Corner Office Anatomy – Are You Ready To Give Up On Your Hamstrings?

OfficeCompasDon’t give up yet!

Because there is reason to be optimistic about those pesky tight backs-of-your-legs.  And in this segment of my Corner Office Anatomy series I tell you why.

As I’ve said before, I started this series because I realized–from my own experience and from observing so many of my students–that so much of the body is a mystery. And I wanted to shed a bit of light on various parts of the body that are particularly strained by our desk-working and chair-sitting culture.

Because the more we understand our bodies, the more we are able to adjust our habits to both avoid long-term, repetitive stress injuries and bring more balance and flexibility into our daily experience.

One of the biggest casualties of the ongoing habit of sitting in a chair all day long: tight hamstrings.

Almost everyone – including me – who sits for a large part of their work life complains about tight hamstrings.

It’s usually the part of the body people are referring to when they say to me something like “I can’t practice yoga because I’m so inflexible…” Because it just seems wrong to us – I think – that when we bend over we can’t reach our toes.

Part of tightness in hamstrings is physiological and structural: the way your hamstring muscles interact with your pelvis, knees, and other muscle groups (like your hips and calves) will determine what your maximum range of stretch is.

But a big part of tightness comes down to the fact that your hamstring muscles just get cozy in their shortened form, and then resist (loudly at times) when you try to push them out of their comfort zone.

And why are the hamstrings so often in a shortened form? Because in our modern urban professional lives we sit in chairs with knees bent to 90 degrees (usually), and that leaves the hamstrings to hang out in a shortened form for way too many hours. 

We sit at the desk for many hours, of course. But think about it: we also sit down for a commute, and then again to eat meals, and watch TV (or surf the net, or whatever you do to wind down) at night.

Well, that is the annoying news that I know you already know.

But here’s the good news: with frequent and sustained lengthening, the hamstrings (and all your other muscles too) will gradually and continually increase their ability to lengthen. That means less resistance, and more of that deep stretching feeling (and who doesn’t love that?).

Keep in mind that frequent is the name of the game. To get more length (i.e., flexibility) it requires more than just a weekly yoga class, and more like multiple times a day.

I know what you are asking: how am I supposed to stretch my hamstrings frequently when I sit in my chair nearly all day long?

With the portable standing forward bend, of course. 

The standing forward bend can be done in your work clothes, and wherever you happen to find yourself: by your desk, in front of the TV, next to your bed, in your garden, or even while you are waiting for the train. That means it is highly portable.

And that means you can practice it numerous times a day. Anytime you think of it, really.

forwardfoldcollage

There are multiple variations of the standing forward bend (see picture above), and you can choose the variation that allows you to gradually lengthen your hamstring muscles at your own pace:

1. Hands/fingers on the floor. If you reach the floor set your hands or fingers lightly in front of your feet. If you’re almost there (or you feel pain in your lower back), bend your knees.

2. Hands on a book. In yoga class we usually use a block for our hands, but we’re not bound by that formality! Out in the world just use a book (you see me using Black’s Law Dictionary in the picture above) or anything else that can serve a prop to bring the floor up to you. Again, if you’re almost there with your hands on the book (or you feel pain in your lower back), bend your knees.

3. Holding elbows. If you are far from the floor or the book, then hold your elbows lightly with your hands as you fold forward. And again, if you feel pain in your lower back when you do this, bend your knees.

Try to be honest about which variation to work in, and don’t strain to reach the floor or book. Find the place where you can still take deep breaths (breathing deeply is the key to successful lengthening of the muscles).

In yoga we often say that you should find your “edge” and breathe there. From the “edge” you will take deep inhales and then work a little more length with each deep exhale (if your knees are bent, straighten them a little bit more with each exhale; if your knees are straight, try to lift your sit bones up with each exhale). 

Go ahead and try the portable standing forward bend this week. And tell me when you do, I want to know how it feels for you and if you experience your hamstrings releasing more and more.

