Blogs & Comment

Is "desk yoga" the cure for all your workplace stress?

We're trying it out for a month, in search of an answer

Lululemon_CBMost of us spend the majority of our time at our desks, hunched over a keyboard. This—surprise—is not particularly good for us. Sitting is the new cancer-scare, and offices are constantly seeking out new ways to combat it (seemingly with every kind of non-sitting desk imaginable. ) And now, there’s desk yoga.

Desk yoga, though it can vary in practice, is basically exactly what you’d expect—a series of adapted yoga poses you can do at your desk, to help with stress and increase flexibility. Interested in the general prospect of a healthier work lifestyle and, maybe, better posture, I volunteered to try it out for a month and report on my findings.

This is probably where I should admit that I am a yoga defector. My yoga mat languishes unloved at the back of my closet, a 30-day challenge abandoned within the first week. I once spent the majority of an hour-long hot yoga session lying flat on my back, planning my escape and thinking about what I would make for dinner.

I am, however, adept at sitting at a desk. I have spent most of my young life sitting in various capacities—it’s probably no coincidence that I have enough of a hunch in my shoulders to cause my parents concern, and back troubles that have made chiropractors visibly wince. My current go-to method for dealing with a sore neck is to roll it side to side, Exorcist-style. All less than ideal.

Desk yoga seems to be the perfect solution to my current predicament: it promises less back pain, a little stress relief and, most appealingly, all of the ease of sitting.

Having only a vague idea of what the process might entail, I took a few minutes at the beginning of a recent workday for some Google research. Finding my way to the website of Utkata—“Toronto’s only 30-minute office chair yoga service”—I read about how desk yoga would bring “an island of peace and tranquility” directly into my cubicle.

The description assured me I would not need preparation, equipment, or—perhaps most importantly—to be a “flexible ‘yoga person.’” All I had to do was “sit back and reap the benefits.”

Next I flipped through a series of pictures of groups of people doing various stretches around chairs (although not necessarily in them, to my dismay). I headed to YouTube to see if I could find an instructional video to guide me on my yogic journey. I opted for “Yoga at your Desk” by a cheerful YouTuber who goes by “Yoga with Adrienne.”

The video features the obligatory plinky-plunky piano music and chirping birds (which, sadly, Canadian Business headquarters does not have), along with step-by-step instructions. It begins with instructions to sit up straight and roll my head around (which, I would like to point out, I’ve been doing for years, thank you very much) and eventually progresses to arm-over-head side stretches, and twisting left and then right in your chair. The video periodically gifts you with affirmations like “Yes, today is a good day,” and “Keep your heart lifted, my friend.” The whole thing takes a total of six minutes.

What I’ve learned in Week One:

  • If you’re going to partake in desk-yoga, it’s probably not a bad idea to enlist other officemates—or, at the very least, let them know what you’re doing. I didn’t, and ended up surreptitiously doing it in my cubicle, fervently hoping no one would come by by while I was trying to touch my head to my knee. Not exactly the kind of Zen headspace I was aiming for.
  • As I was trying to quietly and unobtrusively do my desk-yoga, I thought it might be a good good idea to use headphones to listen to my digital yoga instructor. Know what’s not stress relieving? Casually choking yourself with your headphones while attempting basic stretches. Opt for closed-captions instead.
  • “Lifting your heart up” is, in my view, the weirdest possible way to instruct someone to sit up. Prepare yourself for plenty of new-age language.
  • On a positive note: The whole process was really just a series of simple stretches, and I am already feeling looser and more relaxed.
  • There’s a big focus on breathing, which, if nothing else, is a simple stress-relieving technique most of us don’t tend to do enough of.
  • The six-minute video was no big deal, but I’m leery of longer sessions. Who has 30 minutes for this kind of thing every workday?