You probably already know that sitting too much is bad for you. Sedentary behavior increases your risk for countless diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately for many of us, our jobs demand that we sit at a desk all day. And unless you have a standing desk (a great option to suggest to your company!) that means sitting on your butt, hunched over, staring at a screen. If all this sounds doom-and-gloom, fear not: there are plenty of stretches you can do at your desk to keep your body and mind refreshed.
No, we’re not talking full-on yoga that will have your colleagues staring—just simple, gentle stretches that will help relieve muscle tension, prevent back pain, and re-energize you for the rest of your day. Studies show that stretching breaks at work can help reduce job stress, cut back on common workplace injuries like strains and sprains, and boost productivity. So give these seven desk stretches a try and see you how you feel afterward. Oh, and PS: after you’re done, try and stand or walk around for a bit!
Cat pose is a common yoga pose typically done on the ground, but we’ve modified it here so you can get the same benefits from a seated version. After sitting for a few hours, your back will need a nice stretch, and this pose does just that, while keeping your spine mobile. Tuck your tailbone and lower the crown of your head so your back gently rounds. Breathe gently as you hold this back stretch.
Often performed in conjunction with cat, cow pose is another great yoga pose. Typically performed on the ground as well, you can still do this easy pose seated at your desk. When you’ve been sitting all day, you might naturally hunch forward over your computer, but this pose helps open up your chest. Lift your heart and tailbone so your back gently curves backward. Look slightly upward with a relaxed neck. It’s going to feel amazing!
3. Figure Four
The seated figure four stretch is a great hip opener, and it will also help relieve that dull, low-back ache that can come from sitting too much. Keep your spine straight as you place one ankle on the opposite leg. Lean forward toward your calf, while keeping a straight back. Switch legs.
4. Seated Twist
This variation on a seated twist is a gentle spinal twist that can also help with low back pain. Sit upright, taking a big breath in as you lengthen your spine. As you exhale, twist towards one side, pulling up through the top of your head on each inhale and twisting a bit further with each exhale. Breathe for a few moments here, before switching sides.
This variation on eagle pose helps to stretch out your arms, shoulders, and back—all of which need some love after sitting all day! Stretch your arms in front of you, and cross your arms in front of your torso so the right arm is above the left. Bend your elbows and snug right elbow into the inside of the left. Pull your shoulders down. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.
6. Modified Down Dog
Downward dog is one of the most frequently used yoga poses, as it gives a phenomenal stretch to the low back, hamstrings, lower legs, and feet. You can perform a modified down dog into your chair by placing your hands on your chair and pressing through your hands as you move your chest towards your thighs and your heels towards the floor.
7. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings are a frequently-overlooked muscle group that doesn’t always get a lot of love, especially if you’re sitting all day. Lengthen your hammies and give them a gentle stretch with this easy move. Place one heel on your desk, flexing your foot and activating your toes. Fold forward gently over your leg, and hold your stretch for ten breaths.
If you want to watch these stretches performed together, here’s a quick video that features five of these poses in an office-friendly yoga flow: