August 23rd, 2016 | Wellness

Essential Yoga Poses at Work - Part I

Sore lower back? Tense shoulders? Tight hips? You are not alone. Most of us spend the hours between 9am to 5pm sitting in front of the computer, in addition to more sitting during TV time and commute time. However, we don't pay much attention to our postures when sitting.

Sagging lower back, rounded spine, hunched shoulders, and neck craned forward are becoming the norms. Sitting for long periods of time not puts pressure on these problem areas, it also decreases oxygen flow to the brain and causes important muscle groups to tense up and weaken.

The following stretches will help with the common symptoms of a desk worker. The best part is, they are easy enough to do at your desk without making a big scene! However, if you feel uncomfortable doing them at your desk, no problem, take a breather in the break room or bathroom to try these out. Each takes one minute or less and you will immediately feel the benefits, trust me!

Copyright © 2016 Elaine OYang All Rights Reserved


Stand in front of your desk or chair.

  • Place your hands firmly over the edge of your desk, on the back of your chair, or on the seat of your chair. Walk back until your chest is facing directly towards the floor.
  • Bend your knees and pull your hips back to lengthen your spine.
  • Relax your shoulders and your chest towards the floor to stretch across the chest muscles and shoulders.

Stay for at least 5 full, slow breaths. To come out, engage your abdomen by drawing your navel gently in towards the spine, lift your head and your chest, then walk your feet back towards the desk or chair. Keep your hands on your desk or chair for another 2-3 breaths after you have stood upright.

Why This Works:

This pose temporarily relieves the load off the lower back by coming into a horizontal position for the spine. The arms stretching upwards over the head tractions the upper part of the spine, while the movement of the hips backwards away from the head tractions the lower part of the spine. By softening the chest down towards the floor, you get the added bonus of stretching the front of the shoulders and the chest. For those with tighter hamstrings, this is also a good pose to lengthen the hamstring muscles.  

Copyright © 2016 Elaine OYang All Rights Reserved


Sit in a comfortable, upright position.

  • Bend your elbows by your rib cage and hold your hands in soft fists
  • Inhale, pull the elbows back and lift the chest upwards
  • Exhale, draw the elbows forward, round the back, and tuck the ribcage, navel, and chin inwards.
  • Repeat these motions 9 more times with the breathing pattern. Make your breaths long and smooth.

Why This Works:

The movements coordinate with the breaths. As we draw the elbows back and open the arms, the space created in the belly and chest is an opportunity for us to take full breaths in. As we draw the elbows and/or arms forward and we round the back, it is an opportunity for us to completely breathe out to remove any stagnant air in the lungs. In addition, the movements stimulate the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, which provides immunological protection and waste clearing for the central nervous system. This exercise is also beneficial for those with tight chest muscles.

Copyright © 2016 Elaine OYang All Rights Reserved


Sit in a comfortable, upright position and place your hands gently on your thighs. Start by taking a few easy, natural breaths. Gradually slow the breath down but without straining.

  • Now place both hands over your belly, with your middle fingers touching one another at your navel center.
  • Breathe in all the way to your belly so that your belly expands and your fingers spread apart from one another.###li
  • Repeat this belly breathing exercise for another 9 cycles, then return to your natural breathing pattern for another 3 breaths.

Notice if your body or your mind feels more relaxed and quieter.

Why This Works:

The combination of stress and poor sitting posture can result in inefficient and shallow breathing, leading to decreased oxygen flow in the blood (brain fog, anyone?). Conscious, longer exhales allow stagnant air (carbon dioxide and wastes) in the lower lobes of the lungs to be expelled so that new, fresh air (oxygen and nutrients) can come in. Conscious, deeper inhales allow us to activate the diaphragm, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest). As the diaphragm contracts and pulls down to bring the air in, it pushes against the digestive organs, hence the expansion of the belly. Furthermore, the continuous flow of full, conscious breaths activate efficient blood flow to the brain to help you refocus.

If you work in an office setting, you're likely to encounter back, leg, shoulder, or neck pain at some point. Prevent injuries or long-term problems from happening with these exercises a few times a day. For the 7 essential tips on recharging your body, mind and soul download my free e-booklet  here.

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Elaine Oyang, Yoga and Nutritional Therapist

Elaine had always known that she was born to heal people and change their lives, and she found that through her work as a yoga therapy teacher and nutrition consultant. After graduating from Harvey Mudd College with a degree in Biology, she pursued her passion of teaching yoga. With over ten years of practice, experience, and continuing education on functional anatomy, meditation, nutrition, and yoga therapy, Elaine brings her knowledge of wellness to the forefront when working with her students and clients. She is passionate about helping people go above and beyond their chronic pain, sleep problems, and digestive issues so that they can live an active and full life. Visit her site:

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