Yoga for Deskworkers: 4 Poses for Tight Hips and Hamstrings
Sitting at a computer all day can take its toll on your low back. Often the source of this discomfort is weak gluteal muscles and overworked hamstrings. Our glutes (aka buttock’s muscles) help to stabilize the pelvis, particularly when walking. They need to stay active to remain strong. Extended sitting not only weakens them, but also forces the hamstrings to compensate. Too tight, over-worked hamstrings tend to pull on the low back, misaligning the pelvis and causing low back discomfort. It’s a perfect storm for back pain!
So, if you sit at a desk for many hours a day, it’s important to take regular breaks and actively engage these muscles. Here are four (4) yoga poses you can do to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting using a wall or the back of a door for added support:
Standing Hip Circles
Hip circles bring circulation to the hips and glute muscles and begin to “wake” them up.
Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Place your hands on your hips and begin to rotate your hips in a clockwise direction, as if you were using an invisible hula-hoop. Aim for four to five circles in each direction.
This pose lengthens the back of the legs and activates the glutes.
Begin by standing in Mountain pose with your palms flat on a wall or closed door. Next, bend your left knee and step your right leg back behind you. Your right heel will stay lifted. On an inhale, straighten your left knee, allowing your right heel to lift away from the floor. As you exhale, bend your left knee, bringing your left heel closer to the floor. Repeat three to five times. Then, step forward into Mountain. Pause here for one to two breaths before repeating on the left.
The muscles in the front of the pelvis, or hip flexors, shorten from extended sitting, while the hamstrings are in a prolonged lengthened position. This stretch counteracts this effect.
Starting again in Mountain pose, bend your right knee and reach back with your right hand to grab either your calf, ankle or the bottom of your pants. Draw the heel of your right foot towards your buttocks. Notice if your knee opens out the side and gently work to bring both knees parallel. Stay in the pose for about 4 breaths before releasing your foot to the floor. Pause in Mountain pose before repeating on the other side.
Standing Lateral Sunbird Stretch
This pose helps to lengthen the side body while lengthening the hamstrings.
Turn so you can place your left hand on the wall for support. Then from Mountain pose, cross your right foot over your left ankle, placing it flat on the floor. Next, inhale your right arm out to the side and reach it overhead and towards the wall. Stay in this crescent shape for about three to five breaths. Focus on lengthening and breathing into the right side of your body.
To com out, use an Inhale to return to center, uncrossing your legs. Take a breath or two at center. Then turn so the wall is to your right and repeat on the left side.
Taking short breaks from sitting throughout your day will help to prevent back pain by keeping your hips, glutes and hamstrings healthy and strong. Be well!