And remember: when dealing with the body, progress is made through baby steps taken many, many times.

Of course, there are many, many more techniques that you can practice both in the office and at home to work on those hamstrings—and I am happy to share them with you if you would like (contact me here to set up a class).

As always, if you are interested in learning more about how yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), mindful movement (asana), meditation, and work-life balance can bring more balance and flexibility to your life both at home and in the office then inquire more here.

And if you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share this post with them! I greatly appreciate all your forwards, likes and comments.

Want more great tips on how to be healthy and balanced in both work and life? Get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox by clicking “Follow Urban Practice” or join me for daily tips and pics on Facebook, Twitter (@MyUrbanPractice) and Instagram (@zarayoga) — lots of choices, lots of buttons. Click all the ones you like.

namaste

Corner Office Anatomy – Keep Your Knees Healthy

munity8In this segment of my Corner Office Anatomy series I’m focusing on a part of the body that endures a lot from your desk sitting work lifestyle: the knees.

It’s not that your knees are being overworked by sitting in your chair all day (and we all know that putting too much work on the knees can lead to uncomfortable pain and – sometimes – ugly injuries), it’s just that, shall we say, your knees are being underworked.

To understand what I mean, let’s think a bit about your knees. Unlike your shoulders and  hips, which are known as “ball and socket” joints because of their wide-ranging-motion capacity, your knees are called “condylar” joints. I don’t know why there isn’t an easier to understand term for the knee joints, but the point is that the knees are joints that move only three ways: bending (a/k/a flexion), straightening (a/k/a extension) and slight rotation to either side (when the knee is partially bent).

To make its three motions, your knees are connected to large muscle groups, both above and below the joint, through numerous tendons and ligaments (Note: I’m simplifying A LOT because I’m guessing you have better things to do than to fully dissect the intricate anatomy of your knees).

Now, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your knees, such as bending them in the wrong way, putting an inappropriate amount of pressure that strains or tears connective tissue, or, as happens over time as we age, degeneration of the muscles surrounding the joint. 

For purposes of this post, though, I’m more concerned about the fact that you likely sit in your chair for 8 hours or more a day.

Why does that matter?

The thing about sitting in your chair throughout a work day is that your knees remain in the exact same position – about halfway between fully bent and fully straightened – for hours at a time. Although I don’t hear so many people talk about this, I don’t see how it is any different from the uncomfortable consequences of sitting on a plane for 8-10 hours straight, and plenty of people agree that long plane rides are bad for your knees.

So I’m here to say that long days at the office are bad for your knees. (click here to Tweet that point). And after a full career of sitting at your desk chair, your knees are going to have a lot to complain about.

But, as always, the tools and teachings in yoga can help

Before I get to some simple poses that you can use to keep your knees healthy throughout your professional urban life, a word about yoga and knees. You may have heard that yoga can hurt your knees – and you heard right. I’m not going to get into the myriad ways you can ensure your knees are safe while you practice yoga (if you want to know more about that topic, comment below or send me an email), but here is one fundamental point that you should keep in mind when doing anything with your knees: no pain, no pain.

What I mean is, whether you are practicing in a yoga class or trying out the poses I suggest to you in my posts, do not tolerate any pain from your knees. If you feel pain, back off.

Great, now that we have that sorted, here are a few poses that you can use to make your knees healthier (and, in the long-term, happier). 

Warrior II

One of the most important ways to keep your knees healthy is by strengthening the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joint. And one of the best ways to strengthen the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the knees is by practicing one of yoga’s quintessential poses: Warrior II.

If you are relatively new to this pose, I recommend using the chair a few times to practice getting your bent-knee leg into the right position.

Here’s how: start by sitting in the chair as you regularly would; then open the legs and bring your right leg to the outside of the right side of the chair; place your right foot down with your toes facing to the right (and parallel to the front edge of the chair); make sure your right knee is directly above your right ankle; then stretch your left leg all the way back, straightening that knee all the way to the left side of the chair until you can get the outside of the left foot on (or close to) the floor; take 5 deep breaths; then repeat on the other side.

