Fitness Magazine

Pop Upright for Even a Minute Or Two!

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina 
Pop Upright for Even a Minute or Two!I was actually surprised that my post Rethinking Office Yoga didn’t get much of a response because at the time I thought I was saying something pretty important, and a bit radical. My basic point in that article was that for as long as I can remember “office yoga” consisted mainly of poses you could do sitting at your desk. But scientists are now saying that sitting is the new smoking (see The Ill Effects of Prolonged Sitting and The Dangers of Being Sedentary). So why would you do your yoga sitting in a chair if you could simply stand up! Having worked in a cubicle at a software company (kind of like the comic strip Dilbert), I can testify that there is room in there to stand up and at least do certain poses so we all have no excuse. And in Rethinking Office Yoga  I ended up coming up with a list of poses you could do in a cubicle that was so long it surprised even me, a list that was way, way too long for a single office yoga practice. 

Not surprisingly, it turns out I’m not totally done with this topic. According to a recent study Patterns of Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in U.S. Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A National Cohort Study, spending too much time in a chair could shorten your life, even if you exercise However, standing up frequently during your work hours is the one thing that can help! 

“But interestingly, the risk of early death did drop if sitting time was frequently interrupted. People whose time spent sitting usually lasted for less than 30 minutes at a stretch were less likely to have died than those whose sitting was more prolonged, even if the total hours of sitting time were the same.” — Gretchen Reynolds If that’s not enough to motivate you to take frequent standing yoga breaks during your work day—doing a single stretch or balancing pose—or, if you are teaching office yoga, to focus on poses that get the people out of their chairs!, I read another New York Times article Thinking on Your Feet that described a study Acute effects on cognitive performance following bouts of standing and light-intensity physical activity in a simulated workplace environment showing that standing up while you worked and/or during your breaks actually helped you mentally as well as physically. 

“….the exercise breaks substantially improved scores on the tests of the kinds of thinking skills that help people perform their jobs well. Immediately after standing or moving for 10 minutes or more, the volunteers performed better on all the tests of thinking, compared with when they were sitting all day….” 

So taking a yoga break every 30 minutes will not only improve your health but could also improve the quality of your work! (Haven’t you ever noticed that you sometimes get your best ideas during your breaks than when you’re sitting at your desk? I certainly have.) 

Although that study on exercise breaks was small and more research needs to be done on the types of exercise that are most beneficial for enhancing brain power, the lead scientist of that study, Glenn Gaesser, a professor of exercise and health promotion at Arizona State University in Phoenix, suggested frequently getting up out of your chair for even short periods. 

“Gaesser suggests popping upright for even a minute or two. It will most likely be good for our minds, and shouldn’t do too much harm to our typing.” — Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times 

And what about those of you who are retired now? If you find yourself sitting around for periods of time longer than 30 minutes—whether you're working on an art project, surfing the web, sewing, reading, or watching TV—you, too, should be standing up frequently and taking a short yoga break (that is, if you don't have something else to do like taking the laundry out of the dryer).

For tons of suggestions for office yoga poses to do, along with photos of the poses, see Rethinking Office Yoga. If I had to pick just one, it would be Half Downward-Facing Dog pose (the pose shown at the beginning of this post) with hands either on the wall, chair back, or desk top. 

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To pre-order Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being, go to AmazonShambhala, or Indie BoundFor info on Nina Zolotow's books, see Books by Nina.

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