Most of us spend our days sitting in front of a computer. In the process our shoulders hunch forward, our legs get sluggish and our minds suffer fatigue from physical inactivity and fast-paced information processing. As the years pass, my body seems to have a harder time recovering from chair sitting and shoulder hunching. This tells me that I need to get up and move more often.
Because I’ve been practicing yoga for more than three decades, my first impulse is to get up and stretch. Pretty much any pose, with deep, full breathing, will do. But I especially like to practice poses that unwind the tension that builds in long periods of hip flexion—sitting in chairs.
The yogis who developed asana practice over the millennia could not have envisioned the lives we lead today, sitting at computers, in cars and in front of televisions, but somehow they came up with the perfect antidote in the standing poses. Expansive, strengthening, and grounding all at once, standing poses revitalize bodies and minds dulled from hours of sitting. While all standing poses will reinvigorate computer-weary bodies and minds, Parsvakonasa (Side Angle Pose) is especially helpful.
Parsvakonasana strengthens and stretches the groins, legs, knees and ankles as well as the spine, waist, chest and lungs—in other words, just about everything. Paired with deep breathing, it also stimulates your abdominal organs and builds stamina. Side Angle Pose energizes as it grounds you. Most of all, it feels great!
How to Practice Parsvakonasana
- Begin by standing on a nonskid yoga mat with your feet a leg-length apart and parallel. Rotate your right leg—the entire right leg, including your foot, lower leg, knee and thigh—out 90 degrees. Rotate the ball of your left foot, shin, knee, thigh and hip inward until your left foot feels solidly rooted.
- Raise your arms out in front of you to shoulder level, then extend them straight out from the shoulders. Grounding your left foot, bend your right knee into about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your right knee is directly over your right ankle. If the right knee extends out in front of the ankle, widen your stance until your right shin becomes vertical.
- Take a few breaths in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II). Extend your torso out to the right, and place your right elbow on your right thigh. Extend your left arm over head, alongside your ear, so that your arm stretches from your waist. Take a few breaths in this position. If you like you can try placing your right hand onto a yoga block or on the floor. Only do this if you can maintain deep, full breathing.
- Take 5 to 10 breaths in Side Angle, then raise up again, turn your feet to parallel and rest in the center for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Here are a few other poses that can give you a quick pick-me-up during your workday:
- Talasana (Palm Tree Pose)
- Seated Twist in your chair: Sit sideways on your desk chair. Place your hand on the back of the chair, and turn your torso toward the back. Relax and take 5 to 10 deep breaths before moving to the other side.
- Desk Dog: Place your hands on your desk top and walk your feet back so that your torso is parallel to the floor and your knees are straight. Lengthen through your entire body. Stay 5 to 10 breaths.