Unwind and recharge
A soothing, after work Restorative Yoga sequence. By Julia Clarke
Experts agree that sitting in chairs all day is bad for your body and increases stress. This Restorative Yoga sequence helps restore balance to your body and mind after a day at the office.
Let’s face it, sitting in chairs all day isn’t good for any of us. No matter how often you get up and move around, spending the work day hunched over a computer can leave you with all sorts of aches and pains.
First of all, your hips are in a constant state of flexion so your hip flexor muscles get stiff and your pelvis tends to stay tucked in a posterior tilt. Despite your best intentions, it’s common to round your back when you’re sitting, especially when you’re leaning towards a screen. Then there’s your shoulders, which tend to remain in a hunched position. All of this together can form an unwanted chain reaction of stiffness in your hips, stress on your low back, back and neck pain, and to top it all off, you’re probably not breathing properly either.
Worse still, a University of Auckland study has identified a direct correlation between modern posture and increasing emotional stress. All that sitting and hunching might even be causing you to feel a bit glum or anxious.
Restorative Yoga is already known for its stress-busting power with its focus on relaxation, but it can also be a great way to offset some of the postural implications of sitting all day.
This sequence is designed to restore mobility and openness to your spine, hips and shoulders as well as returning your breath to its natural state and giving your mind and nervous system a much-needed break from all that screen time.
For this sequence, you will need a yoga bolster or a large pillow and a blanket rolled up to form a long, thin tube.
You may want to keep extra blankets and pillows nearby for added comfort. Turn off your devices, find a quiet, cosy space and get ready for some serious relaxation.
Mountain Brook with Spinal Breath (5-7 minutes)
From a sitting position, draw your legs over the bolster and place the blanket roll horizontally across the mat behind you. Using your hands for support, lie back adjusting the blanket roll if needed so that it is behind your shoulder blades. Take your arms out wide with your elbows bent in a cactus shape. Begin to relax your whole body. After a couple of minutes, begin to imagine that you are inhaling all the way down to the base of your spine, and exhaling from the base all the way up your spine to the crown of your head. Do this without any strain. Visualise your spine growing longer with each inhale. Feel it softening with each exhale. After 8 to 10 rounds of Spinal Breath, return your breathing to normal and observe any new sensations of length or depth in your body and breath. To come out of the pose, bend your knees, place your feet on the bolster and roll to one side. Press yourself up to a sitting position.
Heart Pose with Butterfly Legs (5-10 minutes)
From a sitting position, bring the narrow end of the bolster up to the base of your spine. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, opening your knees wide to make a diamond shape with your legs. Place the middle of the blanket roll on top of your feet, then draw the ends around your ankles to meet behind your heels so your outer shins are supported. Reach behind you and hold the bolster with both hands. Relax your belly and gently lower your spine and back of your head down onto the bolster. Release your arms wide. To come out of the pose, use your hands to draw your knees together. Place your hand down on the earth next to you and gently roll to one side, then press yourself up to a sitting position.
Supported Side Bend (3-5 minutes per side)
Sit on your right hip with your knees bent and feet tucked behind you and bring the long edge of the bolster up against your right thigh. Place your right hand on the far side of the bolster. Inhale to gently lengthen your spine, and exhale as you slide your right hand away from you, resting your right side up and over the bolster. Rest your head on your right arm or if you need more support, place a pillow between your head and your arm. Rest your left arm on your left side or draw it up alongside your left ear for a little more length. To come out of the pose, place your left hand onto the bolster and press yourself up. Leave the props as they are and turn yourself around to your left hip to repeat the pose on the other side.
Grounding Spinal Twist (3-6 minutes per side)
Sit on your right hip with your knees bent and your feet tucked in behind you and bring the narrow end of the bolster up against your right hip. Place your hands on either side of the bolster. Sit up tall and turn your navel and heart toward the bolster. Slowly lower your torso down and place either cheek on the bolster. To come out of the pose, place your hands on either side of the bolster and press yourself up. Leave the bolster where it is and turn yourself around to sitting on your left hip to repeat the pose on the other side.
Basic Relaxation (5-20 minutes)
From a sitting position, draw your knees over the bolster making sure your feet are resting on the floor. Lie back, feeling free to use a pillow to support your head and to cover yourself with a blanket, and release your arms alongside your body with your palms facing up. Enjoy a good few minutes of deep peace and surrender here. To come out of the pose, draw your knees in toward your chest, roll to one side, and press yourself slowly up to a sitting position.
Julia Clarke is a yoga teacher, writer, Ayurvedic practitioner, university teacher and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. Find her on Instagram @juliaclarkeyoga and at: juliaclarkeyoga.com