How to Ease Back Pain Without Leaving Your Office Chair

Using Camel Pose, aka Ustrasana, to ease back pain in your (office) chair

Sitting down all day in the office can create a humped upper back as we lean over keyboards and stare at computer screens. We scrunch up in the middle and get a droop in the shoulders, leading to aching, stiff spines and quite often fully-fledged back pain.

The Camel pose counters all of that by opening the front of the body, expanding the chest and stretching the muscles of the back in the opposite direction to all that computer work.

If you suffer from back pain this gentle stretch can really help to ease out the muscles. Remember to be very gentle with your body if you are in an acute episode of back pain.

The posture is called Camel as it is said to increase our stores of energy and compassion, raising our thoughts away from unfulfilled desires (still lusting after those new trainers, that nicer smartphone, or that lovely dress!?) and into our hearts, focusing on our relationships and the things that really matter in life.

Camel in the Office

A preparatory stage for the full Camel pose is actually in done a chair, making it ideal for the office, or for anyone who doesn’t want to, or can’t, do the full version. It is still stacked with benefits and is a great posture in its own right.

How to do Camel pose in a chair

  • Sit up straight, on the front edge of your chair, and make sure your feet are both flat on the floor. Put your feet on a book or box if they don’t reach the ground naturally. If you have wheels on your chair you’ll need to lock them so you don’t scoot off across the office!
  • Place your hands on your thighs and lift the right arm and bring it over the head (like a backstroke) and, turning with your arm, take hold of the back right corner of your chair seat. Do the same with the left arm
  • When both hands are resting on the back of the chair seat push forwards gently with your abdomen. Then lift up towards the ceiling with the sternum. Keep the chin tucked in (as if you are making a double chin) as you continue to look forward (don’t be tempted to look at your feet, you want to look forward and be open). To deepen the pose a bit more gently squeeze the shoulder blades together
  • To come out of the posture roll the body to the right, releasing the right arm, and lifting it up and over the head, then roll the body to the left and lift the left arm up and over and back to the thighs
  • Fold forward and rest in a seated child pose (just fold your abdomen on to your thighs and rest the hands behind the head, wrap them around your knees or let them hang loose) for a few breaths.

Preparing for the full Camel Pose – Quad Stretch

Flexible quads are hard to come by so don’t neglect these stretches. If you are a runner they are vital, they make you run faster! For everyone else, they make sitting and walking much easier and allow your back to move more freely.

The stretch is most successfully done with a strap (or scarf) and holding on to a chair so that you don’t need to worry about balance.

  • Hold the strap loosely in your hands, with it hanging in front of you like a skipping rope
  • Step over it with your left foot and loop the strap around your right ankle
  • Pull the strap up behind you, so your hands rest above your shoulders and your right foot raises up behind you, towards your buttocks. The right knee and thigh should be parallel with the left
  • Hold the stretch for 10 – 20 breaths
  • Repeat on the other side

Alternatively, you can do it without a strap, which sometimes gives a deeper stretch.

  • Bring your hand to the top of your right thigh and slide your hand down the thigh, over the knee and down the shin, taking hold of the ankle without pulling your foot out to the side. I call this the ‘sexy slide’!
  • Draw your foot up towards your buttocks and keep your hips forward. Hold on to a chair, wall, or friend, for support
  • The right knee and thigh should be parallel with the left
  • Hold the stretch for 10 – 20 breaths
  • Repeat on the other side

Want more ideas and yoga tips?

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Yoga pose demonstration images © Lucyoga 2015
Featured image: Bactarian Camels by Elroy Serrao, Creative Commons 2.0 on Flikr

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