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24 Jan, 2022

Stretches for Working From Home Wellbeing

Genny Wilkinson Priest, the yoga director at London's famous triyoga, talks to us about balancing working from home with home schooling, and outlines her failsafe tools to lessen anxiety, help with sleep, and stretch out the body after being sat at a desk all day.


We are entering the ninth week of a national lockdown, and everybody’s nerves are not just frayed, but well and truly shredded. I know mine are -- I’ve got four boys age 11 - 17 whose home-schooling I’m trying (or should I say failing) to manage, all the while working full-time and from home. It’s a daily battle for broadband, competing against my boys as well as my husband, also working from home (but somehow he gets the one desk in the house while I get whatever is available on a particular day – the kitchen table, the stairs, hell I’ve even done zoom calls from the bathroom to get away from the barking dog.) I dread the question every night at 6 pm -- “what’s for dinner, mum?” because I’ve not yet finished my work, and also after a year into this pandemic, I’ve run out of ideas to keep things fresh in the kitchen.

Any other working mums feeling my pain?

These are truly stressful times and we all have our coping mechanisms (some more healthy than others) and while I certainly advocate a glass of wine every now and then, the ancient practices of yoga that originated in India are a more nourishing option and indeed a more effective tool to lessen anxiety, help with sleep dysfunction, and return your body and mind to a more peaceful and calm state.


First and foremost, there is the breath. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all that is happening, I take a few minutes to practice nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. This is a type of pranayama, or breathing exercise, and the benefits are many -- it lowers the heart rate, reduces worry, and clears out the nadis, or subtle energy channels of the body, so that prana (Sanskrit for energy) can flow more easily. It’s pretty simple to do, and you can do this anytime, anywhere. You could sit on the floor with a cushion beneath your sitting bones, or in a chair with your spine tall. Bring your right hand toward your nose, place your index finger and middle finger in the space between your eyebrows. Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale for a slow count of six through the left nostril. At the top of the inhale, close the left nostril with your ring finger and breath out of the right nostril for a slow count of six.

This is one cycle. Now repeat four more times. After your fifth cycle, instead of breathing in through your left nostril again, keep the right nostril open and breathe in for a count of six with the left nostril still closed. Now, close the right nostril with the thumb and breathe out through the left nostril. This is one cycle. Now repeat four more times.

When you finish, just sit tall and breath normally. What do you observe?


Working with the breath is a wonderful thing, and so is movement – especially useful when sitting in awkward positions that a modified home office might bring. I take regular breaks to move my body, and it does not have to be a complicated yoga posture (the kind you see practiced by flexible women on Instagram) to reap benefits. You can do the simplest of things to release tension in the body just by sitting in your chair, and reaching your arms skyward. Interlace your fingers and press the palms to the ceiling and then lean over to the right as your ground down equally into both sitting bones. How does that stretch on the left side of your torso feel? Stay as long as feels good, and then come back up to sit tall with your arms stretched high. Now, bend sideways to the left. Do you notice any difference between the two sides? You might, but you might not. Yoga is experiential and unique to you.


All that hunching over makeshift desks can cause rounding of the upper back that might not feel so good at the end of the day. To counter this, I take a yoga strap (you could use a belt) and stretch my arms forward, with my hands more than shoulder-width apart on the belt. I stretch up and still holding the belt, roll my shoulders back and circle my arms behind me. I like to feel my clavicle bones broaden, lift my chest and look up. Repeat these arm circles as many times as you like. Yoga stretches and deep breathing at your desk need not be complicated but they sure are rewarding in times like these.


Genny Wilkinson Priest is the yoga director at triyoga, Europe’s biggest group of yoga studios that has 300 + online classes a week. Genny can be found cooking, practicing yoga, and embarrassing her teenage sons on Instagram – @gennywilkinsonpriest.