Here are seven great yoga poses for nurses to start their shifts off on the right foot.
(This post is not a substitution for medical care. Please consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine. This post also contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses
What do you think would happen if every nurse did an energizing 20-minute yoga routine before every shift?
Its likely nurses have a chance to clear their heads, connect with themselves, and give themselves a moment to prepare for the busy 12-hour shift ahead. Not a bad way to start off the day.
Many nurses may underestimate the physical and mental wear-and-tear of long shifts. The start the day fueled on cups of coffee and then they are not getting the rest and recovery they need afterward.
So, as nurses, we must do the best we can to take care of ourselves the best we can (obviously no one else at the hospital is going to help up out with that). This includes giving our bodies the rest, rejuvenation and tender love that we give to our patients each shift! No more self-sacrificing attitudes!
Yoga is a fantastic way for nurses to reconnect with their bodies and make sure they are in a healthy and happy mental state – both before and after a nursing shift.
7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses To Start The Shift Off Right:
#1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose is a great yoga pose for nurses to start within the morning. Ground your feet and press evenly through all four corners of each foot. Stretch your arms towards the floor and draw your abdominals in and up.
Hold for five to eight breaths to get focused and ready to move deeper into your practice.
Benefits of Mountain Pose:
Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
Increases strength and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips
Firms abdomen and buttocks
#2. Upward Salute Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Upward Salute Pose
This is a great awakening pose for nurses before a shift. From Mountain Pose, lift your arms up overhead and press your palms firmly together. Keep the tops of your shoulders released away from your ears and activate your triceps. Keep the abdominals engaged and the legs firm.
Hold for five to eight breaths.
Benefits of Upward Salute Pose:
Stretches the sides of the body, spine, shoulders, and belly
Tones the thighs
Helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue.
Helps create space in the chest and lungs
#3. Cat-Cow Pose
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.
Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.
Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back. Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
Repeat 5-20 times, and then rest by sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.
Benefits of Cat Cow Pose:
Brings flexibility to the spine
Stretches the back torso and neck
Softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs
Open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep.
Calms the mind
Helps develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body and brings the spine into correct alignment
#4. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho mukha svanasana)
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
From neutral Cat Cow pose, push your hips up into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
Press firmly into your hands and roll your up arms outwards. Lengthen up through your torso and keep your abdominals engaged. Actively use your legs to keep bringing your torso back in space. Bend your knees if needed.
Hold here for eight to ten breaths.
Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose for nurses:
Helps build bone density in the arms
Builds upper body strength
Helps to decrease back pain and stiffness.
Helps boost circulation by putting your heart above your head
#5. Warrior I (Virabhadra I)
Warrior I Pose
Step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach your hands actively towards the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx.
Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. Rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis to the front of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward. Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.
Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the rib cage away from the pelvis.
Stay for 30 to 60 seconds and switch sides.
Benefits of Warrior I Pose:
Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck and belly
Strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles, and back
Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles
Opens your hips, chest, and lungs.
Improves focus, balance, and stability
Energizes the whole body
#6. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Forward Fold Pose
Stand in Mountain Pose with your hands on your hips. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don’t lock your knees.
Engage your quadriceps and draw them up toward the ceiling. Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles. Let your head hang.
Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips. Keep your back flat as you inhale and return to Mountain Pose. Repeat 2-5 times.
Benefits of Forward Fold:
Helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia
Stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves
Opens the hips and can relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.
#7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is a beginner’s yoga pose often performed to rest between more difficult poses. The position stretches the thighs, hips and ankles and helps relax the body and mind.
Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs.
On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.
Benefits of Child’s Pose:
Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
Reduces stress and fatigue
Relaxes the muscles on the front of the body
Elongates the lower back
Calms the mind
Rests the body
Care for yourself first through yoga, so you can care better for patients after.
Nurses must get into the practice of taking good care of themselves first, so they can continue to take great care of patients as well. After all, nurses serve as role models for our patients. If we don’t take our own health advice, why should our patients listen to us about anything else?
A good way to start is by practicing these energizing pre-shift yoga poses for nurses. And then see how much better you feel heading into your shifts!
Essential yoga props to start your yoga practice:
After 13 years of yoga practice and have tried many yoga props along the way. You don’t need much to get started. Here are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home.
I love this yoga mat. The quality is very good for the price. I have this exact mat in my living room and after 2 years it still looks brand new. It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried. In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place.
Yoga straps are useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture. In addition, I love the Manduka cork yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new! Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and regular use. They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip. It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.
This post for helping nurses find new quick and easy workouts that they can fit into even the busiest schedule.
