Yoga Practice: 7 Ways to Counter the Effects of Sitting

This entry was posted on Feb 16, 2016 by Charlotte Bell.

Some say that sitting is the new smoking. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to make this claim, but as a person with a part-time job that requires sitting at a desk and typing out blogs, I certainly support the idea that prolonged sitting seems to be less than ideal.

Effects include foggy brain due to poor circulation, weakened abdominal and gluteal muscles, neck problems from too much flexion (aka text neck), hypertension, heart disease and even possibly colon cancer. The Washington Post published a chart that goes into more detail.

Yoga practice can certainly play a part in alleviating the stresses of sitting, and most poses are helpful. I’ve chosen a few below that I find to be particularly helpful.

Common sense practices that you can do throughout your day can also be hugely helpful. For example:

  • Get up and stretch every 20 minutes or so. Set a timer, and when it goes off, stand up and practice Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) at the wall, or with your hands on your desk.
  • Get up and walk. We’re all busy. It’s tempting to eat your lunch while sitting at your desk. But lunch break is meant to be an actual break. Use part of your lunch break to take a walk outside, or if that’s not possible in your particular situation, take a walk inside your building.
  • Drink water. Hydration is important, and if you drink enough water, you will have to get up from your desk periodically. I take a 28-ounce bottle of water to work and drink the whole thing during my half-day shift.

Here are a few of my favorite yoga asanas to alleviate the deleterious effects of too much sitting:

  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): This is my all-around counter pose for sitting. When you practice on your own, without the support of a Yoga Block, it strengthens and stimulates the back and glutes, lengthens the hip flexors and expands the chest. With a block, it confers the lengthens hip flexors, expands the chest and brings about relaxation.
  • Malasana (Squatting Pose): Malasana helps open the hips and pelvic floor. Be sure to place a Yoga Wedge or folded Yoga Blanket under your heels if they don’t readily ground on the floor.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose): At the wall or in the traditional position with hands on the floor, Dog Pose inverts your torso and head, and lengthens the backs of your legs.
  • Lunges, including Warrior I: When we sit our hip flexors are shortened and our legs are doing absolutely nothing for hours on end. Lunges and Warrior I stretch your hip flexors and energize your legs.
  • Any and all standing poses: Triangle; Side Angle (in the photo at the top of this article); Warriors I, II and III; Half Moon—all these poses reenergize your legs; promote strength, balance and expansion; and ease lumbar tension. There’s a reason that standing poses are staples of asana practice!

What are your favorite counter poses for sitting?

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.