Yoga for Freelancers
Long hours spent typing away at the keyboard, refining the tiniest of details with your apple pencil and forever staring into the bright screen of not one electronic device, but several. The work of a freelancer is strenuous, stressful and physically hard on the body despite what you might think. Amongst recent trends, self-care has earned a spotlight with advice from freelancers worldwide suggesting to take the break you need, spend more time with family and do what’s best for your personal health. Without a doubt, anyone can agree with this advice, so what’s the best way to refresh our work energy and avoid burnout without neglecting our personal lives? It’s simple, yoga. A practice known for revitalizing the body and mind, increasing longevity and reestablishing balance no matter how crazy, busy our lives have become. So roll out your yoga mat pre-breakfast, at the office or right before bed because every freelancer needs yoga to stay fully charged and inspired for their next creative endeavor.
Mental health: Taking care of yourself to ensure your mental health is in balance is key to a successful career and overall, a happy life. No matter what your profession is, writer, nurse or mom of two, making sure you have enough “me time” and self-care is vital to your well-being. One of the best ways to manage your emotions and mental health is through the practice of meditation. The goal is to use this time to relieve your stress and anxiety by focusing on each breath, as you are present in the now. For just a few minutes each day, practice meditation for when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, disorganized or incapable of focusing on the task at hand. I personally find that connecting within often leads to better social connections, positive networking outcomes and more creative energy in my work as a freelancer. Side note: meditation can be done right at your desk or on the floor beside your desk. Whatever works best for you!
Yoga pose: The most important thing to remember is be presentduring meditation. Try dedicating at least 30 minutes each day to practice Calm Heart Meditation (Dhyana). I really love this pose and the name itself sounds tranquil. This pose can be done several ways but for someone with high anxiety like myself, I really benefit from the placement of my hand over my heart. It’s a great way to relieve stress and anxiety by being present with each beat of the heart in addition to each breath.
Calm Heart Meditation (Dhyana)
Hands and wrists: According to the Fabulous Freelancer, the average person is capable of typing between 60 and 65 words per minute (WPM). However, the freelancers of the world typically type 20 words more than the average person ranking around 80 to 85 WPM. This is great if efficiency is your goal but let’s talk about the repercussions this skillset entails. Just like any other strenuous activity we do with our hands (playing piano, writing, cooking, video gaming, etc.), typing can potentially lead to larger issues than minor cramps including chronic joint pain and illnesses such as carpal tunnel and arthritis. So if you’re looking to maintain better joint health or just wanting to increase your WPM, it’s important to keep both hands and wrists stretched, strong and relaxed.
Yoga pose: To relieve your hands and wrists after a long day at work, practice Eagle Seal Pose (Garuda Mudra). This particular pose opens up your hands and stretches your wrists without the added weight of your body. Start by holding your hands in front of your face with your palms facing you then cross your hands and clasp your thumbs together. This pose doesn’t require a mat or fancy yoga pants to accomplish the form meaning it can be done right at your desk.
Eagle Seal Pose (Garuda Mudra)
Neck: The neck is one of the most important parts of the body. After all, it’s what holds our head on our shoulders so it’s vital we keep it in check! Sitting at a desk all day often leads to hunching over, slouching and craning which all occur naturally without us even noticing. So when we neglect this part of our body, we’re putting ourselves at risk of numerous health issues such as: degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, pinched nerves and more. If done properly, yoga is the perfect practice for avoiding neck pain/injury and there are even poses that specifically target the neck.
Yoga pose: Try practicing what I like to call Cat-Cow Combo, a series of Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) followed by Cow Pose (Bitilasana), then repeated. These sequence will allow you to work through the entirety of your spine providing an excellent range of motion for targeted areas such as your neck. Start by inhaling in as you roll your back into a position that resembles a cat then slowly exhale as you release into Cow-Pose by arching your back. Remember to face forward during this pose. If Cat-Cow Combo is too much for your spine, try going into Child’s Pose, a simple forward bend that’s as restorative as is therapeutic (see Yoga Pose for Eyes).
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
Back: Did you know that back pain not only effects your physical health, it also plays a vital role in your emotional health, which can have negative effects on both your personal and work life. Unfortunately, sitting for long periods of time no matter how fancy your desk chair is, slouching while sitting for hours is inevitable and it’s extremely detrimental to the spine. Whether you are pain free after a day’s worth of freelancing or scheduling your next chiro appointment, your back needs the break you’ve been skipping out on. In fact, most poses incorporate stretching your spine so by practicing yoga on a daily basis, you’re almost guaranteed a stronger, more flexible, aligned back. Keep in mind that yoga is also great for your core. By strengthening your core, you’re creating more support for your spine. Win-Win!!!
