A five minute stretch could make you five times as productive.

By Laurenn Cutshaw

If you haven't heard the latest buzz in the health and wellness community it is this-sitting is the new smoking. Couple this with the rise in stress at the workplace and we have a recipe for disaster. All the more reason to do yoga, and incorporate the practice into your daily routine.

There are many physical and mental benefits of yoga, including increased strength, flexibility and balance, elevated mood, reduced stress, sharpened focus and improved heart health. In an ideal world we'd all be able to carve out 30-45 minutes per day to practice. Unfortunately this is not a reality for most of us. But don't stress (pun intended)! By incorporating a few simple poses into your day each day we can all benefit from yoga.

The six poses below take no more than five to 10 minutes and can be done at your desk. Because the goal is to get you out of your chair, four of the postures are detailed from a standing position. If you're not comfortable standing and have a chair without wheels, or with wheel locks, all six poses may be done seated. Yes, you might feel a little silly at first but it's 100% worth it. When your colleagues notice you're standing taller and walking around with a little extra pep in your step trust me-they'll stop by and ask about "those stretches" you do at 2 p.m. every day.

RAG DOLL: Rag Doll releases the lower spine and stretches the hamstrings. It is also a gentle inversion, meaning your head is beneath your heart. Inversions reverse blood flow in the body, improve circulation and deliver an extra dose of fresh oxygen to the brain. More blood in the brain equates to increased cognitive function and energy, which makes Rag Doll a better afternoon pick me up than a cup of coffee. To get into the pose, stand with your feet hip width apart and generously bend your knees. Fold forward, hinging from the hips, and clasp opposite elbows. Allow your head and neck to completely relax as you take six to eight deep breaths.

STANDING DYNAMIC TWIST: Twists energize and align the spine, as well as improve digestion. To begin stand with your feet hip width apart and soften your knees. Relax your arms and begin to twist right and left. As you rotate your arms will naturally swing; allow your palms to tap your hips and the backs of your hands your kidneys. Stay in continuous movement and breath for 30-45 seconds.

STANDING SIDE BEND: Side bends bring balance to your body and stretch your intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs). Tight intercostals can weaken posture and restrict breath, both of which tend to suffer when we sit for extended periods of time. Stand with your feet hip width apart, soften your knees and place your left hand on your left hip. Take a full breath in as your raise your right arm high. Exhale and side bend left. Hold this pose for four to six rounds of breath and repeat on the opposite side. Do each side three times.

MODIFIED DOWNWARD FACING DOG: Similar to Downward Dog, this standing modification of the pose stretches your hamstrings and opens the chest and shoulders. Those with open shoulders may also benefit from the mild inversion. Stand two to three feet away from your desk (or a wall). Place your hands on your desk shoulder width apart. Take a full breath in and bend forward, pressing the desk away and your hips back and up. Take six to eight cycles of breath and release. Repeat two times.

SEATED FIGURE Four: Figure four releases lower back muscles and stretches the outer hips, two areas that are commonly tight on everyone (largely due to the amount of time we spend seated). Begin seated in your chair with both feet on the ground, then cross your right ankle over your left leg. Sit up tall and gently press your right knee toward the floor; for a deeper stretch hinge forward from the hips. Take eight to 10 rounds of breath. Releasing tension in the hip area is physically and emotionally satisfying. Feel free to linger a bit longer in this pose before switching sides.

MODIFIED LUNGE: When we're seated our knees are in front of our hips and our hip flexors are contracted. In a lunge, whether seated or standing, the knee joint is behind the hip. This counter action opens the joint and promotes blood flow to the lower body. Sit "perpendicular" on the edge of your chair with your right leg in front. Ideally your right foot plants firmly on the ground. Extend your left leg behind you, placing the ball of your foot on the ground. Fire up your left quad and press your left heel away from your body. Hold this pose for eight to 10 deep breaths, then switch sides.


Laurenn Cutshaw is a former collegiate gymnast, 200-hour Yoga Alliance certified instructor and Spinning™ teacher. She has been leading group fitness classes for 15 years. Laurenn is also the VP of Marketing & Branding for Yoga Six, a privately held yoga company with 13 studios nationwide. Yoga Six has locations in ColumbusandUpper Arlington.