*With thanks to Madeleine Black for the exercises, and Bella for taking the photos
I’m often asked if I can recommend some simple, safe moves that can be done around the working day. It’s hard enough to find time for ourselves these days, but we all have a minute here and there, so if you can fit even a few of these 9 simple moves around your day, you’ll be investing in the health of your body. If you are injury-free and your body is safe to exercise (always check with your medical practitioner first if you are unsure), give it a go and notice the difference in just a few days.
1. Standing On One Leg
First move is easy. You can do it any time during the day – simply take it in turns to stand on one leg (then the other one). You can brush your teeth while you are standing on one leg. You can talk on the phone standing on one leg. Take your time. Also, check your pelvis – make sure it is level and that you are not “sitting” into the hip – think of lengthening and lifting your spine out of your pelvis.
Movement number two is a squat of some sort. So keep your heels down and either do a half squat (as above) or do a full squat to the floor. You could use a weighted chair to hold onto, and you can hold the chair to help you come up. Try to do about 5 to 10 squats, fully and deeply, every day.
And then, if you can, get out of your chair, and just sit in a squat…you can talk to people on the phone in this position (we seem to be on the phone a lot, so this is a good place to do it!).
Number three is to come onto a quadruped position – on your hands and knees. So in this position, try to find a long spine and then try to only un-weight one hand and the opposite knee, without tipping your pelvis or dropping the shoulder – hold yourself stable. It might sound easy and simple, but it’s not. So see if you can maintain a nice, square position through the torso, and just un-weight one hand and one knee. Again, very simple. Then you can place hand and knee back down and simply add the curl of the pelvis (cat/camel), just curl your spine, then look at your navel, then reverse – tail goes up and then look to the ceiling, and then back to centre.
4. Sphinx Position
Number four is a sphinx position. Lie on your stomach, with your elbows bent and chest lifted. Stay in this position on your elbows, with your pelvis on the floor, and just rest, easy breathing, in this position. You don’t have to do anything. If that’s too much on your back, you can bring your body down and just start to look up, as if nudging a marble away with your nose, but not so you really shorten the back of your neck. We think of infants and babies start their first movement. They lie on their stomach, and they start to lift their heads up. And hopefully, you have the ability to come up onto your elbows. And just be in this position and breathe, just for a minute. It’s very good for your back.
5. Seated Twist
Following that, another one is just to do a seated twist. Sit on the floor or in a chair (preferably the floor) and then just simply reach across to the left knee, and look over your left shoulder, and just let everything move. You can move your chest, your navel, your hip. Just look behind you, so you’re twisting. Don’t push it. Don’t try to crank yourself. But just keep looking behind you. You can repeat that three or four times each side. Twisting is easy to do in a chair. If you happen to be at your office and you’re not going to sit on the floor, just do it in the chair and twist. Getting spinal twists, especially in the upper back, is an important movement you should do every day.
The next one is bridging. Everyone should try to do a bridge every day. Just lie down with your knees bent, and you press your pelvis up. It’s very simple. You don’t have to do anything special. Just get that pelvis up – try to keep your feet in parallel and your knees from falling apart. I like to reach my knees over the toes. Then you can just come down again. You can articulate more, if you’d like, to give a little rolling to it, but you don’t have to. The important thing is for the posterior hip, your gluteals, to push up, stretch open the front of your hip, feel the legs, feel your feet, and come down. If you only did three bridges every day,
7. Hip Extension
Number seven – sitting on a chair, do a hip extension to open the front of the hips. We do so much sitting these days that that hips can become tight and locked – we need to do more hip motion. So sit on the edge of the chair, facing one side with the other leg back. You can hold your chair. Bring the outside knee down and slide your foot back where comfortable – no arch in the back. Try to stay upright and just reach your knee towards the floor. Pelvis is level.
You can add a little side stretch if you’d like – that always feels good. Reach back with the leg. Just hold for a count of 10. Then you can do the other side. Again, if you’re stuck in a chair all day, it’s a great way to do a counter pose to open up the front of that hip – you’ll feel most it in the front of the thigh here.
8. Shoulder Circles and Swings
Number 8 – shoulder circles, about 5 each arm. Just swing your arm around outwards (not inwards) – easy circles. If that’s too much for your shoulder, if you’re really tight, you can just lower the arm and do it to the side and a smaller range of movement – it doesn’t have to go up so high. Try to open up the shoulder – you could bend and straighten your knees as well as you do this.
9. Neck Exercise
The last move I suggest you do every day is to move your neck (provided that you have no neck issues, injury or pain). Take your hands and just place them on the back of your head, the base of your head and bring your elbows in a little bit so you’re comfortable in the shoulders. Then just lean back and look up a little bit so your head is past your centre point. So you’re looking up. Head is back. So there’s some gravity pulling on your head and you’re going to push the back of your head into your hands and hold it there. Then stop pushing, and just bring your head back to more of a centre position. You could repeat that 5-7 times.
It’s amazing. Your neck feels just like it is floating. Doing little neck isometrics like that is wonderful, especially if you’ve been working all day. It helps bring the tone back into your neck.