Now that many of us are working from home and not going out as much as before, we are undoubtedly sitting for longer periods of time than we’re used to. Research has linked prolonged periods of sitting to a higher risk of compromised metabolic health, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more — even when adults meet physical health guidelines.
So, what’s the fix? Aside from incorporating exercise into your daily routine, you can sit on a stability ball instead of a desk chair (which engages core muscles to keep you upright), utilize a standing desk, or take frequent breaks to move your body and stretch.
Here are seven yoga stretches you can do at your desk while working from home (or in the office!) to loosen your muscles, melt away tension, and help counteract the extra hours of sitting.
1. SEATED NECK STRETCH
Benefits: This simple stretch, done either in a chair or on a mat, works out the tightness in your neck and shoulders associated with hunching over your phone or computer.
Sit comfortably in your chair or on a mat. Take your right arm across your head, and hold it just below your left ear. Relax your left shoulder and gently stretch this side of your neck — focus on relaxing your shoulder to create a bit of extra space between your ear and shoulder. Hold and switch sides, now draping your left arm across your head and holding it below your right ear. Stretch your neck and let your right shoulder relax away from your ear. Remember to keep your side tall rather than collapsing.
2. SEATED CHAIR TWIST
Benefits: This seated stretch relieves stiffness in your neck and shoulders and releases tension in your spine and back. When working from home, sometimes our desk setup isn’t ideal, so this stretch will help bring life back to the spine.
In a seated position, hold the outside of your right knee with your left arm and reach your right arm back behind you. Reach strongly with your right arm to keep you from leaning forward and rounding your back. Lift your chest up toward the ceiling, and press your feet down into the floor. Release and come back to the center. Repeat on the other side: now hold the outside of your left knee with your right arm and reach your left arm back. Turn your shoulders and look past your left hand (or just toward the left if it feels uncomfortable). Remember to be strong with your left arm, lift your chest high, and press your feet firmly into the floor.
3. UPWARD DOG ON DESK (or chair)
Benefits: This twist on a classic pose improves your posture and stretches out your chest, lungs, shoulders, and abs.
Begin in the Desk Push-Up position on a sturdy desk or chair with your hands about shoulder-width apart and your torso diagonal to the floor. Press your hands into the desk, lean your hips forward, and push your chest up. Lift your chin to the sky as you hold and breathe for several seconds.
4. STANDING HAMSTRING STRETCH
Benefits: Tight hamstrings, which can result from all of sitting we do when working from home (getting up less to talk to coworkers etc) can impact your pelvis and lower back. Stretching out your hamstrings decreases sciatica and lower back pain, gradually lengthens your thigh muscles, and increases circulation.
Step your right foot out a few inches in front of your left foot. Take your right heel to the floor and lift your toes up so your foot is at a 45-degree angle and fold forward, feeling a stretch in your hamstring. Your left knee can bend. You can take your hands to your right thigh for support, reach toward your foot for a deeper stretch, or take your hands toward the floor. Lift up to standing, then repeat on the other side.
5. HIGH LUNGE TO HIGH LUNGE FORWARD BEND
Benefits: This standing stretch releases tension in your hip flexor and calf muscles while toning your hamstrings and glutes.
From a standing position, step your right foot forward, keeping your knee aligned on top of your ankle. Draw your left leg back and come into a High Lunge. Lean your chest over your right leg — draw your right hip in and reach your arms back alongside your body. Straighten your arms completely (don’t worry about locking out your elbow as you’re not weight-bearing) and then lift your arms up behind you as you straighten and squeeze them until you feel the contraction in your triceps. Hold here for three seconds, then come back to High Lunge and release. Repeat on the other side.
6. PIGEON POSE ON DESK
Benefits: Pigeon Pose offers many benefits, such as opening your hips and hip flexors, reducing lower back pain and stiffness, and stretching your thighs, glutes, and piriformis (which can become aggravated by sciatica). The best part? When you’re working from home, nobody knows if you’re doing a pigeon pose during a zoom meeting!
Carefully place your right shin on the desk parallel to the edge, or draw your right heel in toward your body. From here, fold forward slightly until you feel an outer hip and glute stretch, then walk your hands over to the right to add a bit of a twist and side stretch. Walk your hands back into the center and carefully switch sides.
7. LEGS UP THE CHAIR INVERSION
Benefits: This supine pose improves the circulation to your hips, legs, and lower back in addition to calming your mind.
Begin in Savasana on your mat, with your chair on one end. Scoot your legs forward toward your chair, and put both feet up on it. With your hips and head on the mat and your arms open wide, focus on relaxing and dragging out your inhale and exhale. Inhale for a few counts and slowly let it out. Repeat your breaths for a few more times, then take in a deep breath, pause at the top, and sigh out your mouth.
The best part about working from home? Lunch time savasana!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emma Cunningham is a seasoned yogi, writer & digital marketing connoisseur. Nomadic since a young girl, Emma spent three years traveling the globe solo while studying yoga in places like India, China, & Bali. Learn more about Emma here.