Sitting at a desk all day? These yoga poses can help

By now you’ve probably heard (and, let’s face it, you laughed at it) the phrase “sitting down is the new way to smoke”. But, truth be told, medical research has sounded alarm bells in recent years about the dangers of too much time spent sitting and what the trend for sedentary lifestyles is (especially since the working weeks of 40 hours and more are mainly spent on computers) means for our body. . Those endless hours spent sitting in a chair may seem harmless, but have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and depression.

Unfortunately, there’s more bad news: The average person spends about 12 hours a day being sedentary, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we should be getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. per week. But don’t throw in the towel or feel overwhelmed if you’re one of the nearly 80% of adults who don’t follow these guidelines. “Any activity, no matter how intense, has health benefits,” says Keith Diaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Some good news!

But should we reserve a daily bike for a SoulCycle class or hike Mount Kilimanjaro to reap the rewards? Nope! In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Diaz and his coauthors found that replacing 30 minutes of sitting with light and moderate exercise can reduce the risk of death by 17% and 35%, respectively. “Our study found that there is no minimum,” Diaz says. “Even small periods of activity lasting one to five minutes still offered health benefits in terms of reduced risk of death.”

Although most types of yoga are considered low intensity, doing your sun salutations can help offset the negative effects of sitting hunched over all day. The goal is to move regularly. “I would recommend yoga to anyone and if you enjoy it there’s a good chance you will continue to do it for years to come,” says Diaz.

To compensate for the consequences of prolonged sitting, you need to try certain postures. “If you spend a lot of time being sedentary, then the ideal yoga program should focus on standing poses,” says Patricia Frieberg, yoga and Pilates instructor and group fitness manager at Equinox Westlake Village, California.

Here’s a sequence of poses she designed to help counteract sitting all day:

Mountain pose (Tadasana)

Stand with your feet together or hip-width apart. Floor in all four corners of the feet. Lift up through the thighs, the hip bones gently pull towards the ribs, the chest is open, the ribs soften down. As you press down on your feet, feel the length across the top of your head. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat three times.

Installing the croissant (Low slit variation)

Place the blocks away from the shoulders on the front edge of the mat, flat or in a high position. Place your hands on the blocks. Boost your right foot between your hands, while the left leg is in a long lunge with the knee on the floor. The hip bones should face forward. Dive into the stretch and lower your tailbone. The right knee aligns with the right ankle and the top of your left foot can relax to the floor. Hold three to five breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Warrior I

From the crescent pose, get into a plank position. Step your right foot between the hands and rotate your heel down at a 45 degree angle. Align your right heel with your left heel, exhale and twist your torso to the right, keeping your pelvis square towards the front edge of your mat. Lift through the kneecap of the back leg. Extend arms above shoulder distance with palms facing inward, while keeping shoulders away from ears. Extend your tailbone toward the floor and slightly arch your upper torso back. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Warrior II

From Warrior I, step your right foot forward and your left foot back. Turn your left toes to the left while pressing down on the left foot. Bend the right knee deeply with the thigh parallel to the floor and place your knee on your right ankle, keeping the toes pointing in the same direction. Open your arms so that they are away from the center line and parallel to the floor. Place your gaze on the center of the front hand. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Stand with your feet about three and a half feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and extend them out to the side, palms down. Turn your left foot to the right and turn your right foot 90 degrees. Line up your right heel with your left. Inhale then exhale and extend your torso towards the right toes. Bend down from the hip and lengthen your tailbone. Place your right hand on your ankle or shin. Send your left arm skyward as you cross the lower arm in opposition. Hold the pose for four to six breaths. Repeat on the other side.

A version of this story was published in April 2019.

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