When you have practiced this chair variation numerous times, then try the pose without the chair but don’t lose that focused alignment of your bent-knee directly over your ankle and your back leg stretched out with the outside of the foot touching the ground. Make sure you take 5 deep breaths (at least) on each side.

Kneeling (a/k/a Virasana)

This pose is a great way to stretch all of the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the knee. It’s also one of the only poses that fully flexes (a/k/a bends) the knee-joint. Because some of the degeneration that your knees will experience in your lifetime will be from lack of use (as opposed to wear and tear), making sure the deeper parts of the knee-joint get their fair share of movement is an important element in overall knee health. This is true because when you move your joints through their full range of motion it increases circulation and lubrication. Good stuff. 

Before you try this one, remember my word of warning: no pain, no pain. Most people don’t bend their knees this deeply ever, and different parts of your body (like the hips, ankles, shins) might object to you trying it for the first few times.

Be careful, go slowly, and don’t forget to breathe.

Test out this pose by using your chair seat as support for your hands as you lower your toosh to your heels. If you can’t lower all the way down, roll up a blanket or pillow and place it directly under your toosh with your feet on either side. You can also use a thick book, or any other prop you can come up with; the idea is to lift your hips and create more space between the upper and lower part of your legs (so that the stretch around the knees is not as intense). Also make sure that your knees are close together and that your toes are in line with your ankles – don’t let them splay out or in.

Stay in the this pose for short amounts of time at first – just 5 deep breaths. Then, as you feel more comfortable, you can sit for longer periods, building up eventually to 1 minute.

Knee Swirls

This pose is one of my favorite ways to strengthen the knees because it involves the lesser used movement of the knees – a slight rotation to either side. But because the knees cannot fully rotate to the sides, you have to be very careful to engage the upper leg muscles to keep them safe.

Start by bringing your feet parallel and bending your knees slightly. Then place your hands lightly on your thighs and gently “swirl” your knees in one direction 5-10 times.

DO NOT press your hands into your thighs; instead contract the muscles in the front and back of your thighs, and pull your lower abdomen muscles in and up. That way you will use the strength of your legs (and core) to make the motion safely.

Come back to the center and straighten the knees letting your hands fall by your sides (in the pose known as “tadasana” or “mountain”). Take a few breaths there to rest. Then repeat on the other side. 

Again – don’t forget to breathe. Yoga benefits us, not because of magic (well, it does feel like magic sometimes), but because we are learning to move our body in sync with our breath. In order to do that we have to first notice where we are tense and holding our breath, and then start to release the tension with deep exhales in order to complete the movements.

Supported kneeling (a/k/a child’s pose variation)

This one will relax your back and shoulders at the same time as deep bending your knees.

You’ve probably tried some variation of this pose, either with the forehead on the floor in a fetal-like posture or with the forehead on the chair but with the legs open like I showed you in a prior post.

Practice this variation anytime you need a bit of comforting repose – while you are relaxing you will also get the wonderful benefits of fully bending the knees.

Don’t forget to use a blanket or thick book like in the kneeling/virasana pose above. And start with short amounts of time and gradually build up as your knees get used to this pose.

There are, of course, many more yoga poses that will build strength and flexibility in your knees, and I can share those with you another time. If you are needing some immediate and more extensive attention to your knees, send me an inquiry here.

In the meantime, start practicing what I’ve shown you in this post and you will get a good start on creating a healthy lifestyle for your knees – even if you spend large parts of the day sitting at a desk chair.

If you are interested in learning more generally about how yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), mindful movement (asana), meditation and work-life balance can help you lead a healthier urban life then inquire here. And if you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share this post with them!  

Want more great tips on how to live a healthy and balanced urban life?  Get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox by clicking “Follow Urban Practice” (button on the right). You can also join me for daily tips and musings on Facebook here or on Twitter @MyUrbanPractice.

