Yoga student experiencing the energy increase after practicing yoga in the middle of the work day

Skip that Midday Coffee Break: Yoga for a Quick Energy Boost

By: 
Kathryn Boland, RCYT, R-DMT

It’s 4:00 pm. Your eyes begin to glaze over. Your laptop becomes a blur. Then they start to droop. You shake your head, stretch your neck, and do your best to refocus, but you can’t. You need coffee. 

Yet what if there is another way? Yoga seeks to not judge; it doesn’t say that something is “good” or “bad.” But it does help us to understand that we have choices so that over time we can make the best decisions for ourselves. All of that said, what if mindfulness, intentional breathing, and movement is another way to boost your energy in the middle of the day? What if you found out that choice is ultimately better for you? 

One thing to keep in mind is that caffeine delays “sleep pressure” (the internal force that draws us to sleep) for five to seven hours, varying with different individuals. If you’re drinking caffeinated beverages (or eating chocolate or food with a lot of chocolate) after 3:00 p.m., it could be affecting your sleep, leading you to feel sleepy in the afternoon. Coffee could be keeping you in a cycle of inadequate sleep and a disruptive midday slump. If you put sugar in your coffee, that could also cause an energy roller coaster: a quick high and then a crash. 

Yoga, on the other hand, can energize you in a balanced way that won’t negatively affect your sleep. In fact, it might support sleep—not to mention all of its other benefits. The following sequence is designed to boost your midday energy without caffeine. There’s no need for fancy leggings or a large amount of time or space. This sequence can be practiced in five to ten minutes, in your desk chair. Yoga to boost your midday energy is a choice, and it could be the right choice for you. 

Yoga to Counteract a Midday Slump

Timed Breathing

  1. Sit up tall and straight, your feet firmly on the ground at hips-distance apart. Feel rooted through your hips and imagine that energy is rising up through the top of your head. 

  2. If it’s comfortable, close your eyes. If not, gaze softly ahead.

  3. Breathe in for four counts, pause for two, and breathe out for two. Repeat that three to five times. Breathing in for longer than you breathe out can be energizing.

  4. If you feel like you can lengthen all three parts of the breath for more counts (for example, 6-3-3 or 8-4-4), go ahead and do so. Or continue with that 4-2-2 count for a few more breaths.

  5. When you’re ready, return to natural breathing and open your eyes if they’ve been closed. 


Breath of Joy

Beginner tips to practice yogic breathing exercises to increase energy without caffeine

  1. Stand up from your chair, setting your feet hips-distance apart. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)—rooted, tall, and your body attuned. 

  2. On a breath in, raise your arms to waist-height in front of you, palms down. 

  3. On a breath out, raise your arms to shoulder-height to the side.

  4. On a breath in, raise your arms all the way to the sky.   

  5. On a breath out, bend your knees softly and take your elbows toward your stomach with a “haaa!” sound. 

  6. Repeat steps 2 to 5 three to five times. 

  7. Once you finish, take a few breaths to notice how you feel, the resonance of intentional breath and movement rippling in waves over you.  


Seated Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow Pose)

Yoga student practicing Seated Cat/Cow Pose (Sanskrit name: Marjarysana/Bitilasana) to increase energy levels mid-day

  1. Sit back in your chair, as you were before, feeling rooted but energized up through your spine, and with your feet hips-distance apart. 

  2. On an inhalation, lift your heart to the sky and let your head and neck fall back, as it naturally will with the movement of your spine. 

  3. On an exhalation, from your tailbone, flex your spine back, so that it curves into a “c” shape. Let your chin naturally fall toward your chest. 

  4. Repeat that three to five times, or more, if your body is calling for that, and you’re not pressed for time. 


Seated Twist 

Beginner yoga tips to practice Seated Twist pose to boost energy without caffeine

  1. Sit sideways in your seat (or as much as you are able if your chair has arms) with the right side of your torso facing the back or arms of the chair.  

  2. Place your right hand on the far side of the chair’s back (or on its arm if your chair has arms) and your left hand on its near side. 

  3. As you breathe in, see if you can get just a bit taller through your spine. As you breathe out, see if you can twist just a bit more. Continue that for three to five breaths. 

  4. Turn to the other side and repeat steps 1 to 3. 

  5. Take a few breaths to see how you feel. 

 

Seated Side Bend

Yoga student experiencing the benefits of practicing Seated Side Bend Pose for an energy boost

  1. Return to sitting forward in your chair, feet hips-distance apart. Gaze softly forward. 

  2. Interlace your fingers and push your palms away from you at chest level, extending the arms out in front of you. Then reach your palms up to the sky, fingers still interlaced. 

  3. On a breath in, grow a bit taller through your spine. On a breath out, side bend to your right. Feel long and spacious through both sides of your body. 

  4. After holding that for three to five breaths, repeat the side bend to your left. 

  5. Release the side bend, and gently shake out your hands. Take any other movements that might feel good, or relax back into your neutral sitting position and tune into how you feel.  


Balanced Breath and Color Wash Meditation

Yoga student practicing balanced breath exercise and color wash meditation to help boost energy during the day

  1. Find stillness in your seat. Close your eyes, if comfortable, or gaze softly forward if you prefer. 

  2. Breathe normally and naturally, but as fully as possible. 

  3. Notice how you feel. If you notice any tension, try to breathe it out. 

  4. Think of a color that makes you feel energized. Imagine that color washing through you, from the top of your head to your toes—every limb, every organ, every cell in your body. 

  5. Take a few breaths and notice how you feel. When you’re ready, softly open your eyes if they’ve been closed, or let your vision get more focused if they’ve been open. 

  6. When you’re ready to move on, continue with your day with more energy—without caffeine. 

 

Lynn Crimando, MA, C-IAYT, certified personal trainer, board-certified wellness coach, YogaUOnline Teacher

 

Kathryn BolandKathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!