Working eight hours a day — sometimes more — can take a toll on your body. Especially if you tend to have a sedentary lifestyle, you’re probably sitting down with your eyes fixed on the screen for most of the day.
Since I started working from home because of the pandemic, I realized that even if I worked out everyday I was sitting and barely moving for many hours. I don’t even have to walk to the car anymore! On top of this, the stress of work has an additional impact on the body. By the end of the day I was feeling stiffness all over my body, I had some muscle knots, especially on my neck and shoulders, and my energy and motivation were pretty low. The reason behind this is a mix of being at my desk for many hours, but it also has a mental health element to it.
Have you felt this way too? According to a study published by The Guardian, since the pandemic started, people are working at least two additional hours everyday, take shorter lunch breaks and are feeling more stressed and anxious. Bottom line: you’re not alone.
One of my tactics to deal with this is meditation, but not any kind of meditation: movement meditation. This is my favorite practice to do every Friday. I like doing it about noon, so I can finish my day with energy and I have the right mindset to really disconnect at the end of the day and enjoy the weekend.
Here’s how to do it
There are many types of meditation and movement meditation is one in which you don’t stay still. Movement is what guides you and where you drive your thoughts. You focus on the movement of your body, how it feels and how it connects with your breath. You activate your body and you relax your mind at the same time.
Start with your back
- Stand up. If you prefer to stay sitting make you have room to twist and more your arms.
- Notice the muscles you use to stand up.
- Take a deep breath. As you breathe, feel your spine elongating. As if you had a string pulling you up. Feel your neck going up and your shoulders winden. Don’t pull your shoulders back.
- Breathe into the spaces between your vertebrae. Elongate your spine more,
- Let the breath out and relax.
- Breath in one more time, elongate your spine and stretch your shoulders.
- Breathe out and relax.
- Breathe in. Stretch as much as you can.
- Let all your breath out
Move into the head
- Move your head in circles. Move your chin down, into the right side, let it go back, to the left side and down.
- Make one big circle. Stop if you feel any crunches or need to stretch there a little more. Notice any pain or areas of stiffness.
- Breathe in and do it one more time.
- Breathe out and move your head in the other direction
- Notice if there are any differences in any other areas.
- Do one more circle. Breathe in as you move your head to the back and breathe out as you bring it down.
- Return your head to neutral.
- Move your head to your right and hold it there. Notice as you breathe what you see around you. Notice how far your head moves to the side.
- Breathe in and stretch your head up.
- Breath out and maybe turn it in a little more.
- Breath in and as you breathe out bring it back to the center.
- Breathe in and as you breathe out move your head to the other side.
- As you’re breathing in and out, notice how this side is different from the other side.
- Breathe in and lengthen your neck.
- Breathe out and pull it a little more.
- Return to center.
- Move your head to one side and then to the other, as if you were saying no.
- Breathe in as you turn and out as you bring it back to center. In as you turn to the other side and out as you bring it back to center.
- Do it three times and return to center.
- Move your ear as if you wanted to touch your shoulder while keeping your shoulders down. If it feels good put your hand on your head and feel the stretch.
- Breath into the areas where you feel tightness.
- Breath out and then in again. Imagine how the air loosens up all the areas.
- Breath out let it relax. Hold it one more breath.
- Take your hand off, and with your head still tilted, turn it so your nose points to the ground.
- Give it one more stretch like this. Feel the stretch for a couple of breaths.
- Return to neutral and shake your head a little.
- Move your other ear down to your other shoulder. If it feels right put your hand on top of your head. Only if it feels right.
- Breathe into all the tense areas. Have the air open up those areas. As you breathe out relax and feel them soften. Hold for two more breaths.
- Remove your hand and then look down, pointing your nose at the ground. Feel that stretch for two breaths.
- Return to neutral and shake out your neck.
- Start with small shoulder rolls. Up, front, down and back
- Gradually make them bigger until you include all your arms.
- Notice the difference in the areas of your arms and shoulders. Notice the difference as you change the size of the roll. Find the size of the movement that works for you.
- Pick the one that fits the best. One more: shoulder up, forward, down and back.
- Change direction. This time start as big as you can. Down, back, up, forward.
- Gradually make it smaller. Find the size of the movement that works best for you.
- Stay in the best movement for you. One more roll.
- Return your shoulders to neutral and notice your breath.
- Inhale and bring the shoulders up to your ears.
- As you exhale, release them down.
- As you breathe in, raise your shoulders up. Hold for 1, 2, 3, 4. Let it go and breathe out. Repeat.
Expand your chest
- Do a few standing cat-cows to open the chest and the back.
- Put your hands on your knees or upper thighs.
- When you breathe in, really expand your chest and raise your chin.
- Breathe out and curve your belly and your shoulders in.
- Breathing in, open up your chest and your neck.
- Breathing out, roll your chest closed.
- Repeat two more times.
- Breathing out all the air, return your spine to neutral.
- As you breathe in, raise up and feel your vertebrae open up.
- As you breathe out, twist to your right. Put your left hand on your right hip and your right hand on your lower back.
- Breathe in and let in space.
- Breathe out and twist a little more.
- Hold it for two breaths. Notice what your body and thoughts are telling you. How are you reacting to this pose?
- Return to the center.
- Breathe in and straighten up.
- Breathe out and twist. Put your right hand on your left hip and your left hand on your lower back.
- Hold here for two breaths. Noticing where you’re pushing your body. Can you find that space where you’re stretching but not pushing?
- Return to center.
Stretch your legs
- Sit on the floor and make a V shape with your legs.
- Breathe in and elongate your spine.
- Breathe out and lean forward to your right foot.
- Stay there for a couple of breaths. Pick a pose where you’re stretching, but not pushing.
- Breathe in and sit up straight.
- Now breathe out and go forward to your left foot.
- Relax forward for two breaths. Hold the space that feels best for you: stretching and relaxing. Open the places you need to be open.
- Sit up.
- Now make circles with your right foot. Three breaths to one side and three to the other.
- Switch to the left foot. Three breaths to one side and three to the other.
- Stand up again.
- Use the last minute to make free movements. Choose something that makes you feel good and energized. You can swing your arms from side to side, jump or shake out. Whatever feels best for you.
- Go back to stillness. Take a deep breath in and now breath out all the air.
You’re ready to go! Body energized and mind relaxed.