A Writer’s Body

This has been a busy workweek for me. Since I’m committed to posting here each Thursday, I decided to go with the flow of that theme and discuss some of my tactics for getting through large blocks of sedentary time. I work as a communications assistant for a university research center, and I also write and edit regularly on freelance projects; I spend a lot of time in front of a keyboard. I’m constantly catching myself hunched forward, shoulders tensed, inexplicably twisted into some odd, anxious configuration, as if craning my neck will help me evaluate a paragraph more thoroughly. While my coworkers are very friendly and open-minded, I don’t feel quite at liberty to get into downward dog beside my desk in the way that I do at home.

Aside from the well-publicized, longterm dangers of a sedentary life, sitting for long periods of time is just plain uncomfortable in the here and now. In the years that I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve grown more aware over time of the inactivity paradox–it can be very tiring, and even life-draining not to move. Along with reduced metabolism and circulation, long periods of sedentary time also lead to shallow, inconsistent breathing patterns, among other problems.

Since it is unlikely that communications or web design will become an active profession (Wii Office Suite?), I’ve resolved to implement whatever strategies I can to both honor my health and remain productive at work. On freelance projects, I try to give myself 15 minute breaks every 1-2 hours, for a walk, some stretching, or at least a brief, full-body shake. I also have the luxury of breaking up my time more generously, if the project is small or slow-paced. This week, though, I accepted a massive editing job with a rush deadline, and my desk habits at home had to resemble the code of conduct I adopt at work. At the research center, I usually employ lots of freeform neck stretches, shoulder rolls, and forward folds in the secret of the bathroom (I hold off on touching the floor here and go with a rag doll variation). Most frequently, I check my posture approximately every 30 minutes, and also use this time to take 3-5 deep, meaningful breaths. Psychologically, these mini check-ins serve to remind me that I am a living thing–an extraordinary fact often forgotten in the crush of emails, formatting, and so on.

I also like to follow this short video occasionally, by one of my favorite online teachers, Adriene Mishler. This sequence can be completed at your desk chair, and doesn’t require sound, either! When you have a little more freedom to practice, she has a great library of videos on her YouTube channel. The videos span everything from Yoga for When You’re In a Bad Mood to Birthday Yoga, plus a lovely 30 Days of Yoga series to jumpstart a yoga love affair. If you haven’t practiced with her before, I highly recommend it, for both beginners looking to get started, and for more advanced yogis looking to spice up their home practice with something different. Whenever I don’t have time for a studio class, and simultaneously feel unmotivated to invent my own sequence, Adriene is a great resource. She feels so much like a funny, sweet friend, that it’s hard to find an excuse not to squeeze in 15-30 minutes of yoga once you’ve found her. If you decide to give this one a whirl at your desk, enjoy!

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