Yoga for All

Destress and decompress with simple, accessible yoga poses—no flexibility required!
 
Working in a public school on a normal basis is as tough physically as it is mentally. You spend long hours on your feet instructing students, then follow it with hours of desk time grading papers. Add to that an abrupt change in routine (hello, distance instruction from home amid a global pandemic!), and you’ve got a recipe for major tension. Incorporating a few beginner’s yoga poses into your daily routine can ease tight muscles and provide a few much-needed minutes of centering. You can practice these yoga postures right at your desk or kitchen table, no mat required.
 
Mountain Pose
Stand tall, feet planted together firmly on the floor. Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides, palms faced outward in front of you. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine you have roots extending through your legs into the ground beneath you. You can also practice this posture in your chair, noting your sit bones.
 
Chair Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose itself can be a challenging yoga pose, but the desk yoga variation is fairly accessible—and a great antidote for tight hips. Sit up straight in your desk chair with both feet planted firmly on the floor. Notice your sit bones. Then, cross one ankle over the opposite thigh, about an inch above the knee. Keep this foot flexed, and notice the stretch in your lower back and hip. To deepen the stretch, lean forward. Repeat on the other side.
 
Seated Crescent Moon
Break up a marathon grading session with the seated crescent moon pose. Sit up straight, feet planted firmly on the floor in front of you. Lift your arms overhead, and stretch your fingers. Lean to each side, taking two to three deep breaths.
 
Seated Twist
Start as you would for seated crescent, sitting up straight and planting your feet on the floor. Lift your arms overhead on an inhale, and on the exhale, twist your torso to the right, placing your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the chair. Untwist as you inhale, then repeat on the other side.
 
Desk Downward Dog
Downward dog is another common but sometimes challenging yoga pose—but the benefits are numerous. The desk modification makes downward dog more accessible. Place your fingertips on a stable desk or chair back (not a rolling chair!). Walk backward until your body is in an L-shape, then breathe for about 30 seconds. Release.
 
Seated Cat-Cow
Sit up straight in your chair, with your feet planted on the floor in front of you. Note the position of your sit bones, then move your pelvis backward and forward. As you move it back, you will naturally round your back and drop your head (like a cat); as you move forward, your chest will raise upward, and your head will drop back (like a cow). Repeat with deep breaths.
 
BONUS: Restorative Pose—Legs Up the Wall
Restorative yoga is a healing style of yoga focused on relaxation and release. Legs up the wall is a generally accessible restorative pose that doesn’t require props. It’s exactly the type of thing you probably got in trouble for doing as a kid: Find an empty wall, lie down in front of it with your sit bones touching the wall, and extend your legs upward. Allow your arms to relax in the most comfortable position. Close your eyes, and say “ah.”

You should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program or yoga practice. Educators should also consult their school’s dress code regarding yoga pants.
 
 
The original version of this article appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of ATPE News magazine.
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