Stretch Away the Stiffness: 7 Yoga Moves for Office Workers
The average person spends 9.3 hours per day sitting down, and for office-bound individuals much of that time is spent hunched over a computer screen or desk. Wired even declared sitting to be “the new smoking” in one 2013 feature, pointing to the adverse physical and mental effects of this sedentary lifestyle. For most of us, daily aches and pains in our backs, wrists, necks, and ankles are the chief consequences of a constrained workplace posture.
Rid yourself of tightness and muscle pain after a long day of work by trying any of these 7 therapeutic yoga moves.
1. Wide-Legged Forward Bend
PopSugar’s Wide-Legged Forward Bend is a helpful practice for opening up hamstrings and tight shoulders, the result of a long day at a desk job. To perform this move, stand up straight with about 3-4 feet between your feet. Turn toes slightly inward, then interlace fingers in a fist behind your back.
Next, inhale, engaging your abs and pulling hands away from shoulders. Exhale and fold forward at your hips while keeping your legs and spine straight. Hold this position for 5 deep, steady breaths, bringing arms forward and lowering towards the floor. When you’ve completed 5 breaths, return to standing position with your feet together. Fold forward once more.
2. Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose, or tadasana, can help counteract a long day spent in a back-cramping desk chair. Huffington Post demonstrates how to perform this chest-opening posture: Begin by standing up straight with feet about hip-width apart. Bring hands up over your head with palms facing forward, hooked at the thumbs. Then, bend slightly backwards, breathing deeply. A certified yoga instructor and founder of Boston’s Yoga Life studio, Vyda Bielkus tells the Huffington Post, “This is a powerful pose to free up tight chest muscles.”
3. Wrist Extension
Typing is a major cause of stress in the wrists and hands, and hours’ worth of it each day can take a serious toll on a person’s joints, even hindering blood circulation in the hands. Women’s Health Wrist Extension will help soothe this ailment: Sit down in a seat with feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. Then, lengthen your spine and neck and let shoulders drop gently down, away from ears. Place hands on lap, interlacing fingers. Breathe in, reaching arms straight out in front of you, and press palms away. Then exhale, raising arms over your head and straighten elbows. If it feels like your shoulders are rising up, keep your elbows slightly bent. Hold for 10 steady breaths, then lower arms. Repeat stretch 2 more times.
4. Lizard Pose
PopSugar’s Lizard Pose can help relieve tight hip flexors, which are a major cause of lower back pain. Begin in a basic Downward Dog position (to adopt this pose, bend forward while standing and place hands on the mat; step feet back behind you, and arch back by pushing hips up towards ceiling). Then, step right foot up and place between your palms, keeping hands planted on floor. Lower left knee to floor and release elbows downward. Keep gaze forward as you slowly lower hips toward the floor. Hold this position for 5 deep breaths, then return to Downward Dog.
5. Cat and Cow Poses
The Huffington Post shares this Cat and Cow sequence for individuals looking to open up their backs and stretch out their spines after a long day at the desk. Begin with hands and knees on the floor in a “tabletop” position. Inhale, then round your spine, arching back into a “cat” pose. As you exhale, lift chest to come into “cow” pose. Repeat this sequence 3-5 times, focusing on keeping your breath steady and consistent.
6. Foot and Ankle Stretches
Get the circulation flowing in your feet with these helpful foot and ankle stretches from Women’s Health. First, sit down and remove your shoes. Then cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Intertwine the fingers of your left hand from the bottom of your foot up between your toes (so you are “holding hands” with the foot). Make 10 circles in each direction with your ankle. Release fingers; hold onto top of foot. Bend toes back towards shin, then forward; perform this stretch 5 times in each direction. Massage bottom of foot with thumbs to relieve further stress, then repeat with your left foot.
7. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing, or ujjayi, is a vital practice in staying awake, relaxed, and focused. It’s difficult to keep our breathing in check while we’re distracted with work, so 99U offers an explanation of how to get the most benefits out of your breathing practice, recommending that individuals try to incorporate this routine about every 3 hours. Begin by inhaling fully through nose (stomach will expand). Slowly, evenly exhale to send air from stomach back up through your chest and nose, keeping mouth closed. Repeat. You’ll notice markedly improved concentration and a reduction in stress levels in no time!