Sitting at your desk all day long is hard on your body but taking regular stretch breaks can counteract back pain and repetitive strain, helping you feel better and be more productive. Here are six simple office yoga stretches you can do at your desk.
1. Neck Stretches:
PREDICAMENT: Your head weighs an average of about ten pounds, which is a heavy weight especially if you aren’t using your neck properly to hold it up. Most people tend to hunch their shoulders and stick their head forward while working on a computer. This can lead to neck pain.
SOLUTION: Put your feet flat on the floor, put your hands in your lap, and keep your shoulders relaxed. Turn your head slowly to look over your left shoulder then turn to look over your right shoulder. Repeat ten times. Then, tilt your head toward your left shoulder and hold in position for 30 seconds; tilt your head slowly to your right shoulder and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times. Let your chin drop to your chest, then circle your neck slowly until the right ear goes under the right shoulder. Then change direction and slowly rotate until the left ear rests under the left shoulder. Repeat three times.
2. Wrist Stretches
PREDICAMENT: Repetition of the same movements and holding your hand in the same place (usually on the mouse) for long periods of time can cause a variety of wrist problems including carpel tunnel syndrome.
SOLUTION: Hold your arms in front of you, keeping your elbows straight. Hold right hand up as if making a sign for stop. With left hand, grasp right fingers and gently bend fingers back until a stretch is felt. Hold briefly, then switch hands. With arms still outstretched, fold right hand down so fingers point toward the floor. With left hand, grasp right fingers and push the fingers gently toward the body until you feel a stretch. Hold briefly then switch hands.
3. Low Back Stretches
PREDICAMENT: 43% of office workers report back pain, whether caused by bad posture, sitting too long or an uncomfortable desk, computer and chair designs.
SOLUTION: Push your chair away from your desk. Sit with feet flat on the floor and knees spread apart. Bend forward toward the floor, allowing your head to drop. You should feel a comfortable stretch in your lower back. You can also interlace your fingers behind your back, bend forward at the waist, straightening your arms and bringing your hand up over your back.
4. Mid-Back Stretches
PREDICAMENT: Sitting for too long in one position can contribute to tightness or even pain in the middle of your back.
SOLUTION: With both feet flat on the floor and hands on your knees, inhale slowly while arching your back like a cat and looking up at the ceiling. As you exhale, round your spine and let your head drop forward. Repeat. Now, cross your arms so that your hands are holding the opposite bicep, almost as though you are giving yourself a hug. With your feet flat on the floor and your lower body unmoving, gently and slowly rotate your upper body to one side and then the other. Repeat ten times.
5. Chin Stretches
PREDICAMENT: Sitting causes low back pressure which in turn forces the head forward to compensate. Regular chin and neck stretches can prevent muscle strain and other issues caused by posture.
SOLUTION: Sitting with feet flat on floor and hands in your lap, tuck your chin in gently and pull your head straight back, keeping your eyes and jaw level. You should feel a stretch at the base of your head. Hold for five seconds and repeat.
6. Just Breathe
PREDICAMENT: People under stress tend to breathe more rapidly and shallowly—which can actually increase our stress as we aren’t able to take in the oxygen we need and to get rid of the carbon dioxide we don’t. Often when we are stressed at work, the best stretch we can do for our mind and body is a stretch of the lungs. A key principle of yoga is the breath.
SOLUTION: Find a comfortable posture with feet on the floor and arms and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes. Let your mind focus only on the feeling of your breath coming in and out of your body. Let your chest and abdomen relax as they fill with air. As you exhale, let the tension go. Feel the oxygen flowing throughout your body, giving you both calmness and energy. After five minutes, you will be ready to get back to work.
Yoga at the office might feel unusual at first but studies have clearly shown the value of regular breaks in the day and the health benefits of breaking up sitting with stretching and moving around. Taking just a few minutes to do desk stretches can reduce stress, encourage health, and energize you for work.