Have Mat Will Travel
Written by Jaillan Yehia
Our brains are busier than ever before; phone calls, text messages, emails, social media, and of course for us bloggers, the need to keep blogging – this cerebral stretching never seems to let up, leaving far less time for taking care of our bodies than we would like.
I’ve been putting in exceptionally long hours in front of the laptop lately, often not at a proper desk but hunched over a dining table, sitting on a couch, or in airport lounges and coffee shops – something that any freelancer worker can relate to, especially if they travel often.
My body is telling me very firmly that it wants some attention so I decided to look for some quick and simple solutions to stop neglecting my health while I’m on the road…
Of course it’s easy to say that we should step away from our screens more, and build regular exercise into our day, but when you are up against it on a deadline even finding 5 minutes to stretch can be a huge struggle – and when you throw travel into the mix the idea of structured diet and excercise really does go out the airplane window.
I’ve always believed in the restorative power of yoga, having been practising on and off since I was in my teens, but never before has my body been crying out for yoga like it is right now.
For the last two years I’ve attended yoga retreats – one week-long residential yoga retreat in Costa Rica and last year a yoga holiday in Mexico, but so far in 2016 I doubt I’ve done more than 10 hours of yoga in total and I can totally feel the difference – not in a good way.
I can’t find a studio as I’m in the middle of moving house (meaning I gave up my comfy office chair too) and then I saw this article about lack of exercise for office workers contributing to an early death: it says that not moving for 8 hours a day makes your risk of premature death rise by 60%. Yikes.
I realised I had to do something because no deadline is worth risking my life over.
So I asked 3 experts for their tips on how to be healthier, without actually leaving your desk (keeping it realistic!) – here’s what they had to say:
1.Office Yoga Poses by Yoga Expert, Wendy Garafalo
Typically when working at a desk, your shoulders hunch forward, and your hips are in flexion. When the hips are in flexion, the Psoas muscle gets short.
The Psoas starts in your lower lumbar spine and weaves in the hips and connects to the top inner femur bone. So after long periods of sitting, when you do stand you feel tension in your low back (Psoas).
Here are a few poses to release low back tension and shoulder tension while at your chair:
To release shoulders. Interlace hands and press palms of hands up towards the ceiling. Press up thru the index finger knuckles. Feel the stretch in the finger muscles, wrists and shoulders. Bring the hands back down, switch the interlace, so the opposite thumb is in front and repeat. Hold each time for 5-10 breaths. For additional stretch, lean to one side and then the other!
To release tension in hamstrings, back and shoulders. Stand up and walk behind your chair. Step your feet about 3-5 feet away from the back of your chair (depending on your height). Reach your hands to the back of the chair and poke your but back (think Downdog shape, with hands on your chair).
To release psoas tension. Hopefully you have a chair that the arm rest doesn’t connect to the front of the chair. Scoot your but over to the right side of your chair. Swing your left leg out and back behind you. So you are in a crescent lunge, but weight is still on your chair.
As the leg extends back, lift your frontal hip points up, engaging the front of the abdomen, and deepening the stretch in the psoas. Repeat on the other side, hold for 5-10 breaths on each side.
2. The #OfficeYoga Campaign
When I looked around for inspiration I discovered an office furniture company whose range of office chairs I’m already coveting for when I move into my new office, and they are running a campaign to inspire people to try yoga at their desks.
They had this poster to guide us through some chair-based yoga poses.
3. Office Well-being by Doctor & Travel Blogger Mariana Calleja
- Take 5-minute breaks every hour to have a small and good stretch, whether on your spot, walking out the office from some fresh air, or to go to the loo.
- While sitting at your desk, make regular leg movements to keep your muscles active and blood flowing. Helps prevent vascular symptoms such as tired, heavy legs, varicose veins, cramps and in rare cases, clot formation. Ideal tip: have a feet stand. Makes it easier and more comfortable.
- Drink water frequently. This will stimulate your circulation, making you feel light-headed, more clear, improving your ability to concentrate nicely. It will also make you want to go to the loo (2-minute break that will get you moving!), which also means your filtering/cleaning system (kidneys and bladder).
- Avoid heavy meals and keep little, healthy snacks in your desk, such as dried fruits or nuts. These are a great source of energy, vitamins and more. By having snacks every 2-3 hours, you’ll be able to avoid stomach issues, improve or prevent gastritis or reflux, stay calm, focused and energised. Feeling hungry can really make you distracted and unfocused. Little healthy snacks are your friends at all times.
- If you’d like to be more active but have a hard time going solo, why not ask around your coworker friends to build a small group to go for small exercise session together? It’s great for accountability, it gets you moving, and helps your brain by taking a good break from work.
- Staff meetings: avoid long ones as they can be a painful experience. Why not make them short, while standing up in a meeting room? This way you make sure everyone’s fully focused, while on a short meeting to make it more effective and efficient. Also, avoid them after lunch. Big meals will naturally make everyone sleepy. That’s how the body works.
- Make sure to take “speeding down” time during office hours. Whether from an intense working session, meeting or stressful situation, you want to be able to take a few minutes to relax so your brain and body can get back on alignment. Otherwise, your work day will quite disturbed. There’s plenty of apps that help with office meditation or yoga, try any activity that can ease your mind from a hectic episode. Having a calm mind is key to good, focused work.
- Use gel mousepads to protect your wrists and protect yourself from easily preventable issues like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, quite common in office work.
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