In recent years, there’s been a lot of focus on the fact that sitting all day is no good for you. But guess what: Being on your feet all day isn’t great for your health either (you can’t win).
While standing might help you burn a few more calories, it’s also hard on your health, causing lower back pain, according to a study in The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Beyond that, it can also cause varicose veins, researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Health found.
Unfortunately, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who work at a job where you’re on your feet all damn day, you probably can’t just opt out of standing. But you can take a few steps to minimize discomfort, prevent swelling, and strengthen your muscles.
One quick fix: Simply prop your feet up on a chair and take the weight off them whenever you get a break, says Veronica Carnero, yoga instructor at Laughing Lotus and host of Tender Yoga, a weekly free yoga class in Brooklyn that’s geared toward those in the service industry. She also recommends carrying a tennis ball in your purse so that you can quickly roll out your feet (“like a mini-massage”) whenever you get a chance.
Getting your “om” on will help, too. “When you stand all day, you’re sort of doing the same repetitive motions and patterns—say, reaching down to get a glass or a bottle—over and over again,” Carnero says. “So what yoga does is counteract all those awkward and repetitive movements and gives you a little bit more balance in your body.”
The 11 moves below do just that. Incorporate them into your daily routine before or after work to feel ahhh-mazing even after an 12-hour day.
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You’ll need: A scarf or a belt, a hard pillow, or blanket (optional, for poses that may require extra support), and a yoga mat.
Grab a chair or the end of your sofa and lie on your back. Scoot forward until your butt hits the front of your chair or couch, and then swing your legs up so that they’re resting on the chair at a 90-degree angle. Tie a scarf or a belt around your thighs and hold for 15 to 20 minutes. “This pose realigns the hips and spine from excessive standing,” Carnero says. “This is my go-to when I feel a lot of lower-back pain.”
See RHONJ Teresa Giudice’s favorite yoga poses:
Reclined hand-to-foot pose
This one stretches out your hamstrings, which can get tight from standing all day. Lie on your back and bring your right knee to your chest while keeping your left leg bent on the ground. Press the sole of your right foot into your belt and lengthen your leg up to the ceiling as straight as you can go. Hold for nine breaths before switching legs and repeating on the other side.
Lie on your back with bent knees. Raise your right leg up (keep your toes flexed) and place your left ankle on your right thigh (you’ll look kind of like a backward “4” shape). Place your belt around the sole of your right foot and lengthen up to the ceiling as straight as you can go, making sure to keep your left knee and hip open. Hold for 12 breaths before switching to the other side.
Related: 5 Things That Happened When I Tried To Walk 20,000 Steps A Day
This one stretches your legs and IT bands, according to Carnero. Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and knees bent, then shift your hips to the right and let your legs fall. Place your belt around your left leg and extend out, keeping your toes flexed and holding onto the belt with your right arm. Extend your left arm to the side and look past your left arm while keeping your lower body shifted to the right. Switch to the other side. Hold for 12 breaths on each side.
Fasten the belt around your upper thighs and stand up straight up with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Keep your arms hanging down by your side with palms facing forward and your chest open. Try with your eyes closed or open, imagining a horizon in front of you. Hold for 12 breaths.
From mountain pose (put your belt aside), shift your weight onto your left foot and draw your right foot up the inseam of your leg, keeping your right knee open. Keep your right foot above or below your knee but avoid resting it on your kneecap directly. Place your hands at your heart, or try reaching them up to the ceiling. Hold for 12 breaths before switching sides.
Related: ‘I Took Squat Breaks At Work Every Day For A Month, And Here’s What Happened’
Standing forward bend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold your belt behind you in your hands and reach upward while exhaling and bending forward at the waist. Distribute your weight evenly through your feet and bend your knees a bit if you need to. Let your head drop. “This is a gentle inversion to counteract the effects of standing,” Carnero says.
You’re probably already familiar with this pose, but this one’s an all-around good inversion that stretches your legs and back and tones your entire body. Start on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes and press into your hands and inhale, lifting your hips up and back on your exhale. Keep your feet hip-distance apart and hands shoulder-width. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Take child’s pose to rest and repeat three to five times.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Keep your hands to your sides. Press into your hands and shoulders as you bring your feet over your head and reach them toward the ground behind you. Place a pillow or a few blankets on the ground behind you if the ground feels too far away or you need extra support. You can support your lower back with your hands (pictured) or place your hands long on the ground. Hold for 12 breaths.
Related: ‘I Took Plank Breaks at Work Every Day for a Month—This Is What Happened’
From plow, place your hands on your lower back and begin to reach your feet up to the ceiling. Hold for 12 breaths. Both plow and shoulder stand provide more oxygen to your heart, throat, and brain, but you should avoid them if you’re pregnant or recovering from a neck injury of any kind.
Legs up the wall
Start in the fetal position and roll onto your back, making sure you’re near a wall. Let your legs start moving up the wall. Don’t be afraid to place a blanket or pillow underneath your hips if you need a little extra support. If you start to find this pose is too painful on your hamstrings, scoot away from the wall an inch or two so you can relax. Hold for at least 10 minutes. “If you do only one of these poses, do this one,” Carnero says. “This is the absolute best pose for tired, swollen legs or feet, because you’re using gravity to take that swelling and inflammation and drop it back into the ground.”
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