by kneeling on the floor. Spread your knees slightly wider than your hips and rest your bottom on your heels. Exhale and slowly lower your torso forward to rest in between your thighs. Place your arms out in front of you and slowly open your knees to widen your hips. From here, raise your head and rest your forearms flat on the floor to access your laptop.
Rest and Restore
Like all good yoga practices, its best to end a session with a restorative Savasana. The same goes for when you are stretching while working! Even just three to five minutes in Savasana (or seated meditation) after a hour-long work session can reset the brain and wire you for increased productivity, focus, and brainstorming. Not only does this refresh your mind, but gives your eyes and fingers a rest.
Alternatively, practice breathing exercises for a few minutes to oxygenate and relax the mind. Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise by inhaling deeply and steadily for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, then slowly breathe out evenly over eight counts. Repeat 5-10 times.
This is the perfect way to take a regular break to clear your head, seek new inspiration, or just re-energize the brain. It is also a great method for reducing anxiety or stress – if you find yourself worried about a project or online interview, practice this breathing exercise to release the tension and prepare holistically to conquer your next goal.
We can’t always escape our work or the fact that much of our modern lives resides online. Increasingly desk-centric careers and the ability to bring your work home may lead to increased stiffness and pain in your hips. The good news is, however, that we can adjust our work and study habits to integrate yoga into our regular schedule and keep our bodies limber and focused. Our portable, handy laptops could actually be the perfect yoga companion.
If you suffer from sore and tired hips, tight hamstrings, a weak back, or restlessness when working away at your laptop, consider adjusting your work style to allow for some floor-based, laptop-friendly positions. If working on the floor doesn’t quite suit your style, make sure to take a five minute break every hour or so to stretch out. Taking the extra time to open up your hips will prevent injury and low mobility later in life.