Corner Office Anatomy – How To Use Your Chair to Relieve Your Lower Back

In this segment of my Corner Office Anatomy series I’m focusing on a part of the body where almost everyone has or will experience pain: the lower back.

Why is lower back pain so unavoidable?

Well, as with all body experiences, the answer depends. It could be any combination of causes like bad posture, weak abdominal or back muscles, physical injury or repetitive stress, or even the suppression of emotions (which requires an exertion of physical effort in the body, particularly in the area around the lower back). 

A simple (but limited) common sense explanation is that the lower back – particularly, the vertebrae of your lower lumbar spine – is responsible for carrying all of the weight of your upper body all of the time. So of course it gets tired! And tired can lead to bad spinal alignment, which can lead to slipped or degenerating discs, which can lead to pain, etc. etc. (this does not explain other, more serious, conditions related to genetics or traumatic injury – so if you are experiencing debilitating pain go to see a doctor before you try yoga).

There’s another simple explanation. If you are a modern urban professional (like me) then I can bet that you spend a large amount of time sitting at your desk in a chair that is probably not the best for your posture and that surely exacerbates some of your lower back pain by pushing all the weight of your upper body onto your precious lower back region.

And I bet you don’t get out of that chair as much as you would like, or that you have heard you should.

So, with that in mind, in this post I am giving you 5 poses to help you relieve the pain in your lower back using that same chair that you sit in so much of the work day. 

Belly breathing

Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdomen breathing, deep breathing or costal breathing, belly breathing is the most basic and fundamental breathing exercise in yoga. The process is simple: inhale deeply allowing the lower belly to move out (which is flexing the diaphragm) and the rib cage to expand to the side (not up toward your ears) and exhale deeply allowing the reverse to happen (ribcage and belly back in).

If my description doesn’t make sense to you, try to think about how a baby breathes (or if you have a baby nearby, go and take a look). If baby is lying on its back, you will see its belly moving up as it inhales and down as it exhales.

Do a round of 25 inhales and exhales belly breathing sitting in your chair with your back upright and your feet planted on the ground. This deep breathing exercise actually strengthens your lower abdomen muscles and will help take pressure off the lower back so you experience less pain over the long-term.

Knee to chin

This pose will both strengthen your lower abdomen muscles and stretch the lower back muscles.

Start by sitting in a chair with both feet on the ground. Inhale deeply. Then as you exhale bring your right knee toward your chin, round your lower and upper back and tilt your head down. Inhale and return your right foot to the ground.

Inhale and exhale like that 5 times with the right leg and 5 times with the left leg. 

If you want a bit more challenge you can try both knees at once. Be sure to lightly grip the sides of your chair as you inhale with your feet on the ground and then exhale lifting both knees toward your chin, rounding your back and tilting your head forward.

Do 5 rounds of breath and try to use that deep belly breathing.

Twists

Twists are a great way to gently stretch your lower back. But make sure you keep your knees parallel to each other and your feet planted firmly on the ground (this protects you from over reaching and aggravating any lower spinal issues).

From your seated position, bring your left arm across your body and grab either the seat, arm or back of your chair on the right side. Wrap your right arm around your back. Turn your head toward your right shoulder. Breath deeply for 5 breaths.

Come back to the center and take a few deep breaths.

Then do the other side. Bring your right arm across your body and grab either the seat, arm or back of your chair on the left side. Wrap your left arm around your back and turn your head toward your left shoulder. Breathe deeply for 5 breaths.

Extended leg

This posture will gently stretch your lower back and work on strengthening the muscles in your abdomen and lower back.

Before you try this one, move your chair so that it is leaning against something that won’t move, like your desk or the wall. 

Then stand to the side of the chair, with your feet about hips width, and at a distance equivalent to the length of your leg. Bend your right leg and gently place your foot on the seat or arm of your chair and extend your leg (if you have tight hamstrings, you can keep your knee bent). Wiggle your left leg back if you need to so you get the right leg fully extended.