Nurses know more then anyone that there are so many benefits to exercise. It helps our minds, bodies and souls because it:
Helps to control weight
Reduces the risk of heart disease
Manages blood sugar and insulin levels
Improves your mental health and mood
Strengthens your bones and muscles
Improves your sleep
And most importantly, it releases hormones that make you feel good!
But as a busy nurse, it can be so hard to find time to exercise, especially since the average workout class lasts about 60 minutes.
The good news is that there are lots of workouts that can easily be done at home on your own time whenever you have a few free minutes. Below are seven ideas that will help you squeeze in a quick & effective workout with minimal equipment and time.
So, take off your scrubs, put on your workout clothes and get moving!
7 Quick And Easy Workouts For Busy Nurses
Here are 7 quick and easy workouts for nurses to fit into their busy schedules:
Think you must to get to the gym and lift weights for an hour to get stronger? Think again! As the name implies, bodyweight exercises use your bodyweight to build strength, no equipment necessary. Bodyweight workouts can focus on the upper or lower body or combine them both for a total body workout.
You’ll do moves such as push-ups, squats, lunges and tricep dips that rely on your body weight and proper form to work your muscles. These moves either don’t require equipment at all or can be done using items around your house, such as a sturdy chair. Some people also like to use an exercise mat to provide a bit more cushion.
While running is often associated with training for a marathon or distance, it can also be a remarkably efficient workout for those who don’t want to spend hours exercising. Running for just 20 or 30 minutes will get your heart rate up and your blood pumping, and all it requires is a pair of supportive running shoes.
If the weather doesn’t permit you to run outside, see if you have access to a gym—even the smallest, most under-equipped workout room usually has at least one treadmill. And if you dislike the repetitive nature of running, create a music playlist or download a compelling podcast so you can get two things done at once as you move.
Plyometrics, also called jump training or plyo, is another form of an intense and efficient cardio workout. Exercises include the squat jump, tuck knee jump, lateral jump, power skipping, vertical jump, lunge jump and more. These explosive movements get your heart rate up and burn calories in a short amount of time.
A word of caution: The intensive nature of plyometrics means that this workout isn’t the best choice for everyone, especially those who have lower body or back issues or those who are new to working out. However, if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape—say, you’ve been running a lot and you’re looking for some variety—plyometrics is definitely worth checking out.
Boxing requires a lot of equipment. You need a punching bag, gloves, hand wraps and so on. Certain versions of kickboxing simplify this approach, allowing you to practice without all the equipment (sort of like shadowboxing). As the name suggests, kickboxing focuses on powerful kicks, with the hands and feet being used as the main contact points.
This karate-inflected style can be used as self-defense, but it’s also a very popular workout class both online and in real life. If you’d like to get out some aggression and stress while getting in a workout, simply Google “at home kickboxing workout videos” and plenty of results will pop up. You may feel a little silly punching and kicking the air at first, but you’ll be sweating in no time!
Aerobics is a catch-all term that refers to any activity that strengthens the heart and lungs, such as walking and swimming. Some aerobic exercises require a lot of time or equipment–or both—but plenty of others can be done at home whenever you have a few minutes. Lots of online cardio workouts fall into the aerobics category and they often have a theme such as step or dance.
Classes usually range in length from 10 to 60 minutes, so you can choose whatever suits your schedule. Make sure you check that no equipment is required before deciding on an aerobics workout. Some don’t require anything at all besides tennis shoes, while others may use a step-up box, light hand weights or other small equipment.
In their original form, very few ab workouts require weights or other equipment (though you might want to use an exercise mat to provide a bit of cushion and keep you from slipping during core work). From planks to crunches to sit-ups to leg lifts to toe touches to oblique twists, there are literally dozens of ab exercises you can do at home whenever you have a few minutes free in your schedule.
If you need some inspiration, there are lots of ab workout videos available for free on YouTube to get you started.
Body weight exercises are a fast and easy workout for busy nurses.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is more of an approach than a specific type of exercise. HIIT involves giving your maximum effort to exercise for a short period of time (usually less than a minute) followed by an even briefer rest period.
You may also have heard of Tabata, which is a specific type of HIIT workout that follows this pattern: eight rounds of 20 seconds of exercises at maximum effort and then 10 seconds of rest. HIIT can be used for bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, running—pretty much any workout you can think of. HIIT is a great way to shake up the pace of your workouts and increase their intensity and efficiency without eating up more of your precious time.
Now, its time to get moving!
If you’re a busy nurse who’s crunched for time (and really, who isn’t over scheduled these days?), check out one of these workouts to fit exercise into your day. Any workout is better than no workout, so even if you only have a few minutes, make them count!
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Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com, a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening
If the answer is yes, that’s awesome! You are working in an honorable and philanthropically rewarding field. But unfortunately, if you are like a lot of hardworking shift workers, you may at times feel overworked, exhausted, and even burned out.
