Whether you work from home or spend hours a day at work in front of a computer, sitting and working on a computer most of the day can cause some serious havoc on our posture and create tension which leads to aches and pains. While the pandemic may be coming to an end, many of us are still spending much of our day sitting behind a desk or screen working which can lead to major neck and shoulder pain.
There are lots of ways to battle the aches and pains associated with sedentary desk work. Today I’m sharing some amazing desk and office friendly chair yoga poses that are perfect for releasing tension and stretching the areas of the body, such as the neck, shoulders, back and hips, that often hold stress when working at a computer. Adding some of these stretches and movements throughout your day can be incredibly helpful preventing neck, back and shoulder pain. Even just 5-10 minutes of movement or a quick lunchtime break can make a difference. The best part is that even if you have to stay at your desk, these stretches are still accessible to to you and catered to doing while sitting in a desk chair.
For other great tips for creating a more optimal home and office workspace, check out my post on Zulily where I share tips about about optimizing your posture and tips for creating a home workspace.
Below are a few wonderful stretches that specifically target the muscles of the neck, shoulder and back. Adding just a few of these chair yoga poses and movements is a great way to get the blood flowing, release tension and stress and give your body some much needed TLC.
Chair Yoga Stretches You Can Do At Your Desk
Neck Release (loosen tense neck and shoulder muscles)
Sit comfortably upright in your chair with your feet grounded on the floor. Slowly look in all directions (up, down, left and right). Gently bring your chin to your chest and gently tilt your head to the right, bringing your ear towards your shoulder (make sure to not hike or scrunch up your shoulders). Hold for 5-10 breaths and you will feel a wonderful side stretch on your neck and upper shoulders. Repeat on opposite side.
Seated Cat/Cow (open shoulders and chest with spine flexion)
Sit upright on edge of with foot planted on ground hip distance apart. Place hands on knees or thighs. On an inhale pull your chest forward to broaden your collarbones,lift your chin and gently bring your gaze upwards (toward your “third eye” or space between your eyes). On an exhale, slowly begin to round your spine (like a scared cat), tuck your chin and release your neck. Continue this movement through 5-10 cycles (feel free to hold each pose for several breaths if it feels good to your body).
Seated Forward Fold (release tension in neck, back and hips)
Sit upright on edge of chair with feet slightly more than hip distance apart. Place hands on thighs and take a deep inhale. On an exhale, slowly fold at the hips and bring your chest forward and down as you fold on or between your legs. Let your body hang heavy and release any tension from your shoulders or neck. On an inhale, slowly bring yourself upright with your hands on your thighs.
Shoulder opening option: Before folding, clasp hands behind your back with hands clasped. You can also use a towel to grasp with each hand to make more space, if needed. When folded gently lift arms upwards to intensify stretch.
To gently stretch your shoulders, hold one arm across your chest (for example, right arm across your chest with your hand moving towards your left side). As you pull your elbow into your chest, you should feel a stretch across your shoulder.
Desk Downward Facing Dog (stretch shoulders, chest, hamstrings and calves)
Stand in front of your desk (make sure it is stable). Place your hands on the edge of your desk and take a step back to give yourself some room so that your body is in a “L” shape. Gently bring your chest and heart space towards the floor. Take several breaths in this position. This is a great stretch for shoulders, chest, hamstrings and calves.
Crescent Moon (side stretch)
Sit on edge of your chair with your feet hip distance. On an inhale raise your arms above your head. Grab your left wrist with your right hand and gently pull towards the right for a side stretch. On an exhale, bring your hands upward center and grab your right wrist with your left hand and gently pull towards the left. Continue these movements with your breath for 5 breath cycles.
Chair Pigeon (tight hips)
Sit in a chair with your feet hip distance (towards the front of chair). On an inhale, lift your right leg up towards your chest (can pause and hug it in towards your chest if it feels comfortable to you). With your knee bent and foot flexed, cross your right ankle over your left thigh just above the knee on an exhale. You may feel a deep stretch in this position.
If you feel like you need a more intense stretch, on an inhale lengthen the spine and gently fold forward at the hips with a straight spine at first only as far as you’re comfortable. Once folded you may gently and carefully release the spine to fold in deeper.
Seated twists (stretch for lower back, shoulders and chest opening)
Started seated on the edge of a chair with feet hip distance apart. Place left hand on right knee. Inhale to lengthen spine and twist to the right (through your midsection) on an exhale. You can gently bring your gaze towards your right shoulder if that feels ok to your body. Hold for 5 breaths. On an inhale, return to center and repeat on the left side.
Reverse Happy Baby (hip opener)
Begin seated on the edge of a chair with feet hip distance apart. Lengthen your spine on an inhale, and fold forward at the hips bring your body between your legs (tuck your chin to your chest). Bring your arms and elbows behind your calves and reach for the outside edge of your feet. Using the strength of your arms, gently pull your body into a deeper fold. Hold for several breath cycles. On an inhale release and slowly pull yourself up.
Eagle Arms (shoulder and upper back stretch)
While seated with tall spine, start with your arms out to each side (90 degrees – like a goalpost) and cross your right arm over your left with elbows bent. If possible wrap your forearms together and bring your palms together as well. Keep your shoulders low away from your ears and gently lift your elbows away from your chest. Hold for several breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
Option to intensify: When arms are in the eagle arms position, you can gently press bottom of upper arm onto a desk top or table for a deeper stretch.
Shoulder Circles (shoulder mobility)
Shoulder circles are a great way to get some blood moving and offer some mobility. Reach arms out to your side (shoulder level) and circle arms a few times forward and then backwards.
When you’re busy working and meeting deadlines, it can be easy to get wrapped up in work and find that you’ve barely moved throughout your day. Taking a stretch break throughout your day is a great way to stretch your muscles, avoid fatigue and give muscles a break from tension. If possible, aim to get up once every hour, even if it’s just to refill your water bottle, check the mail or to do a few of the simple desk yoga stretches recommended above. Your body will thank you for some sweet TLC during your busy workdays.