Press into your left foot and engage your quadricep. Stand up tall, with your shoulders right over your hips. Breathe deeply for 5 breaths.

Bring the right leg off the chair slowly and then do the other side with the left leg extended on the chair. 

Don’t forget to breathe. Yoga gives us relief, not because of magic, but because we are learning to move our body in sync with our breath and in order to do that we have to notice where we are tense and start to release that in order to complete the movements.

Supported fold

This one will relax your lower back and allow you to deepen your breath even more. Don’t be surprised if you want to stay in this one for a longer time!

Place the back of the chair against your desk or the wall. Sit on the floor in front of your chair and either extend your legs out to either side (as pictured) or cross them Indian style. Put both your forearms on the chair seat and gently place your forehead on your forearms. Allow your back to round. Breathe deeply for at least 5 breaths.

You might need to adjust your chair for this one, move the seat up or down so that you can comfortably place your forearms and your head down. If you are uncomfortable with your toosh on the hard floor, then fold up a towel or small blanket and sit on it.

All of these poses can are variations of traditional poses that are done on the floor. If you do the poses all together, the entire sequence will take you about 12 minutes.

Just 12 minutes! You can do this sequence every work day. And your lower back will thank you for it.

There are, of course, many more postures that will relieve your lower back pain and tension, and  I can share those with you another time. If you are needing some immediate and more extensive attention to your lower back, send me an inquiry here.

In the meantime, start practicing what I’ve shown you in this post and you will give some much needed relief to your lower back.

Plus, if you are interested in learning more generally about how yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), mindful movement (asana), meditation and work-life balance can improve your urban life then inquire here. And if you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share this post with them!  

Want more great tips on how to live a balanced urban life?  Check out http://www.lawyoga.com and connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Corner Office Anatomy – How To Ease Your Upper Back

We are a desk-sitting culture. Even with all my yoga practicing and teaching, I still sit at a desk far more than my body appreciates. And I know many of you do too.

We all know this: proper posture is important. We should sit well, stand well and lie down well. But how many of you are practicing good posture at your desk?

I teach people tools for better posture and yet I still don’t have the greatest posture sitting at my own desk. No matter how hard I try, I find myself hunched forward with my elbows on my desktop or slouched back with my shoulders caving forward.

And that causes some serious tension and pain in my upper back. Anyone else familiar with this?

I know I’m not alone. So that’s why I’m focusing on upper back pain and tension in this month’s Corner Office Anatomy post.

The Upper Back is Connected to…

As with all things in our body, pain is one particular area of the body will have a variety of causes.

Remember that skeleton dance song we all learned as children? You know, the one that taught us that the foot bone’s connected to the knee bone and the knee bone’s connected to the hip bone, etc. etc. Well the same goes for all the parts of our body, including muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons.

Some of the connections are obvious, like the upper back is connected to the neck, the shoulders and the middle back. But what we learn in yoga and meditation practices is that the upper back is also connected to the top of the head, the wrists and the lower legs.

It’s all interconnected. So that means any imbalance or bad habit in one part of your body can have a painful consequence in another part. 

It would take far too much of your time for this post to go into the different upper back pain causes, so we’ll keep it simple and focus only on the one that is most frequently associated with sitting at a desk for long hours.

Bad Posture & Good Posture

You know what bad posture is: slouching and leaning towards your computer (or your phone) and allowing your shoulders to hunch forward. I know I don’t have to convince you that bad posture puts strain on your upper back.

Obviously better posture would ease your upper back, but I’ve noticed in my own life how hard it is to keep good posture for all the time I need to be at my desk.

A lot of times, keeping good posture is just plain tiring. So it helps to alternate your working posture from a desk to a regular chair (or couch if you are so lucky), or even to take some time sitting cross-legged on the floor (which builds strength in the muscles around your spine). 

