3 Pilates Desk Exercises to Balance an Office-Bound Body
If you’re feeling bound up at the end of a workday, it may be more than simply stress or the barrage of emails. The way you sit may be hazardous to your health.
The discipline of Pilates offers tools and techniques to improve your seated posture and counteract the effects of hours of sitting. With regular practice Pilates students find a true connection to their core, a new awareness of alignment and movement, and an appreciation for finding ease and efficiency. Pilates is for every body and can be adapted to everyone from the deconditioned and injured to the elite athlete.
When applying Pilates principles to the practice of how you sit at work, begin by simply paying attention to your body in space. Right now, stop what you are doing and without judging, notice how you are sitting and ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I sitting with my feet flat on the floor and pointing straight ahead?
- Is my weight evenly distributed between the right and left halves of my body?
- Am I sitting directly up on the bones of my pelvis (what are colloquially called the “sitz bones” are properly known as the ischial tuberosities), behind them (on my back pockets), or in front of them?
- Am I lifting my torso up out of my waist with a tall spine or am I sinking down? Is my back rounded or arched?
- Are my shoulders relaxed down or hiked up around my ears?
- Finally, is my head balanced over my shoulders and pelvis or it is jutted forward?
Just becoming more aware of your seated posture is a great starting place to countering the demands of sitting. Then, to perfect your posture and cross-train for a day at the office, try these three Pilates exercises.
Exercise 1 – Pilates Pelvic Clock
This exercise can be practiced right at your desk chair and can improve awareness and activate your core. Sit with both feet squarely on the floor, evenly distribute your weight between the right and left sides of the pelvis, and rock your pelvis forward toward the front of the chair and then toward the back of the chair. Repeat this 6-10 times, then perch so you are directly centered over the pelvic bones (those ischial tuberosities). Activate your lower abdominal muscles and lift your spine. This is an efficient and aligned way of sitting.
Exercise 2 – Leg Pull Back
Because sitting causes us to flex (bend) many of the joints in our body, it is helpful for balance to take time to open the body back up. One great exercise to do this is a chair modification of the Leg Pull Back. Slide forward almost to the edge of your chair, place your feet hip distance apart and flat on the floor about two feet in front of you, and point your toes forward. Hold the front edge of your chair seat with your fingers pointing toward your toes, and lift your hips up in the air. Press your hips up high, stretching the front of your thighs and activating your gluteals (your seat), stretch the front of your chest and shoulders, lower your chin toward your chest, and take three to five deep breaths. Then carefully sit down. If done throughout the day, this exercise reverses the seated position and creates a more open body — which can lead to a more open mind!
Exercise 3 – Pulling Straps I
Counter a rounded posture by taking a stand-up break and sneaking in a few Pulling Straps I repetitions throughout the day. Stand up with your toes pointing straight ahead, lift yourself tall out of your spine, and reach your arms straight out in front of you, shoulder height with palms facing one another. Inhale, and pull your arms down toward the floor, stretch the front part of your chest and shoulders and gaze slightly upward, bringing your arms as far behind you as you can. Exhale and return the arms in reverse, bringing your gaze forward. To get the most of this exercise, pull your abs in and up and keep your pelvis from shifting forward and your lower back from arching, placing the emphasis on the upper torso. This exercise will not only stretch your tight chest and shoulders, but help build strength in the postural muscles of the upper back.
Zoey Trap MS believes in the synergistic power of Yoga and Pilates; she is a Peak Pilates Master Trainer and Team Leader who authored the Peak Pilates Educational Programs and created the Peak Pilates Master Instructor Mentoring System. She is Jivamukti Certified Yoga Instructor and has developed programming including Yoga on the Reformer and Wonder Chair. Zoey has been featured in multiple DVDs and co-owns a consulting business (Pilates Solutions) with her daughter Kathryn Coyle. peakpilates.com; pilatesstudiosolutions.com.