It’s no secret that sitting all day can wreak havoc on us as humans. We know it’s important to move and breathe not just for our physical health, but our mental health as well! Moving and stretching during the work day can keep our bodies in balance, and give us a little zing of energy. This not only makes us a little happier each day :), but it allows us to be more productive and effective while at work!
And the beauty of it all is — you don’t even have to leave your desk to get things going! On a tight deadline? Stuck in a meeting? No problem. Use these five poses to strengthen, lengthen and invigorate the body right now! Let’s work from the ground, up.
1. Seated Pigeon
While sitting all day, the hips are essentially forced into one position — seated. Maybe you shift your weight back and forth, crossing one leg over the other, trying to find a comfortable position. This, however, can result in misalignments in the body, and what your hips really need is just to move. The hips are the biggest joint in the body, and if they remain sedentary for too long, it can affect not just the hips but also your low back and your legs. It’s important to keep the hips open to stimulate blood flow through these areas, and also just relieve discomfort.
If you’re chained to your desk, you’re still in luck. A seated pigeon can be just the solution you need. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, so your legs almost resemble the number “4.” Keep your right foot flexed (to protect the knee joint), and feel for extending the knee out to the side, externally rotating the thigh. You can even do this manually, by using your fingertips to rotate the thigh outwards. Take a deep inhale, and on your exhale, slowly learn forward with a straight spine. Take another deep inhale, and fold forward again on your exhale. Find your max, and hold for 3-5 deep breaths, keeping the elevated foot flexed. Repeat on the left side.
2. Seated Twist
The spine is what holds it all together. Twisting is not only good for spinal health, but it also benefits your hips, shoulders and the surrounding muscles and tissues. If you can keep your spine from getting stiff, then you too will be more mobile.
Sit with your feet planted hips-width distance apart, bring your hips to the back of your chair and find a straight spine. Bring the back of your left hand to the outside of the right knee. Take an inhale to lift the crown of your head up, ribs up, and exhale to twist to the right. Keep your low belly pulled in, and sits bones and hips rooted down beneath you — it’s important to keep the core active and hips square as you twist the upper body. Continue to inhale and exhale, lifting and twisting. Repeat on the other side.
3. Pericardium Stretch
The pericardium is a thin sac that surrounds the heart, so this stretch can literally stretch your chest and your heart! The pericardium lining goes through the front of your chest and down the inner arms, to the fingertips. In moments of stress and anxiety, this stretch can increase blood flow and oxygen to the heart and can help you calm down.
With a straight spine and feet planted, extend arms out to the side, parallel to the floor. Strongly flex fingertips up to the ceiling and spread them wide. Take a deep breath into the center of your chest, and a strong exhale out the palms. As you exhale, imagine you are keeping two walls from caving in on you. Keep fingertips flexed and spread wide. Take five very deep and strong breaths. When you release, let the arms go heavy by the sides, close the eyes, be still and breathe.
4. Neck Stretch
We hold a lot of stress in our necks, specifically where the neck meets the shoulders. Relieve this quickly, by extending the right arm out at a downward-diagonal angle, pointing fingers about to the point where the wall meets the floor. Bring the left hand to the top of the head, take a deep inhale, and exhale to slowly lower the left ear down to the left shoulder, so you are lengthening the right side of the neck. Actively reach through the right fingertips. You should feel a stretch down the side of the neck and through the top of the arm. Take 3-5 deep breaths, and repeat on the other side.
5. Eagle Arms
It’s easy to not even notice how tight your shoulders can get from sitting hunched over at a desk all day. This position then transitions into the rest of our lives, and we are constantly hunched over! The key here is to increase the shoulders’ mobility. Use this pose to stretch the tops of shoulders.
Bring your arms up into a “cactus” or a “goal post” position — elbows out in line with the shoulders, forearms up. Then, bring the elbows together in front of you, and cross the right elbow under the left, so that the backs of your forearms and backs of the hands touch. Stay here, or double bind and bring your palms together, fingers straight up. Keep elbows in line with the shoulders, inhale to squeeze elbows together, and exhale to push them forward, away from you. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths. Release the arms wide again, and repeat on the other side.
If you’re feeling spicy and want to get up out of your seat to keep stretching, try these out!
This stretch is super helpful to lengthen the front sides of the legs, which are compressed when we sit all day.
Start with feet together, and if you’d like help balancing, hold onto a table or a chair. Shift your weight into your left foot, and bend your right knee back. Grab the outer edge of your right foot, and gently move the heel towards the hip as you reach the knee down (imagine literally lengthening the thigh here). Keep both knees together. Take 3-5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Forward folds not only stretch the hamstrings, hips, sides of the body and the spine, but they calm the nervous system and stimulate blood flow to both ease stress and anxiety and give you a little boost of energy.
If you don’t want to fold fully forward, stand behind a chair or a table, feet planted hips width distance apart. Keep a little bend in the knees as you hinge at your hips, and bring hands to the chair or the table, so your body is in an upside down “L” shape. Keep knees bent, belly pulled in, and relax the head and neck. This will give you a little extra shoulder stretch. Push down into the chair or table to activate the arms to protect the shoulders. Take 3-5 deep breaths.
For a full forward fold, plant your feet hips-width distance apart and bring hands to the hips. Inhale to lift the crown of the head, lift the chest, and pull the belly in as you exhale and fold forward. Keep a slight bend in the knees, and bring hands to the ground, forehead to shins. Keep the knees bent, belly pulled in, and let the upper body get heavy, maybe grabbing for opposite elbows. Take 3-5 deep breaths.