Day 15: Desk yoga poses for inner peace

Feeling stressed or anxious at work but don’t have time to slip away for a calming lunchtime yoga break? This anxiety-taming seated yoga routine from Lynn Stoller, a Boston-based hatha yoga teacher and occupational therapist, can be practiced at work or anywhere with a chair.
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Feeling stressed or anxious at work but don’t have time to slip away for a calming lunchtime yoga break? This anxiety-taming seated yoga routine from Lynn Stoller, a Boston-based hatha yoga teacher and occupational therapist, can be practiced at work or anywhere with a chair.

Happy National Yoga Month! Celebrate with us by rebooting your yoga routine for 21 days in September. To seal your home practice habit for life, sign up for YJ's upcoming 21-Day Yoga Challenge online course, crafted to cultivate lasting commitment. Plus, enter to be on the cover of an upcoming issue in 2016. Follow #YJChallenge on Facebook and Twitter for more inspiring tips each day.

Feeling stressed or anxious at work but don’t have time to slip away for a calming lunchtime yoga break? This anxiety-taming seated yoga routine from Lynn Stoller, a Boston-based hatha yoga teacher and occupational therapist, can be practiced at work or anywhere with a chair.

Yoga Poses to tame anxiety, chair yoga, easy seat pose, sukhasana

Sun Breath

Sit in a chair with your feet planted on the floor directly under your knees and arms down by your sides. Press your sitting bones into the seat as you lengthen up through your spine. Turn your palms upward, and take a slow inhale as you circle your arms out to the sides and overhead, connecting your palms. On an exhale, slowly lower your connected palms behind your neck while lifting your elbows toward the ceiling. On an inhale, bring your palms back up over your head. As you exhale, separate your palms and turn them downward
as you slowly lower your arms back to your sides.

Why it works: This dynamic stretch lifts the rib cage, allowing for a deeper breath. It also stretches the chest, which is typically contracted into a protective posture when anxiety is present. The postural change may reduce worry and fear since the physical sensations we feel in the body can affect our emotions.

chair yoga, seatd

Knee Bend to Cobra

On an inhale, press your sitting bones into the seat surface as you lengthen up through your spine. As you exhale, tilt your pelvis backward, rounding your back and tucking your chin as you lift one knee toward your forehead. Stay here until the last drop of your exhale. As you inhale, lower your leg back to the floor as you lift your “tail” out from under you, lengthen your spine, and expand your chest while grasping the sides of the chair. Switch sides; repeat 4 times on each side.

Why it works: This powerful cousin to Cat-Cow helps to loosen the spine, massage and squeeze out tension in the abdominal area, modulate the breath, and facilitate a deeper exhale that calms the nervous system.

Yoga Poses to tame anxiety, chair yoga, seated twist pose

Sun Breath Twist

On an inhale, bring your arms out to your sides and overhead. On an exhale, maintain length in your spine as you twist your torso to the right, placing your left hand on the outside of the right knee, and your right arm to the chair. On an inhale, bring your arms back up overhead as you untwist back to center. Switch sides; repeat for three reps. On a fourth rep, hold the twist for three breaths on each side; slowly unwind and feel the effects.

Why it works: Twists squeeze out tension in the abdominal area; stretching overhead lifts the rib cage, allowing for a deeper, calming breath.

Yoga Poses to tame anxiety, chair yoga, forward fold pose, uttasana

Sun Pose

On an inhale, sweep your arms out to your sides and overhead. On an exhale, turn your palms down and swan-dive forward, hinging at the hips. As you come into a fold, place your palms on your lower thighs to protect your back. On an inhale, press your palms against your thighs to assist in lifting back up, and finish the inhale by lifting your arms back out to the sides and overhead. Repeat six times, moving slowly and rhythmically with your breath. On your sixth fold, release your hands to the floor, allowing your head to hang between your legs for 30 seconds. Bring your forearms to your thighs for a few breaths, then press your palms against your thighs as you inhale back to an upright position.

Why it works: The rhythmic movement calms the amygdala—the brain structure that can be hyperalert to potential threats.

Yoga Poses to tame anxiety, chair yoga, easy seat pose, sukhasana

Murti Mudra

Finish the practice with your hands in Murti Mudra for 1–2 minutes: Clasp your hands together and extend the little fingers, pressing them together and pointing them forward, while resting the clasped hands in front of your belly or on your lap.

Why it works: This mudra from the tradition of Integrative Yoga Therapy draws the energy of the breath downward, extending the exhalation, which is grounding and calming.

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