We’ll be posting a new challenge every day leading up to summer! Follow along here on the blog, or using this calendar.
Today we’ve asked guest-author Jenny Blake to share tips on introducing yoga to your life. So today’s challenge is a quick one: Take 5 minutes to do these 5 simple moves.
When it comes to yoga, you’ve heard about the countless benefits: improved circulation, strength and flexibility, reduced stress, improved mood, the list goes on! You’ve seen the droves of Lululemon-wearing, mat-toting women looking fit and radiant. You’re feeling stiff and a bit creaky, and yet something is keeping you from actually taking class (or at least as frequently as you’d like).
You might even be plagued by any of the following excuses:
- I’m not flexible
- I don’t have time
- I have no interest in hippy-dippy granola practices
If that’s the case, have no fear! Today we’re sharing five incredibly simple moves that can be done right from the comfort of your desk, each in 60-seconds or less.
Money-back guarantee: if you try all five and DON’T feel at least a little bit (if not a whole lot) better afterward, you have my permission for a get-out-jail-free card for all future yoga classes.*
*Caveat: I do recommend beginners
suffer through stick with at least 5-10 classes before declaring it’s not for them—even the veterans among us feel bored, antsy, annoyed and impatient from time-to-time! Focus on how you feel afterward, and the subtle changes it initiates within your body and mind.
5 Simple Yoga Moves You Can Do in 5 Minutes or Less
1. Reset by Relaxing Your Face
Did you know we have 43 muscles in our face? That’s a lot of opportunities for us to unknowingly build and hold tension.
Try this right now, for at least one minute:
- Close your eyes (after you read these instructions), and begin to soften the muscles of your face.
- Release your jaw if it is clenched, and let your tongue rest on the soft upper palate of your mouth.
- Curl your lips in the slightest smile, as you relax all of the tiny muscles around your eyes.
- Relax your eyebrows, and three more times relax the muscles in the forehead and eye area. 17 muscles alone control the movement of the eyeball — let them all go.
- Let your eyes roll up, tuck your chin slightly in and back, spine lengthening as if someone is pulling the crown of your head up to the ceiling with a rope (more on sitting up straight below)
- Breathe slowly and deeply in this position, in and out through your nose, for 1 to 5 minutes.
2. Relax and Roll Your Head to Release Tension in Your Neck
As the adorable boy in Jerry Maguire informed us all, the human head weighs an average of 10 pounds. Our neck and shoulders carry the brunt of this baggage all day, and sometimes they can use a break!
Before you keep reading, try this short exercise:
- First, tuck your chin to your chest, letting your head hang. Hold it there for at least 30 seconds.
- Now roll it gently to the right and hold.
- Roll it back through center, holding in the middle, and all the way (sloooooowly, as though you are moving through molasses) over to the left.
- Repeat this on both sides for one minute, or as long as feels good to you!
- Next try clasping your interlaced hands behind your neck (right under your occipital ridge — the bony part where your head meets your neck). Lean back a bit as you pull your hands up to traction your spine, allowing your chin to tilt up. Allow the front of your body to broaden and expand as your elbows open up and your head and neck tilt back in a slight backbend. This is a great move to counteract the effects of sitting hunched over all day!
3. Roll Your Ankles and Stretch Your Feet
According to eOrthopod, “The ankle joint is a strong joint that can support up to 1.5 times your body weight when you walk. For this reason, your ankle has several strong muscles that support it, providing stability. These muscles allow movement in the ankle, helping you to point, flex and circle the foot.”
Sooo . . . you know what this means…time to give your ankles some love. Take the next minute to focus on your feet (you might not even have to take your shoes off if they have some flex to them — pun intended!):
- Start with your right ankle and roll it SLOWLY—half the speed you normally would.
- Switch directions.
- Repeat on the other side as you feel all the big and small bones in your ankles and feet shift and move.
- Next, with both feet at once: point your feet, hold; flex your feet, hold; and finally, “floint” your feet (pointing at the ankle but flexing with the toes) and hold.
