Take five with the four-step desk break
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on May 19, 2015
As you toil at your desk, hour after hour, day after day, there’s going to be a toll on your neck, back and even your mind.
Take five. Flip your computer to YouTube, choose your favorite sounds of nature track and rejuvenate with a Get-Out-of-Your-Head Break.
Step One: Relieve your “text neck” with a dynamic stretch.
Holding a downward gaze on your computer screen, smartphone or tablet has resulted in a new assault on postural integrity. With “text neck,” your upper back muscles get overstretched and locked long, specifically your upper trapezius and your levator scapulae. Meanwhile, in the front, your scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles get locked short.
Heads are heavy, averaging about ten pounds, and the repetitive head drop can strain or even damage the cervical spine over time.
Here’s what to do. Push away from your desk, and place your hands on your knees. Inhale, tuck your chin and roll your shoulders forward. Exhale, roll your head back up, stack it over your shoulders and drive your shoulder blades down your back. Repeat 3 to 5 times. Check out Victoria Haffer’s demonstration video in the online edition.
Step Two: Get out of your head and ground yourself to earth.
Kick off your shoes and prepare to activate the Pada Bandha, the foot lock.
Stand in Mountain Pose beside your desk, your feet parallel and your arms at your sides. If you have a block or thick book, squeeze it between your thighs just above your knees. You’ll feel your thighs internally rotate and a gentle release across your sacrum.
Look down at your feet. Push the ball of each foot into the floor along with each foot’s outer edge. All four “corners” of each foot are now grounded.
Lift all ten toes and spread them wide. Press your big toes into the floor while the other toes remain lifted and spread. Then, lower only your pinky toes, while the others remain lifted. This will take practice.
Lift and spread all of your toes again, and prepare for the party trick. Lower big toes and your pinky toes while the inner three on each foot remain lifted and spread. This exercise will not only lift your arches and ankles, but strengthen the oft neglected muscles of your feet.
Step Three: Release your hip flexors.
Sitting all day will shorten your hip flexors, and, when it comes to lower back pain, tight flexors are often the culprit. A low lunge on the floor is terrific for stretching the flexors, but in the office, this isn’t always possible.
Stand about two feet away from your desk. Place your right foot on the edge of your desk with a 90-degree bend in your leg. Press your hips toward your desk while maintaining the knee angle, and release. Be gentle and mindful of any knee pain. Repeat five times and then switch sides.
Step Four: Gather your thoughts.
As you return to your desk, focus and align your energy. This meditation “snack” was designed by meditation master Savitri. Visit her website: www.aliveandshinecenter.com
Sit in your chair with both feet grounded, and close your eyes. On the inhale, lift your hands to your ears. Exhale and touch your hands to prayer position in front of your face, sweeping all extraneous thoughts and energy into your hands. Breathe in and then exhale, dragging your hands down to your heart center. Repeat five times or until your mind is focused. Click on the online edition to watch the video demonstration with Suzy Goldberg of Ruby and Pearl’s Yoga Studio.
Then get back to work.