Sitting, or holding any stationary posture, for an extended period of time is not great for the body. When we sit for too long, certain areas of our body get less blood flow, and muscles and joints lose their extensibility. This decrease in blood flow, stimulation and movement often leads to soreness, fatigue, cramping and discomfort.
While it’s probably not possible to change your job description enough to avoid sitting completely, incorporating stretch sessions into your day can make a big difference. To really make sure the muscles, connective tissue and joints stay healthy, it’s good to move through full ranges of motion periodically.
How often should you stretch when working at a desk varies depending on your body and how you’re feeling that day. But, at a minimum, I recommend stretching every two hours, as this is practical for most people. Also, simply getting up and moving as often as possible can help increase blood flow and improve both physical comfort and your ability to focus.
1. Seated Side Stretch:
Side-bending postures stretch and lengthen your sides and back, release compression between the vertebrae, help open the diaphragm and increase the range of motion in the spine, which can help relieve tension in the neck.
- Sit at the edge of your chair with both feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale and sweep your arms overhead.
- Interlace your fingers, turn your palms up and keep your arms by your ears.
- As you exhale, bend toward the right.
- Hold here for 5 breaths, inhale to center and exhale bending to the left.
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2. Seated Eagle:
In this variation of Eagle, you’ll focus on the arms, which will help relieve tension in your neck and shoulders and stretch the upper back.
- Loop the right arm under the left and try to bring the palms to touch.
- Lift the elbows toward shoulder height and take your hands away from your face.
- Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides.
3. Seated Pigeon:
The pose opens up the hips, groin, hip flexors and thighs, which is the perfect antidote to hours sitting at your desk.
- Scoot to the edge of your chair and cross the right ankle over the left thigh.
- Flex the right foot and gently press the right thigh toward the floor.
- Sit tall and take 5 breaths in this hip opener before switching sides.
4. Seated Spinal Twist:
This pose is a panacea for the back. It stretches your chest, abdominals and low-back muscles, releases tension and toxins and just feels good.
- Come to the edge of your chair and keep both feet flat on the floor.
- As you exhale, twist to the right, holding the arm or back of the chair.
- Hold here for 5 breaths and switch sides.
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5. Modified Down Dog:
This modification of down dog stretches the arms, shoulders and back and creates length and space in the spine, which can get compressed with too much sitting.
- Stand in front of your chair and hold onto the back of the chair.
- Without moving your hands, walk back until you make an L-shape with your body.
- Keep a small bend in the knees.
- As you lengthen the arms, think about pulling your hips away from the desk, stretching the shoulders, chest, low back and hamstrings.