They say that sitting is the new smoking. Not only does it increase your chance of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, the core is also weakened, mainly by the "slumped" position we are so used to sitting in.
When we sit for long periods of time, our muscles become idle. And when our muscles are idle, our blood circulation becomes less efficient (the movements of muscles actually help "pump" the blood to and from our extremities and limbs). Ultimately, our brain takes the hit as well with the lack of blood circulation, resulting in brain fog, or the "afternoon slump."
Ideally, you'd go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes in the sun to get the muscles and limbs moving to help blood circulation. Realistically, however, you might only have one or two minutes at your desk, and this is where the following exercise comes in. This stretch helps increase productivity by boosting blood flow into your brain, stretches your shoulders and lower back, lengthens hamstrings, and helps temporarily reverse the "slumped" position of your shoulders. This is also one of my favorite pose to hold in after sitting at the desk for too long a time!
Standing Forward Fold, with arms interlaced
How to perform:
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart, with feet parallel to one another. Interlace the fingers behind your back. On your exhale, bend your knees as you hinge forward and down from your hips. Bring the arms away from the hip as much as you can, and bend the knees enough so that your belly can rest on top of the thighs (this will allow the lower back to relax and lengthen). Soften the back of the neck so that your head is dangling like a ripe fruit about to fall off. If you like, you can also alternatively straighten one leg at a time to target your hamstrings. Take 10 deep breaths here with your eyes closed and feel the gentle pressure of your belly into your thighs as you breathe. To come out of the posture, inhale to lift your upper body upright to standing. Stand tall with your eyes closed for another 5 breaths to observe the "residues" of the posture.
The following is an alternative to the standing forward fold, especially for those who can't quite get their bellies to their thighs no matter how deep they bend their knees, or for those who feel tension in the lower back in a standing forward fold. Or maybe you are one of those few unlucky ones without even the luxury to stand? =P
Alternative: Seated Forward Fold
Sit tall with your feet a little wider than your hips. Root your sitting bones down into your chair and feel the grounding sensations in your hips. As you exhale, hinge forward from your hips until the belly starts to sink between your thighs. You can catch your ankles or just let your arms dangle by your side. Soften the back of the neck to lengthen the back of the neck. Though not pictured, you can perform the seated version with the hands interlaced behind you as well. Stay 10 deep breaths with your eyes closed. To come out of the posture, inhale to lift your upper body upright. Sit tall with your eyes closed for another 5 breaths to observe the "residues" of the posture.
Tell me what you think! Leave a comment below or shoot me an email and let me know what worked (or didn't). I love feedbacks!