I might be active, but I am by no means flexible. Weight training and sitting at a desk are the two main causes of my lack of nimbleness. This is why, for years, I’ve been meaning to combat this and get into a steady stretch routine to help improve my range of motion (ROM) and keep my body strong and supple.
However, when you’re already trying to stay hydrated, work, workout, and get your eight hours of sleep in, stretching can fall further and further down the to-do list and even the best yoga mats can get a little redundant. So, what’s the easiest way to sneak some stretch sessions into your routine?
Enter desk yoga.
As you might have already guessed, desk yoga is the practice of doing yoga at your desk. To try and reap the many rewards yoga is famed for (opens in new tab)(think: improved respiratory and cardiovascular function, reducing stress, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life), I found a quick and easy flow from Yoga With Adriene (opens in new tab), which included exercises like drawing circles with your nose, looping your shoulders and forward folding.
The challenge? Complete a seven-minute desk yoga flow every two hours during my working day, to see if I could limber my limbs. I’ve got to admit, I was apprehensive about whether seven minutes of yoga was enough to see any results. But along with testing my flexibility, I also found a couple more benefits this form of yoga could bring.
Becks is an experienced health and fitness journalist with an in-depth knowledge of physiotherapy and osteopathy. Becks regularly tries out new workouts in the gym and has taken on a range of fitness challenges measuring the effects on the body.
1. Desk yoga helped me regain my focus
From the constant notifications on our phones to our ever-growing inboxes, focusing doesn’t necessarily come easy to those when getting stuck in an Instagram hole is never more than an arm-stretch away.
To regain my focus and give myself a screen break, I would normally get up and go for a walk, grab water or make a cup of tea. But now there’s another trick I can add to my list: and that’s performing desk yoga for seven minutes.
Seven minutes feels short enough to easily weave into your day but long enough to focus on the task ahead. And there are studies to back this up.
According to researchers (opens in new tab), yoga can ‘greatly affect neutral patterns in the brain, which can improve your ability to concentrate and focus. The benefits of yoga for concentration can potentially apply to just about any task that comes your way.’ While research from the University of Waterloo found that just 10 minutes of yoga can shift attention (opens in new tab), reduce stress levels and increase focus.
2. My flexibility improved (slowly but surely)
A little bit of yoga goes a long way. And this was the case even after just seven minutes of practice at my desk. As someone who’s more prone to doing a deadlift rather than a downward dog, flexibility has never been my strong point. But even I noticed a change in my range of motion (ROM) when completing the flow for the second time.
I found that after just seven minutes of yoga I was able to perform a seated forward fold and get my hands closer to the ground than the previous flow. I was also able to complete a deeper-seated twist and my ROM continued to increase through each seven-minute practice. Overall it left my muscles feeling more supple than stiff.
We’ve been told time and time again of the power of yoga for flexibility. As a 2019 journal (opens in new tab) concludes: “Results indicate that yoga interventions improve multiple physical function.” While a 2014 pilot study (opens in new tab) found just six weeks of yoga could show “a significant increase in flexibility.” I just didn’t think I’d see such fast results.
3. It helped to reset my posture
When you spend a lot of time sitting on a daily basis, slouching on the sofa, or hunching over your laptop while working (guilty) – it can have negative impacts on your overall spine health and posture. How do I know this? Because along with backache, tight shoulders, and tension in my neck, I’ve lived to tell the tale.
But thankfully, desk yoga was here to save me from poor posture habits. Setting seven minutes aside to focus solely on stretching my body helped to warm up my muscles, loosen my joints and get my spine back in a good position when seated.
I think that’s because I was actively focusing on my posture through each flow and this continued even after I had returned to my desk. Just when I could sense my posture waning, it was time to do another round of yoga.
But it’s not just me thinking this. It’s widely accepted that yoga can increase flexibility and strength. And according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (opens in new tab), yoga can also help improve balance and posture. While another 2016 study found yoga can “significantly improve” bone health.
Now to set desk yoga alarms every two hours for the foreseeable…