4. Align Your Spine: Sit up Straight
Freeze! Before you move, notice how you are sitting: are your shoulders slumped over? Is your back curled? Are your shoulders hiked up toward your ears?
Take a minute right now to straighten up your spine. Here are all the little details to pay attention to (who knew sitting up straight could be so
- Feel your sit bones (a.k.a. those two bony points in your glorious gluteus maximus) root firmly into the chair or wherever you are sitting.
- Engage your stomach to help you create length through the spine, stacking each vertebrae directly on top of the one before it.
- Roll your shoulders up to your ears, down and back. Repeat this three times, ending with them relaxed, hands down by your sides.
- Broaden your collarbones and widen from East to West, just as you lengthen your spine from North to South.
- Now imagine that I have placed the palm of my hand two inches above the top of your head, and I have asked you to press the crown of your head into my hand. Reach! Chin tucks slightly in and back as you grow two inches taller, floating ribs in.
Now, I fully realize you may not sit like this all day, but have fun with practicing this series of adjustments each time you catch yourself slumped, hunched or otherwise rounded (while sitting OR standing).
5. Wrist Assist: Roll, Flex, Fold & Disco
Sitting hunched over at our computers isn’t just bad for our posture, it can be taxing for our wrists too (not to mention texting thumb — an actual affliction!). According to WebMD, there is strong evidence that yoga can reduce wrist pain and increase strength. Here are three exercises to start with:
- First, some wrist rolls: start by making loose fists and slowly rolling your wrists for a count of 5; switch directions. Notice all those little cracks and pops! Experiment with slowing down even more.
- Now you’ll stretch your wrist flexor by placing one elbow on your desk with your palm facing upward, as though you are holding a plate (your hand is now parallel to your desk). With your other hand, gently place downward pressure on your fingertips, pulling them down so that your hand is completely perpendicular to your elbow. Switch sides.
- You can also work the wrist flexor by making a traditional “prayer” gesture at your chest, starting with fingertips near your chin, then lowering the prayer shape down toward your sternum (without moving your elbows), ending up with forearms parallel to the floor.
- Next up is your wrist extensor: I like to stretch both wrists at once by placing the backs of my palms together in front of my chest with fingertips pointing down, then lowering my elbows to increase intensity.
Bonus: disco, baby! Do the wave: clasp your hands together to make a fist with fingers interlaced, then make waves with one elbow lifting, wrists lowering, snaking through the middle, and ending up with the other elbow lifting, then lowering and repeating. Brain bender: switch directions!
Keep going for 60 seconds, and wrap the whole move around your head if you’re feeling saucy and want to loosen up your shoulder joints too
6. Bonus: SMILE!
I was fortunate to spend a few months in Southeast Asia at the start of last year as part of an experiment to see if I could run my business abroad, not just in theory but in mosquito-ridden practice.
One thing I was awed by was how Balinese people in particular have the most beautiful full-toothed smile—unrestricted and unencumbered. It is a joyful feeling to walk down the street, lock eyes with a perfect stranger, and connect with a full-on genuine, authentic smile. People in the states are not nearly as forthcoming with this gift.
Now, I know it may sound ridiculous but right now I want you to:
- Curl your lips up at the corners, and start a little smile. It’s okay if it feels forced and awkward at first.
- Okay, now a little more . . . YES actually do this please . . .
- And now . . . let me see those pearly whites!!!
- Next, close your eyes and keep this full-toothed grin going for one minute.
Notice how many happy thoughts actually follow after the physical movement—it is scientifically proven that our body language can actually change and inform our mood (not just the other way around). So often we wait to feel happy first, then smile and exude joy. What if you were to try it the other way around?
The five moves above will bring more pep to your step, but if you’re looking for a deeper dive that you can do from your desk, be sure to check out Yoga Journal’s 15-day Office Yoga Series.
What moves recharge you in 60-seconds or less? Set a timer for 5 minutes and hop to it!
Jenny Blake is a bestselling author, career and business strategist and international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. You can find her at JennyBlake.me where she explores systems at the intersection of mind, body and business. For fun, Jenny teaches a Geek Yoga class in New York City for entrepreneurs. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.