Hi all! I’m back with another rendition of my Yoga #TipTuesday and I have a feeling this one applies to a whole bunch of you. Raise your hand if you work somewhere that requires you to sit for up to 8-10 hours at a time? (*raises hand) For those of you who don’t know, I currently have a full time job as a digital strategist at a PR firm right in the heart of NYC. As much as I love what I do, I have to say the office life wreaks some serious havoc on my hip flexors, hamstrings and back. When you sit at a desk all day, it’s so easy to develop really bad posture… which is terrible for you. Like, really terrible. Over time, consistent bad posture can lead to headaches, depression, fatigue, sore muscles and in some cases, nerve damage. Yikes!
After years of maintaining a sedentary job, I’ve realized that although exercising and stretching outside of work helps tremendously, it’s still important to find ways to stretch during work. The following are 5 stretches you can do at your desk – without looking like a complete weirdo. Well, I mean you may look a little strange with some of these. My advice? Just own the weirdness.
I demonstrated the following stretches on a piano stool for visibility purposes but these also work in most standard desk chairs. If not, try to make a variation work for you!
Staff Pose with Flexed and Pointed Feet
- Strengthens and stretches calves, ankles and arches
- When combined with a slight forward fold (with straight back) it’s a great hamstring stretch
- Prevents lower back pain
Yogi Tips: This is the most discreet of all the desk-stretches, which is why I make a point to do it multiple times a day. Practice good posture by keeping your spine neutral and reach through your calves and thighs. Lengthen your torso as if someone is pulling the top of your head upwards with an invisible string. Lastly – don’t forget to breathe. Inhale as you flex, exhale as you point.
- Stretches chest, shoulders and upper back
- Enhances circulation by opening up the lungs
- Nourishes the spine, keeping it healthy and happy (plus it’s a great counter for all that slouching)
Yogi Tips: Start by bringing your bottom towards the end of your seat, leaving enough room for your arms to land behind you. On an inhale, stretch your arms up towards the ceiling and then exhaling lower your arms and grab the back of your seat. On the next inhale, open your heart towards the ceiling until you feel a yummy stretch in your shoulders and chest. Hold for a few breaths and release.
- Stretches hips, inner thigh and groin
- Tones and strengthens the core muscles
- Increases circulation and improves concentration (perfect to get you through all those meetings!)
Yogi Tips: You can slowly loosen up the hips by opening and closing one leg at a time until you feel comfortable with opening both knees to the sides of your chair. Keep your spine long and shoulders stacked directly above your sit bones. You can add a spinal twist here or even a simple shoulder stretch! Play around with it and do what feels right – and what you can feasibly do while sitting at a desk. 😉
Seated Side Bend
- Stretches the chest, back, obliques and adductors
- Energizes your body, which makes it a great stretch for those long afternoons
- Releases stress and tension
Yogi Tips: This is such an invigorating stretch for the entire body! It’s important to keep your hips firmly on the chair and keep the spine long and lean. First inhale deeply, then bring your right arm above your head, exhale while bending towards the left side, turn your head to look at the right elbow and keep the chest open. Stay for a couple breaths and then come back to center. Repeat on the other side.
Easy Pose with Cat/Cow
- Stretches the neck, shoulders and spine
- Warms up the body and stimulates the abdominal organs (like the kidneys)
- Helps to prevent back pain when done regularly
Yogi Tips: I love doing this whenever emails are starting to blur together and I need to take a second to clear my head. Start in easy pose or lotus, and alternate between inhaling as you open your chest and exhaling as you round your back. Repeat this stretch 5-10 times gently and at your own pace.
I hope these stretches help you to feel a little more flexible and less “stiff” at the end of your work day. In addition to consistent stretching, I also recommend getting up and taking 5-10 minute walks every hour. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t keep a water pitcher at my desk… it forces me to get up and walk to the kitchen for refills!
If you try any of these out, please send me a note and let me know how they worked for you. Good luck and happy stretching!