Chairside Yoga for the Everyday Hygienist

By Michelle Watkins, RDH on November, 28 2018
Chairside Yoga for the Everyday Hygienist
Michelle Watkins, RDH

Michelle is a dental hygienist with a history working in private practice, public health, education and advocacy.

First of all, I need to start this whole thing off by stating I am no expert in the art of yoga, nor do I pretend to be. My exposure to yoga has been some participation in various classes, different apps on my phone and a fun class at my state’s Annual Session about yoga for the dental hygienist. This is where I found that incorporating some regular, or sometimes intermittent (let’s just be honest), modified “chair yoga” to be really beneficial for me.

Yoga, as you know, is very helpful for ailments such as stiff muscles, nerve pain, back pain, digestive issues and so on. As hygienists, we sit all day, often in poor ergonomic states. Our vertebrae compresses, and all too often we are left with aching backs, nerve pains and bulging discs.

Squeezing in a few movements throughout the day to get our back moving and decompressing can really make a big difference. And the thing is, we often don’t have a lot of extra time to get to a yoga class, and often aren’t excited about turning on an app in our jammies to go through the motions with some lady who has an annoying voice telling us how to breathe, only to wonder if we are doing it right.

As a working mom of two boys I have become the master of multi-tasking. What if I could stretch out and do my yoga while at work? What if you could do “yoga” right in your chair at work? Well you can! And the good news is there are tons of articles and resources out there for you to look into, but I will go over some of my favorites below.

Please keep in mind you most likely will have a chair with wheels or maybe even a saddle chair, making stability an issue. Please be safe and mindful when trying these. If any of these cause any pain or discomfort, please discontinue and seek medical recommendations.

I specifically chose simple, beginner movements that could be done on a saddle chair. Thought it is not the safest chair to do extracurricular movements in, it’s becoming one of the most popular dental hygiene operatory chairs. Utilizing a more stable chair without wheels would be ideal. Again, be safe and careful when trying these movements. I challenge you to incorporate some of these simple movements into your daily routine and to further your practice by looking into other movements.

Chair-side Cat/CowThe cat/cow

Sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your knees and inhale, lifting chest and rolling your hips out behind you. Look slightly toward ceiling and gently squeeze shoulder blades together. On an exhale, round your chest, scoop in your belly, and curl tailbone under as you drop your head toward your chest, spreading those shoulder blades back out. Repeat for as many as you can get in between patients. 


Lower-back circles

Sit with feet hip-width apart and hands resting on your knees. As you inhale, begin circling your torso clockwise, making sure to initiate movement from base of spine. Complete 5 to 10 rotations. Stop and then repeat the motion in opposite direction. Continue alternating until your next patient arrives.

Seated twistSeated twist

Sit with feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, extend your spine so you’re sitting up nice and tall. Raise your arms up and out to your sides. As you exhale, gently twist your upper body to the right while you lower your arms. Your right hand will rest on the top of the chair’s back or the edge of saddle chair and will help you to gently twist as your left hand rests at your side. Look over your right shoulder use your grip on the chair to help you stay in the twist, but not deepen it. After a few nice steady breaths, release this twist and return to facing the front and repeat on your left side.



2018-11-28 15-27-07 +0000Roll-downs

Note: The following should only be done in a stable, non-saddle type chair. This could also be done very easily standing up.

Sit or stand with feet hip-width apart and hands hanging at your sides. From the head, start rounding down through spine. Exhale, letting your forehead release forward and the weight of your head bring you over until top of your head is by your thighs. Inhale and slowly start stacking your vertebrae as you round up to your sitting or standing position. Draw your belly button to the spine to protect your back, and feel the articulation as you round up. Continue rolling down and up for several cycles, or until you feel better, or your patient arrives.


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