Yoga pose: There are several poses you can do to work on the spine but I like to keep things simple. One of my favorite poses for the back is Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Start by placing your hands palm down on the mat with your knees placed under your hips (as if you are about to crawl). As you exhale, slowly bring your knees off of the mat as you bring your feet flat behind you. The goal is to keep both legs and torso as straight as possible while attempting to create what looks like an upside down “V”. To modify Downward-Facing Dog, simply keep the knees bent but back straight.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- If this pose is too much for your hamstrings, try Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana). Extended Puppy Pose is essentially a combination of Child’s Pose and Downward-Facing Dog.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
- Suffering from Sciatica? Try practicing Cobra Pose (Bhujanga). Remember to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears and your legs directly behind you, flat against the mat (top of feet facing down). Take caution with this pose if you have a severe back injury or have issues with your wrists such as Carpal Tunnel. See this list for more precautions.
Cobra Pose (Bhujanga)
Eyes: Ok, so you can’t exactly stretch your eyes but you can definitely give them a break from the blue screen. As freelancers, hours spent staring at our laptops, iPads and phones is what we do best which sadly will have negative repercussions over time. Besides sporting a pair of blue lens glasses while you work, although highly recommended, take some time to close your eyes and take a deep breath by practicing meditative poses. During this time, you’ll have the opportunity to look deeply within yourself and away from social media. You might even find that meditating is the eye-opening experience you needed to inspire your next creative project.
Yoga pose: Once you have arrived at the final step of a yoga pose, it’s common to just close your eyes, channel into your breathing and focus on your presence. Depending on the pose, this task can actually be challenging to accomplish while maintaining your position. So to make things easier, I suggest sticking to one of the simplest poses yoga has to offer, Child’s Pose (Balasana). Known as a resting pose and often used between more challenging poses, Child’s Pose encompasses a multitude of benefits including stretching your hips and spine, calming the mind and relieving stress. For a play by play on how to execute Child’s Pose watch this video here.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Headache: We’ve all had days when the headache lingers without a chance that espresso or Advil will do the trick. All matters aside, we really don’t have the choice of “calling out” just because our head is pounding. But besides religiously wearing blue lens glasses and getting the right amount of sleep, what else can we do?! Before you give up, try implementing yoga into your daily routine. You don’t have to commit to showing up to a class or spend hours practicing in your free time. In fact, you can start by spending only 15-30 minutes working on 2 or 3 specific poses for headache relief, who knew!?
Yoga pose: For headache relief, practice Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana). Start by lying on your back and feet flat on the ground. Slowly tilt your pelvis towards the sky and allow for you arms and shoulders to support you. Extend your arms beneath you and clasp your hands behind your back (your arms and hands will still be touching the mat). If clasping your hands is too challenging, no worries! You will get there. Simply lay your hands flat against the mat and concentrate on keeping your bum elevated.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Legs and hips: Recent studies have shown that sitting is generally bad for your health, often leads to weight gain, numerous diseases and has even been linked to earlier death (Healthline). With exercise as a prime recommendation for your health, along with standing more at work and engaging in activities that require your feet, I find that yoga is one of the greatest practices to keep you moving. Not only do you’re legs and hips benefit, you’ll see improvement in your overall health. According to the American Osteopathic Association, the physical benefits of yoga include, “Increased flexibility…muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, maintaining a balanced metabolism, weight reduction, cardio and circulatory health, improved athletic performance and protection from injury” as well as mental health benefits. Not only will practicing yoga for your legs and hips benefit your health now, it will certainly pay off in the long run. So keep your legs strong and hips flexible for a healthier you!
Yoga pose: One the best poses for opening up your hips and stretching out your thighs is Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana). Sit upright with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend your knees and slowly pull your feet towards your pelvis. Once your feet are as close to you as possible, let your knees fall to each side of you as you press the bottom of your feet together. Grasp each big toe, foot or shin (which ever is most comfortable for you). Now breathe. Yoga Journal suggests holding this pose for 1 to 5 minutes.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
*Before attempting this pose, it’s important to acknowledge keeping your torso in an upright position. You may also find that it’s difficult to touch your knees to the floor, but don’t worry, this pose takes practice. You’ll see that the photo included for reference here in the blog reflects a modified version of Bound Angle Pose.
If you would like to focus more on strengthening and reaching full extension of your entire legs, try Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana). This pose is excellent for your hamstrings and also known as the, “Quintessential standing pose in many styles of yoga” (Yoga Journal). To see the full process of Extended Triangle Pose, watch this video here.
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
More good vibes from Upward Yoni:
- Is running a part of your daily “leg” routine? Yoga for your legs and hips will also keep your muscles and joints conditioned for your next run. For more information on yoga and running, check out Upward Yoni in Mantra Magazine for tips on why yoga is great for the sport and your health.
- New to yoga? Check out this 30-minute, badass routine for beginners by Jessamyn Stanley!