Mary E. Parsons

5 Office Yoga Movements to Help Employees Stay Fit While They Sit

If your employees work long hours in front of a computer, they have probably experienced stiffness and fatigue in the back and neck at some point.

By incorporating office yoga moves into their regular stretch breaks and free moments throughout their work day, your staff can alleviate any discomfort and effectively refresh their focus. A study done at the University of Illinois showed that 20 minutes of yoga improved the participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory, which is directly related to the ability to focus, take in and retain information.

Yoga Helps Relieve Stress

According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga is a good way to relieve everyday stress and improve health. It helps get the body moving without having to commit to a huge fitness routine (or even leave the office).

From the employer’s perspective, office yoga is a way to address issues of workplace stress while improving the health and well-being of their employees. Stress factors into absenteeism and reduced productivity, and contributes to direct costs for medical, legal and insurance expenses. Encouraging yoga programs is a great way to enhance your office wellness program as well as give your employees a chance to actively combat any stress they may be encountering.

Simple Stretches for the Office

Here are five areas of the body that workers can exercise using yoga movements without disturbing colleagues. The employees should start by locking their computers and forwarding their phones to voicemail. If they wish, they can remove their shoes. These stretches start with the head and neck and move down to the legs and feet, and they can all be performed while sitting in a chair:

  1. Head: Let employees begin the stretch by focusing on deep breathing, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. They should try to clear their minds of work and concentrate on their breaths. When the person feels centered, they can start a head roll by dropping the chin toward the chest and then raising the chin so that the head drops back. They should then start to roll their head in a counterclockwise direction. When the head comes back to center, repeat the movement in a clockwise direction.
  2. Neck: Next, your employees should inhale and bring their arms up to center (at the top of the chest, near the heart, as Rachel Brathen demonstrates on her blog). Exhale and cross one arm over the other before inhaling again and pressing the palms together as the arms are raised above the head. They can hold the position for the count of 10, and then exhale while they bring their arms back to center. They should then reverse the position of their arms and hands to perform the movement again.
  3. Torso: Once everyone is ready, encourage them to inhale deeply and, keeping the spine straight on an exhale, twist to the right side and place their left hand on the right arm of their chair. Inhale and twist further to the right while looking over the right shoulder. Hold the position for a count of five, and then exhale while moving back to center. After a few cleansing breaths, and perform the same movement on the left side.
  4. Hips: To begin, place the right ankle on top of the left knee. Then, slowly bend forward, with hands on top of the right leg. Hold the position for a count of five, and then exhale while bringing oneself back to the regular seated position. This helps to stretch and open the hips. Everyone can take a cleansing breath before performing the same movement with their left foot on top of their right knee.
  5. Legs: This office yoga exercise is better performed during workers’ breaks, or after many employees have gone home for the day. While seated, place the back of the heel or ankle on a desk. Inhale while flexing the feet, and exhale while bending forward. Hold the position for a count of 10, and exhale while coming back to center. Afterward, switch legs and repeat.

Even if it’s not possible to practice these movements during a busy work day, it’s important to encourage employees to take time and sit for a few minutes and just breathe. Focusing on their breath will relax their body and quiet their mind, helping to prepare them for the next objective on the agenda.

Mary Parsons is retired from a 30-year career in the insurance industry. She worked in the claims department of a major insurance carrier as a claims adjuster, manager and a member of a catastrophe team. Since her retirement, she has developed a career as a freelance writer. As an insurance professional, she has been a contributor to several insurance websites.