September celebrates National Yoga Month, focusing on relieving stress, focusing on wellness, and creating a healthy lifestyle. As travel nurses with busy work schedules, finding time to destress and relax can be challenging. But, the beauty of yoga is that you can practice it anywhere. We’ve found five standing yoga poses that beginners and seasonal yogis can enjoy – anytime, anywhere – between shifts or on break.
The ragdoll pose is perfect for stretching the lower back. According to the National Library of Nurses (NLH), nurses and related medical workers have an increased risk of back pain and injury, such as herniated lumbar intervertebral discs, compared to other professions. The ragdoll pose stretches the back, ankles, and calves and relieves tension in the neck and shoulders; ideal for nurses with back trouble. The feet need to be hip-width apart, and the knees flexed as you slowly lower forward, cross your arms, and grasp each elbow with the opposite hand. To release the back, gently sway from side to side. Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, bring your hands to your hips and slowly rise to stand with a flat back on inhalation to come out of the pose.
Upward Salute with Side Stretch
The upward salute with side stretch or crescent moon pose is a great pose for beginner yogis. This stretch strengthens the abdomen, neck, and psoas muscles (or the muscle near the spine and lower pelvis). The psoas muscle is often overlooked during stretching routines, but when tight, this long muscle can cause seemingly unrelated symptoms including: back pain, leg pain, hip pain, bladder pain, pelvic pain, and digestive issues.
To get in an upward salute with side stretch, keep feet hip-width apart, interlace the fingers, point the index finger up over the head, press the feet into the floor, and reach the fingers and crown up while relaxing the shoulders down and back. Exhale and move the right hip to the side, arching to the left. You will feel a deep side stretch. Stay in the pose for 5-6 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Standing Heart Opener
Similar to the ragdoll pose, the Standing Heart Opener stretches out your lower back. But, where it differs is this stretch expands your chest and ribcage, providing postural benefits and is particularly helpful to the nurses who spend their days hunched over. Slouching can cause kyphosis, which may lead to limited mobility over time, which is why it’s necessary to offset this posture with heart openers.
Start with feet hip-width apart, and inhale the arms overhead. Exhale to bring your hands to your lower back. Lift through your heart as you begin to tilt your head back. Breathe deeply for 3-5 breaths.
Neck circles are a simple yet significant posture to relieve tightness and soreness in the neck and upper back muscles while softening the vertebrae caused by being tense. Over a third of nurses have symptomatic neck pain; in order to minimize risks, nurses must find ways to stretch the neck muscles. Luckily, neck circles can be done anywhere, even during a shift.
Start with your head forward. Take a few breaths to relieve tension in your neck and shoulder muscles. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms relaxed by your sides. Rotate the neck in a circle slowly without losing control of the movement. Rotate sides after 5-10 rotations.
Chair pose helps strengthen the hip flexors, ankles, calves, glutes, and back, keeping you limber and improving your posture during long work hours. To begin the chair pose, go into a standing position and bend your knees to lower your body as if sitting in a chair. Ensure you are engaging your core as your hands rise overhead. Take 5-7 deep breaths before straightening your legs and returning to standing.
Between long shifts and traveling, it may be challenging to find time for yourself. But, finding some time in your busy day to stretch to nurture your body and minimize health risks is essential. Follow these five simple standing yoga poses to improve stability, promote healthy sleep, and support mental health – anytime, anywhere!