With a little preparation and focus on your well-being, you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients. Its time to focus on nurse self-care!
11 tips to THRIVE as a nurse during 12-hour shifts:
Nurse self-care should be a priority. That includes getting a good night’s sleep!
Nursing schedules revolve around a need for 24/7 patient care. Sleep deprivation is a real concern, especially for those working night shifts. Nurse self-care starts with a good night (or in some cases day) of sleep. Here are a few tips to encourage healthier sleep habits after you complete a 12-hour shift:
Turn off the tv (an hour of sleep is always more important than another episode)
Get your heart rate up on your days off! The benefits of exercise have been well documented is essential for nurse self-care. It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood, and helps decrease stress levels. Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also allows nurses to have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.
Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.
#3. Grocery shop
A well-balanced diet is essential for nurse health and wellness.
Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure proper nutrition. It is no secret that healthy food choices are crucial for overall good health and well-being. Make sure you are filling your plate with high-density vitamins and minerals. You simply can’t maintain good energy and stamina over a 12-hour shift on sugary snacks and fast food!
Plan ahead by creating a grocery list of the foods you want to eat while you are at work. That way, you won’t be tempted to reach for something unhealthy when you have a few moments to eat in-between caring for patients.
Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast: Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice, or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge. These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around. When you get hungry, you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt. The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.
#4. Eat a healthy breakfast
Oats: a nutritious yet straightforward way to start a 12-hour shift (nurse self-care can be tasty!)
Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the doughnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:
More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity and maintaining stamina to survive through a 12-hour shift.
Improved concentration, which can help you give better patient care.
A diet higher in complete nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Tips for nurses to ensure that you have a nutritious meal ready before each 12-hour shift: Make several mason jars of overnight oats with a variation of these flavors: blueberry/strawberry/raspberry, peanut butter, and maple, banana and walnut, or almond and raisin. You can add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefits. Then top it off with a dash of cinnamon for a delicious ready-to-eat breakfast.
Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach. Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy. But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired. On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12-hour shift.
Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:
Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
Celery and almond butter
Granola and yogurt
Almonds or cashews
Sliced apples and peanut butter
Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
#7. Don’t overdo caffeine
Green tea: a healthy drink for 12-hour shift workers!
Many studies suggest that coffee and tea have incredible health benefits while also giving you an extra boost of energy. Unfortunately, caffeine can also have the opposite effect by leading to rebound fatigue after it leaves your system. Therefore, it’s a good idea to aim for moderate caffeine intake to help minimize rebound fatigue.
Additionally, one of the drawbacks of too much caffeine late in a 12-hour shift is that it can also cause insomnia. And nurses need their sleep to help recover from the hard work we do taking care of patients each day!
Extra tip: Green teas (like this one) can give you an energy boost with additional antioxidant benefits and without the caffeine jitters!
#8. Get good shoes
Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.
I have been alternating between my Dansko clogs and New Balance tennis shoes as a nurse for over six years. My feet thank me for it. Invest in quality footwear that is built to protect the feet of busy hospital workers who are on their feet all day.
“I wish I didn’t invest in comfortable, sturdy shoes,” said no nurse ever.
Drink water throughout your 12-hour shift and stay hydrated!
Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the whole day. It is so easy to do when you are extremely busy with back to back patients and heavy work assignments.
Invest in a good water bottle with a seal-able lid (to prevent accidental spillage). Keep it where you do most of your charting in the nurse’s station. And try to make it a priority to drink your water every hour during your shift to stay hydrated.
Make your own chia seed water: Add 3 tbsp of organic chia seeds to your water bottle and mix well (you can add more or less to your liking). Within a few hours, the seeds will blow up in size and into a gelatinous consistency.
(Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron, and calcium. Just another easy way to add nutrients into your busy day!)
Prevention of varicose veins: Standing for extended periods causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge, increase in pressure and stretch, causing unsightly varicose veins.
Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots: A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours.
Decreased swelling of ankles and feet: Swollen ankles and feet are a common side effect of being on one’s feet for a 12-hour shift.
Many nurses who wear compression socks say that their legs “feel more energized” after a 12-hour shift. Pregnant shift workers are especially at risk of leg swelling (due to increased blood volumes during pregnancy) and should consider wearing them to prevent venous issues.
Nurses need yoga, period. Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12-hour shift, but a relaxed and more focused nurse can give better patient care.
Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in the literature. The Mayo Clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate,” among many other benefits.
Nurse self-care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:
Stress management. A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight weeks of yoga, the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. (If that is what can happen after only eight weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain. Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced-based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Yoga not only increases flexibly but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
Are you a nurse who is experiencing burnout and want to live a healthier life? Nurse self-care should not be an afterthought. Do you have any other self-care tips for nurses that you would like to add? Leave a comment!