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Chair yoga poses to relieve workday stress

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Work doesn't stop just because it's the holiday season. Stress can overtake many people's holiday joy. Here are some moves that can help release some tension while still seated at one's desk.

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Shoulder Shrug: Sit up tall with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Inhale and lift shoulders up to ears, on the exhale draw them back and down. Practice this 5 to 8 times. Sitting at a desk working on a computer with a keyboard that may not be at the right height for the shoulders to stay down can cause discomfort in the shoulders. People also tend to hold tension in the shoulders, so this movement can help.

Cat/Cow: Sitting closer to the edge of the chair so there is room for movement, place the hands on the thighs just above the knees. On the inhale, let the chest lift, back arch up and shoulder blades draw towards each other on the back. This is cow pose. For the cat portion of this movement, from cow pose, exhale and really press the hands into the thighs. The arms will straighten as the spine rounds. Let the chin drop towards the chest and draw the navel towards the spine. On the next inhale, come back to cow pose; on the exhale, come to cat, and so on. Repeat this breath initiated movement 5 times. This is a wonderful way to not only warm up the spine, but also to open the chest and shoulders.

Seated Twist: On an inhale, sit up nice and tall. Place the left hand on the right knee. Bring the right hand either to hold the right side of the seat or reach to the back of the chair. Breathing out, start to twist to the right. Try to keep the shoulders level. Each breath in, sit up a little bit taller. Each breath out, try to twist a little bit deeper. Take 5 breaths in the twist. On an inhale, come back to center and switch sides. This can be practiced just once on each side, although if feeling particularly tight, the twist may be practiced two or three times.

Side Stretch -Half Moon: Sit up tall, both feet firmly planted on the ground. Breathing in, reach the arms up overhead and interlace the fingers, allowing the index fingers to stick out together and squeeze the palms together. Draw the navel towards the spine. Breathe in again and sit up even taller. On an exhale side bend to the left, stretching the right side of the body. Try to keep the biceps next to the ears and the arms as straight as possible. Keep the chest lifting and opening by drawing the right shoulder back a bit. Root down through the right buttock. Take 5 breaths on this side. Inhale, come back to center and re-lengthen the spine. Exhale to the right, stretching the left side. Repeat the action two to three times on each side.

Middle Back Opener: After the side stretch, bring the arms down with the hands still together at heart center. Sit up tall. On a breath in, extend the arms straight ahead, with the index fingers still pointing out. Exhale, drop the chin to the chest. Take 5 breaths here, reaching as much as possible with the arms and breathing into the middle of the shoulder blades. Inhale, lift the head, bring the arms back in to the chest. Exhale, release the hands to rest in the lap.

Neck Stretch: Sitting up straight, bring the left hand over the head and reach for the right ear. Take a breath in, on an exhale, gently draw the left ear towards the right shoulder. This will give the right side of the neck a gentle stretch. Breathe here for 5 breaths. On an inhale, lift the head and switch sides.

Seated Half Pigeon: A great way to release the hips, especially after sitting at a desk for hours. Cross the right ankle over the left knee and let the right knee open to the right. The right hip externally rotates and opens. Breathe here for 5 breaths and release. Switch sides. This can be held for a longer period of time if desired.

Breathe: Whether it is the yogic, ujjayi, victorious breath or just a conscious breath, sometimes just stopping and closing the eyes, taking ten long breaths in and out through the nose can release stress and change perspective.

Find some release this holiday season or throughout the year to keep a healthy body and mind.

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