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Toilet yoga brings relief for office workers

SARAH BERRY
Last updated 15:15 01/02/2012
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FEEL THE SERENITY: A few basic moves and some deep breathing can make the world of difference for office-bound workers.

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We wouldn't sit on a plane for nine hours without being advised to get up, move around and have a stretch. But many people sit shackled to their desks, nine hours a day, five days a week. No one tells them to get up and stretch it out.

It's not natural and it's not really surprising that more people's bodies and spines are seizing up. Most New Zealanders will experience back pain at some point in their lives and some will experience significant disability as a result.

And it's not just the sedentary that are feeling the pain. As a yoga  teacher I find, on the days I'm office-bound, my body quickly gets stiff and sore. I need to crack it out of the chair cast it's been sitting in.

So, I've taken up toilet yoga.

Which is not quite what it sounds.

In the cubicle, I do a couple of side to side lunges. I clasp my hands behind my back and bend forward, with bent knees, bringing my hands overhead to rinse out my shoulders. I'll also place my hands against the door, stretch out my calves and then bring my back at a right angle to my legs, stretching it out. It's quick, easy and effective.

But, if looga (toga? yolet? suggestions?) is not your thing, there are other simple ways to relieve yourself (of stress).

There's an analogy I like that the energy in our bodies is like running water: when it's moving, it's healthy. When it stagnates, it's unhealthy.

Naturally, when we're stressed, we store energy in our bodies that results in tension and tightness. So, it's just about finding ways to get that stagnant energy moving through the body again.

The first, and most obvious way is with the breath.

Many of us don't realise how often we hold our breath (and simultaneously hunch up our shoulders) when we're stressed or concentrating. This is something I regularly see in yoga classes.

A student's face will be turning from red to purple in a pose and until you mention it, they've been totally oblivious, literally holding their breath in anticipation of getting out of an uncomfortable position.

Just starting to notice this tendency means breathing a little easier through your day.

Bringing awareness to how you sit can also make a big difference.

When our spine is aligned, our bodies are happier. They know how to hold themselves.

A handy offshoot of this is that when we sit up straight, lifting out of the lower back, our abdominal muscles engage. Who said we need crunch classes? Just sit a little taller at your desk throughout the week.

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A simple spinal twist at your desk with opposite hand to knee is great as is placing opposite heel to knee to open out the hips. Make sure to even out both sides.

And instead of emailing or phoning, make the effort to go and speak with a colleague. Anything to get your body and energy flowing freely.

It's not, of course, a subsitute for other exercise. But, developing awareness of our bodies throughout the day can do more than keep our limbs from locking up.

If we're tuned in to our bodies, we're also less likely we are to injure ourselves during other exercise because we are sensitive to our limits.

Which also means not rocking up at a yoga class, having been stationary all day, and expecting your body to happily contort into a pretzel.

What exercise tricks do you employ to keep fit at work?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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