You can also work on making good posture easier to maintain by toning your “sitting upright” muscles through regular abdominal exercises and – if you are familiar with it already – kapalabhati breathing. (If you are not familiar with kapalabhati, read my post explaining how to do it here).

But I know how busy you all can be, so instead of telling you just to practice sitting up straight I’m going to suggest three easy postures that you can use to relieve your upper back pain and tension – all within the space of your office.

Shoulder Stretch

First, move the area around your upper back and reverse the office-desk-hunch with this shoulder stretch.

Stand up with your shoes off and your feet about hip distance apart. Feel your toes and heels touching the floor and try to keep your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles.

Then make sure your shoulders are over your hips (in other words, all the joints are stacked in alignment with each other). Clasp your hands behind your back. Roll your shoulders up, back and then down.

Keep your shoulder blades moving towards each other. And straighten your elbows if it feels doable. 

Breathe here for five deep breaths. If you want an extra juicy stretch in the back of your neck and the very top part of your upper back, keep your arms and legs where they are and drop your chin towards your chest (without rolling your shoulders forward or caving in your chest).

Chair Roll

This next posture is a two-part sequence using a chair (any kind will do).

Stand about a foot in front of your chair with your feet about as wide as your hips. Make sure your chair is somewhere it will stay steady (and not roll away if it has wheels on the bottom).

Take an inhale, turn your palms to face out and raise your arms up above your head. Try not to lift your shoulders as your arms come up.

Then exhale and lower your arms and place your hands on the seat of the chair. Bend your knees a bit and let your upper back round towards your legs. Also let your head and neck relax down (they might fall lower than your arms and the chair and this might feel really good). 

Inhale and repeat the first movement; exhale and repeat the second movement. Keep repeating with your inhale and exhale as many times as you like (but 5-10 is usually good).

Side Stretch

This final stretch will counteract the downward pull of gravity – and your hunching shoulders – by moving your upper back up and sideways.

Start standing the same way as in the other two postures: feet apart hip distanced and shoulders, hips, knees and ankles aligned on top of one another.

Turn your palms to face out and lift your arms up over your head (remember: without lifting your shoulders up). Clasp your hands gently.

Keep the weight in your feet evenly distributed between the right and left. Inhale there and then bend towards the right as you exhale. Inhale back to the center and then exhale as you bend towards the left. Repeat 3-5 times, coming to the center with each inhale and bending to a side with each exhale. 

Alternatively, you can bend to the right (and then the left) and hold your posture there just breathing deeply and enjoying the sweet spinal side extension.

Practice and Relief Will Come

There are, of course, many more postures that will relieve your upper back pain and tension, and  I can share those with you another time. If you are needing some immediate and more extensive attention to your upper back, send me an inquiry here.

In the meantime, start practicing the postures I’ve shown you here and you will give some much needed relief to your upper back.

If you are interested in learning more in general about how yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), mindful movement (asana), meditation and work-life balance can improve your urban life then inquire hereAnd if you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share this post with your friends!  

Want more great tips on how to live a balanced urban life?  Get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox by clicking “Follow Urban Practice” (look to the right). You can also join me for daily meditation/movement tips and musings with a Facebook “Like” here or on Twitter @MyUrbanPractice.

Corner Office Anatomy – Got Tight Hips?

image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/farconvilleBefore I started studying and practicing yoga I didn’t know much about my body. Sure, I was aware of one or another muscle or joint when I noticed it was aching (or when I thought it looked particularly good in a mirror).

But I never understood how all the parts worked together – or how I was affecting (and sometimes injuring) certain parts of my body through nothing more than sitting at my desk numerous hours each day.

What I’ve realized from my practice is this: the repetitive stress from sitting in a chair and staring at a computer day in and day out has a negative effect on muscles and joints. But I’ve also realized this: yoga can counter repetitive stress.

