Many people, without realizing, spend most of the day slouching over desks and sitting on the couch, which can lead to back pain, neck pain, headaches, and weakened core muscles. By taking just a few minutes each seated hour or two to do the following exercises, you can reap the benefits of better posture, improved circulation, and clearer mental functions. Remember to breathe long and deep while in each stretch, the belly expanding with each breath in, and shrinking toward the spine with each exhale. This “belly breathing” not only provides better oxygen flow to the brain, thus improving circulation and thought processes, but contributes to stress release and many other positive effects. These 5 simple stretches will give you the mid-day refreshment you need to feel your best!
1. Chest stretch. Place both hands on the back of your head, elbows outward, and interlock your fingers. Make sure your back is straight, pelvis rocked forward, and that your shoulders are relaxed downward, not shrugging up towards your ears. The goal is to bring your elbows back as much as possible, bringing your shoulder blades closer together. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
2. Spinal twist. This one is great for wrist and lower back tightness, and to stretch your sides. Sit sideways on the right side of the chair. Put your right arm up in the air, making sure your back is straight, and swing the right arm to the back of the chair on the opposite side. Be sure to breathe long and deeply in this pose; sitting up straight will give the rib cage more room and makes the breath easier. Hold this pose for a 3-5 breaths and then switch to the left side.
3. Neck stretch. Tuck your chin forward to touch your chest and enjoy the stretch in the back of your neck for 3-4 breaths. Make sure to keep your back flat to keep the spine aligned. Slowly swing your chin down and to the left, looking at your left shoulder, and hold for 3 breaths. From the left swing right and look at your right shoulder, holding for another 3 breaths. Repeat this cycle once more with one long breath per movement.
4. Arm and shoulder stretch. Hold your right elbow with your left hand across the front of your chest and gently pull to stretch the shoulder. Hold for 3-5 breaths and switch to the left. Next, interlock your hands behind your back, shoulders relaxed down, back straight, and palms facing toward your lower back. Gently pull back, expanding the chest and stretching the shoulders. Hold for 3-5 breaths and slowly release.
5. Leg stretch. Place the left foot flat on the ground, and put the right leg out straight; imagine your toes stretching up and back toward your forehead. Draw yourself upward, back straight, and, leading with the pelvis, lean forward. Keeping the back flat is crucial to feeling the best stretch in the back of the leg. It helps to sit as far forward on the chair as possible. Hold for 4-5 breaths and switch to the left leg. Repeat on both legs for 3 breaths.
Next, place the left foot flat on the ground and hug your right knee into your chest for 3-5 breaths. Make sure to keep the back straight. Repeat on the left leg.
1. Elise Miller & Carol Blackman. Yoga Journal, “http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/231.” Accessed February 4, 2014. http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/231.
2. Schreiber, Katherine. Huffington Post, “Stretches All Desk Workers Should Do Today.” Last modified June 14, 2013. Accessed February 2, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/stretches-desk-workers-sitting_n_3422679.html.
3. Brooks, Melanie. Work Awesome, “Desk Fitness: A Series of 11 Simple Stretches.” Last modified April 1, 2013. Accessed February 3, 2014. http://workawesome.com/productivity/desk-fitness-series-11-simple-stretches/.
4. One Powerful Word, “18 Benefits of Deep Breathing and How to Breathe Deeply.” Accessed February 4, 2014. http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html.