A guide to study break stretching

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Finals are coming up, and with that, comes reading days and a week full of studying at a desk. SMU yoga professor, Dr. Ellie Odenheimer, suggests students take a short break every 30 minutes on a study day, and using three yoga poses or a sequence to reverse the physical stress of sitting for long periods of time.

“I like the way my friend put it, ‘sitting is the new smoking’,” said Dr. Odenheimer.

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Dr. Ellie Odenheimer takes yoga breaks in her office Photo credit: Gianni Windahl

The first pose Odenheimer suggested is Downward-Facing Dog.

“When you’re sitting you tend to not be using your muscles to hold yourself up. Downward-Facing Dog helps open your shoulders, throat, chest, and lower back, the opposite of what sitting on a chair does,” said Odenheimer.

Sit on the floor on your knees and then bend forward and put your hands down slightly in front of your shoulders. Then turn your toes under and lift your knees away from the floor. Push your weight back onto your heels and straighten your arms.

“If you’re only going to do one pose a day that’s the one I would suggest,” said Odenheimer.

Another pose Odenheimer suggested to stretch the hips is called the Reclining Hero pose.

Stack several textbooks and then sit on your knees. Place the books under your lower back, extend your arms up, and lean backwards.

“The reason why I like it for a study break is because when you sit, most of us sit in a way where our legs are relaxed and externally rotating. These stretches counter how your thighs are when you sit,” said Odenheimer.

A good yoga position to stretch the lower back is called the Bound Angle pose, according to the Yoga professor.

Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Then bend your knees, let your legs fall outward to form a triangle position, and then put your feet against each other and pull your legs up to your groin as far as you can. You should feel a slight stretch in your inner thigh. Lean forward stretching out over your butterfly position and hold the pose for up to a minute.

Odenheimer also suggested a sequence of poses that even those new to yoga can implement.

The student should begin in downward facing dog, then bring the right foot forward, then left foot forward, and stand up. Then go into Triangle pose by taking the right foot back, turning it to the right, holding both arms out horizontally, then lowering the left hand to the floor and moving the head up to the right letting your gaze fall on the ceiling.

A minute later, slowly move back into downward facing dog and implement the triangle pose on the other side.

Then stand up and lift your hands and gaze up and do a little backbend to stretch body.

“These are overall body stretches. They’re nice because they get blood flowing into brain and body which helps students study better,” said Odenheimer.

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