Though it’s become customary for most of us to work at a desk all day, sitting for long periods of time can be tough on the body, especially the neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, hamstrings and lower back.
In this two-part article, we’ll go over some easy poses you can do at your desk to release tension and open up theses areas throughout the day.
Keeping the hips and hamstrings open is essential for preventing lower back pain. As the hips and hamstrings get tight from being in a seated position for long periods of time, they pull on the lower back creating discomfort in that area. Our shoulders tend to round when we sit at a desk and knots like to form in the upper back due to stress.
With this short sequence you can release tension in the upper back and shoulders as well as open your hips and hamstrings!
1) Open Your Upper Back with Eagle Arms
Extend your arms directly out in front of you. Place your right arm on top of your left arm, bend your elbows and intertwine your forearms. Lift your elbows so they are the same plane as your shoulders; press the elbows forward separating the shoulder blades. Lightly round the upper back to create additional space, then lift the chest up and drop the shoulders toward the floor, allow your shoulder blades to slide down the back. If it is difficult to intertwine your forearms, cross one arm on top of the other and grab your opposite shoulder, press your elbows forward and up, so they are on the same plane as your shoulders. Hold for a few cycles of breath and repeat with the left arm on top of the right. See first two images below.
2) Stretch Your Shoulders
A). Forward Fold Shoulder Opener
Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet slightly more than hips width. Interlace your fingers at the base of your spine, lean forward, hinging at the hip, and lift your interlaced fingers up toward the ceiling, taking care not to pinch your shoulder blades together as your interlaced fingers rise. See third image above.
Modification: If you have tighter shoulders and cannot comfortably interlace your fingers behind your back, hold a belt or towel so your hands are shoulder-distance apart, and pull the belt as you lift your arms up.
B) Cow Face Shoulder Opener
Take your right arm up toward to the ceiling, bend at the elbow and place your right palm on your upper back. Take your left hand and hold below the right elbow and lift the upper arm toward the ceiling. This maybe more than enough stretch for you. If you want to go a little deeper, take your left hand to the right elbow and, encourage the right hand to go a little further down your back by pressing the right elbow into your left hand while reaching your right fingers down your back. You can move further into the pose by walking your left hand up the center of your back as far as it will comfortably go, then you can either hold onto your shirt or belt with both hands, If your fingers reach then you can clasp them. With this last variation, pull the elbows away from one another and lift the chest up. Hold for a few cycles of breath and change to the opposite side.
3) Open Your Hips
Place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Flex your right foot. Place your hands on either side of your chair or on the arms rests, sink your sit bones into the chair and lift up out of both sides of the waist. Begin to lean forward, folding from your hips rather than rounding your spine. If you want to go deeper, place your palms on your desk and slide your hands forward. Hold for 10 – 20 seconds allowing your right thigh to relax and drop. Change to the opposite side.
Variation: Hip and upper back stretch: If you want to spice it up, substitute eagles arms, as described in point number one, instead of straight arms create eagle arms and curl them over your front shin.
4) Elongate Your Hamstrings
A) Standing Forward Bend
Stand with feet hip-distance apart about a foot or two away from your chair seat. Bend your knees, hinge from the hips and fold forward. You can place your hands on your chair seat or grab ahold of opposite elbows with both hands. Allow the weight of your head or forearms to sink you a little closer to the floor. Remember to keep your knees bent and spine long.
Variation: Add shoulder Opener: Do the same as above, but interlace your fingers at your lower back like point 2A, and take your arms up and overhead.
B) “L” Shape Hamstring and Chest Opener
Stand facing your desk, place your hands slightly wider than shoulders width on the desktop. Walk your feet back until your torso is parallel with the floor, creating an “L” shape with your body. Allow your chest to sink toward the floor. If you feel compression in your lower back, tuck your tailbone. Hold for 20-40 seconds. Breath into your chest, shoulders and hamstrings.
About the Author:
Laura Burkhart is a 500 E-RYT Yoga Tree teacher who also teaches corporate clients and online through Yoga Vibes and Grokker. Laura’s creative and intelligently sequenced flow classes are known for being challenging, with a smooth and rhythmic flow. She has modeled in numerous Yoga Journal online videos, was spotlighted inOrigin Magazine, and was the June 2010 master class model for Yoga Journal Magazine. Laura worked as the Yoga Director at the San Francisco Bay Club’s Mind/Body Center and now dedicates her time to her students and her philanthropic company, Yoga Reach International. Yoga Reach International is a company that helps communities in need, both locally and internationally, through donations and hand-on projects.