Yoga’s unique method of working with the body through breathing and mindful movement offers a remedy for so many work related body (and mind) issues. But, an even greater benefit is the ability to know your body better. You become less blind and more attuned with the best way to move, sit and engage the body – both at work and in the rest of life.

I started Urban Practice because I wanted to share with you busy urban professionals how to incorporate yoga, meditation and mindfulness into your life. Going forward I’ll be giving you a monthly teaching on basic anatomy related to particular parts of your body, especially those parts that endure repetitive stress in your work life.

Think of these monthly posts as a corner office meeting about a very important topic: your body.

This month I want to talk about hips because I don’t know anyone who works at a desk and doesn’t have tightness in and around their hips.

Setting aside the emotional, psychological and psychic detriments to having tight hips, let’s just briefly discuss the whys and what you can do about it.

It’s hip to have hips

Very simply, your hips are both the joint where your leg connects with your pelvis and the groups of muscles that hold it all together. Your hip-joint is one of only two ball and socket joints (the other one is your shoulder joint). The ball and socket joint is special: it offers the most variable range of motions of all the joints in the body.

With good posture, your hip-joint is neutral when you are standing (and sometimes when you are lying down – although it depends). The hip-joint can flex (when you lift your leg up in front of you), extend (when you pull your leg back behind you), rotate outward (when you swing your leg to the side away from you) and rotate inward (when you swing your leg toward your other leg).

The muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding your hips are numerous and have hard to pronounce (let alone remember) Latin sounding names. For our purposes here, I just want you to understand that these surrounding muscles work hard to make the hip-joints move from their neutral position.

Help your hips

If you spend a lot of time making the hip move in one particular way and remain there, the muscles used to make that movement tighten. When you sit in a chair, you are using muscles to flex and rotate the hip-joint inward. And that is generally why the fronts and sides of your hips feel so tight. The longer you sit the worse it gets.

There are many yoga poses you can do to work on your tight hips, some are more complicated than others. You can also counter chair sitting by taking regular breaks to stand up and walk around.

But a basic principle you should absorb is this: to get relief for your tight hips, you need to counter the movements you make by sitting in a chair.

You can start by making the hip joint extend and rotate outward. Here is one example that is a simple stretch that you can do right in your office – without even leaving your chair!

Pigeon pose for happier hips

It’s called “pigeon pose” and it’s simple and effective. Try it like this:

  1. Sit on your chair about half way between the front and back end of the seat, or wherever you need for both feet to plant flat on the floor and your back to be away from the chair.
  2. Keep your left foot planted, and bring your right ankle to the top of your left thigh. Like the way boys cross their legs.
  3. Make sure your right foot is flexed (meaning your right toes are moving towards your shin). This will protect your knee-joint while you work on stretching your hip muscles. (like below)seated pigeon
  4. Start by bringing your forearms to your lower right leg. Take a few deep breaths.
  5. Slowly reach your hands past your lower right leg and bring your hands/fingers towards the floor. (like this below).seated pigeon 2 Keep your right foot flexed actively. If it’s too intense, go back to #4.
  6. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
  7. Come back up slowly and release your right foot to the floor.
  8. Repeat with the left ankle on the right thigh.

If you have space, you can also do pigeon pose lying on your back and crossing your right ankle over your left thigh while clasping your hands behind your left thigh (like this below).

reclined pigeon

There are more variations of pigeon pose that I can share with you another time. If you are needing some immediate and more extensive attention to your hips, send me an inquiry here.

In the meantime, start practicing the pigeon pose I’ve shown you here and you will give some much needed relief to your hips.

If you are interested in learning more in general about how yogic breathing techniques, mindful movement/asana, meditation and work-life balance can improve your urban life then inquire here.

If you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share with your friends!  

Want more great tips on how to live a balanced urban life?  Get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox by clicking “Follow Urban Practice” (look to the right). You can also join me for daily meditation/movement tips and musings with a Facebook “Like” here or on Twitter @MyUrbanPractice.