For many of us working at a desk all day leaves us feeling stressed, fatigued and in pain. Back pain, headaches and neck pain are areas that get stiff, tense and tight. After sitting at your desk for long hours, even your posture gets affected. All of this can often lead to illnesses and even chronic pain down the line. Practicing a short yoga sequence at the end of the day helps you unwind after work, relaxes the mind and body and calms down the nervous system. Let’s take a look at how.
Benefits of yoga to unwind after work
Destress with yoga after work
After working over nine hours a day, your body and mind are exposed to a great amount of stress and tension, leading to exhaustion. Your sympathetic nervous system is often in overdrive and remains over-activated. Practicing yoga asanas, breathing techniques and meditation will stretch and relax the muscles, stimulate and balance the autonomic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and reduce stress.
Yoga takes you inward
All day we are exposed to external factors that influence our mental balance, calmness and the harmony within our mind and body. Practicing yoga for a little while helps you detach from everything that has happened during the day and the external occurrences and events. You will develop the practice of withdrawing and going inward, a phase known as Pratyahara in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.
Stretch and strengthen muscles and tissues
Sitting all day at a desk tightens the muscles, tissues and fascia. In the long-term, this can lead to several health problems such as lack of mobility, weak muscles, inflammation and chronic pain. Practicing yoga asanas stretches the muscles and tissues, improves blood circulation and oxygen supply to the deep tissues and strengthens the bones and joints, and improves mobility and flexibility.
Yoga corrects your posture
Very often when we sit at a desk, we are hunched over our laptops. Over time, this causes a poor posture where the shoulders remain hunched over, compressing the chest. This also leads to poor respiratory health. Our spine takes a hit. Yoga asanas help us correct our posture, or prevent a poor one from developing.
Yoga develops mindfulness
Yoga helps you develop mindfulness. This helps us breathe better, more consciously and deeply. With improved mindfulness, you can make better decisions, focus better and be more productive at work.
Yoga practices to unwind after work
Yoga poses to do after work
Known as Marjariasana, the cat-cow pose stretches and strengthens the spine. It removes tightness and stiffness, relaxes the nervous system and the entire back.
How to do cat-cow pose:
- Come into a neutral position on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be placed underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Keep the neck long, look down and outwards.
- Now inhale and arch your back to come into the cow pose. When you do this, you will gently raise your head and neck upwards too. Tilt your pelvis back so that your tailbone sticks up.
- Now exhale and round the back coming into the cat pose. Now you will tilt your pelvis forward and tuck your tailbone in. As you let this movement move up your spine, the round will happen naturally.
- Repeat the cat-cow movement 6-7 times, coordinating with your breath to completely stretch and relax the back.
A relaxing and restorative yoga pose, the child’s pose is extremely relaxing for the back. It soothes the entire spine, from the upper back to the tailbone, calms and relaxes the mind and body, and improves blood circulation and oxygen supply to the brain.
How to do child’s pose:
- Kneel down on your mat with your knees about hip width apart.
- Now slowly bend forward bringing your forehead on the mat. Your arms should be stretched out in front of the body.
- You can also place a cushion below your forehead.
- Stay here for a few slow deep breaths and then gently come back up.
This variation of the cobra pose is a gentle backbend which stretches the upper back and spine region. It works as a counter-movement to sitting at your desk all day where you are bending forward constantly.
How to do Sphinx pose:
- Lie on your stomach with legs straight.
- Come up on your elbows and place your chin on your palms. This will raise your upper body just a little bit, giving you a gentle backbend.
- Stay here and keep breathing for a few minutes.
Downward-facing dog pose
The downward facing dog pose works on stretching and lengthening the body, all the way from the arms to the feet. The shoulders get strengthened, the back gets stretched and lengthened, while the thighs and calf muscles stretch, giving them a release from the tightness that occurred due to sitting all day.
How to do downward-facing dog pose:
- First come into the starting position of cat-cow pose (on your palms and knees). From here, push back through your hands and lift your hips. Straighten your legs.
- Keep the palms firmly on the mat with the fingers spread. The feet will be on the mat. If you find this difficult, you can also only place your toes on the mat.
- Keep the shoulders away from the ears. Look towards your abdomen.
- Engage your thighs and core to hold the posture. Keep taking slow deep breaths.
- To release the posture, exhale and bend your knees. Come down to the child's pose.
Extended puppy pose
This posture also works as a gentle, yet deep stretch for the upper back and shoulders to get stretched and relaxed. It counters the pressure on the back and shoulders from sitting hunched forward over a desk.
How to do the extended puppy pose:
- Come in the table-top position with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Extend your arms a couple of inches forward and bring your head to the mat.
- Stretch your upper body as much as you can and relax by breathing gently.
Other yoga practices to do after work
Apart from yoga asanas, breathwork and meditation are two wonderful practices to help you unwind and relax after work. Practice Pranayama such as Alternate Nostril Breathing, which balances the system, Oceans Breath or Victorious Breathing, which will induce peace and harmony, while activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and Humming Bee Breath, which is an impactful stress-relieving pranayama. All of these breathing practices can be done at the end of the day or before bedtime as they release stress and help you sleep better. After all, nothing like a good night’s sleep after a long day at work!
Meditation and guided relaxation, known as Yoga Nidra can also be practiced at the end of the day. Breath meditation and body-scan meditation are the best types of meditation to do, while Yoga Nidra is done lying down in the corpse pose, which is also a very relaxing posture.
Unwind to Rewind
Even if you’re exhausted at the end of the day, take out 20-30 minutes to practice yoga as it will only help you relax better. If you have a little more time, join a live yoga class with a teacher as this will ensure you practice regularly and include all kinds of practices that will benefit your health and well-being. A little practice regularly will help you unwind to rewind and rejuvenate, helping you work better the next day!