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Workplace stress busters
These one-minute limbering and stretching exercises will help relieve muscle tension and increase circulation during the workday. Alternate them, or do both at the same time.
1. Ankle circles Sitting for long periods can restrict the circulation of blood to the lower extremities. Stand lightly touching the back of a chair for balance, lift 1 leg in front of you a few inches off the floor, and circle the foot for 15 seconds; then point and flex the foot for another 15 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
2. Chest opener Another common stress during pregnancy is the forward rounding of the shoulders and upper back due to the increased weight of the breasts. For relief, sit up tall and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Place your hands on your belly or thighs, lengthen your neck and hold your chin slightly back [A]. Roll your shoulders back in a circular motion 5 times; then squeeze your shoulder blades back toward each other as you stretch your arms back behind you, clasping hands if you can [B]; hold for 3 deep breaths. Release to a neutral posture. Finish by closing your eyes and taking a deep breath, allowing your ribs and chest to expand while keeping your shoulder blades slightly back and down. Picture yourself seated straight and strong, as though you are balancing a plate on your head.
Finish your day with the following two great yoga moves, which will help you relax and restore a sense of balance to your body.
1. Side stretch Kneel on your right knee with left leg extended to the side, thigh muscles contracted, making sure the arch of the left foot is even with right knee. Right thigh is perpendicular to the floor, with top of right foot on floor and tailbone pointing down. Place left hand, palm up, on left thigh, arm straight. Raise your right hand, palm facing in. Inhale and slide left hand down thigh, exhale and lean gently toward left, stretching the right side of your torso. Look up at your hand if you can while keeping your balance; otherwise, look straight ahead. Take 2–3 breaths, inhale, and come up. Switch legs and repeat on other side.
2. Child's pose Kneel on floor on hands and knees and place a pillow or rolled towel behind knees on lower legs. Exhale, separate knees, and sit back onto heels so the backs of your thighs are against the pillow and buttocks are touching heels. Slide arms in front of you on the floor until your forehead is resting on the floor. Stay in this position for as long as you like, breathing slowly and rhythmically.