Regardless of what you do at school, there are two aspects of your profession that you share with your fellow educators: You’re either sitting or standing—a lot. And no doubt as a result, you’ve got some aches and pains in your shoulders, legs, hips and back. “Imbalances start to present themselves when muscles get fatigued from being in one position for too long,” says April Martucci, a Manhattan-based yoga instructor. For example, after a few minutes of standing, you might lean more on one hip or begin to hunch forward as your upper body begins to tire. This creates misalignment which in turn causes muscles to tighten and contract. Fortunately, there are simple yoga postures you can do throughout your day to set you straight. Added bonus: “Unlike traditional stretches, yoga postures are designed to improve circulation and that translates into more energy,” says Martucci.
1. Standing Forward Bend
Shoulders, chest, inner thigh, hamstrings, lower back
Stand in a wide straddle position, feet about 3 feet apart. Interlace your hands to make a fist at the base of your back. Fold forward, as arms extend overhead. Breathe in and out of your nose for 10 breaths. Return to start and repeat. If your shoulders are very tight rather than interlacing the hands, hold a towel at each end at shoulder width behind your back and make the connection that way.
2. Seated Spinal Twist
Lower back, shoulders
Sit tall at the edge of your chair, knees together touching and even. Inhale as you take left hand over to right knee and twist your torso to the right, gazing behind you. On your next inhale, sit tall and on your exhale twist a little more, and repeat. Return to start. Switch sides and repeat 4 more times on each side. Bonus: Yogic twists massage and squeeze the organs to release stored toxins and gases and increase blood flow.
3. Cow Face
Triceps, shoulders, sides of waist, chest
Sit tall on edge of chair. Reach right arm overhead and place hand on center of back, elbow pointing toward ceiling. Reach left arm behind you clasping hands together. If you can’t join hands, hold your shirt. Look up toward ceiling and breathe for five breaths. Switch sides.
4. Squat with Prayer Pose
Lower back, hips, calves
Stand a little wider than your hips, toes turned out slightly. Bend legs and squat so your butt is just off the floor. Bring hands to prayer pose at center of the chest, torso lifted. Use your elbows to move the knees apart by pressing hands together tightly as you press elbows against inside of knees. (If your heels come off the floor, widen the stance until you’re able to get the heels all the way down.) Close eyes and hold for eight breaths. Return to start and repeat two more times.
5. Downward Dog
Opens and lengthens entire body
Get on hands and knees, shoulders aligned under wrists. Spread your fingers wide, pressing hands flat into the floor, and lift into a push-up position. Now press hips all the way into the air so you’re in an upside down “V.” Your heels should hover above the floor an inch, back and legs straight. (If you have lower back problems or tight hamstrings, bend legs slightly.)
Breathe in this pose for at least five full breaths and then lower into Child’s Pose and rest by lowering knees to floor, butt on your heels, chest on thighs, arms extended forward.