Yoga at Your Desk: 6 Simple Poses to Try

We all know that sitting for a long time isn't good for you. It can cause aches and pains such as a sore back, a creaky neck, or tight hips, which can sap your energy and productivity while leaving you longing for a massage. Sitting can also increase your risk factor for obesity and metabolic syndrome.

One way you can counteract your muscle aches and pains is by performing yoga at your desk. Instead of scaring your coworkers by rolling out a mat and twisting yourself into a pretzel by your desk, try these six simple poses, which don't require special equipment or a change of clothes. Not only can they help you de-stress, but they can give your body and mind a much needed break—and no one will even know that you're doing yoga at your desk.

  1. Overhead Stretch

  2. After hours of sitting, you can feel your spine compress. A little yoga at your desk is the perfect way to stretch everything out.

    Stand and interlace your fingers in front of you. Inhale with your arms overhead so that your palms are facing the ceiling and your knuckles are facing the floor. Keeping your arms as straight as possible, press evenly through the heels of your hands and stretch out your muscles. Take five deep breaths into your belly, release your hands, switch the interlacing of your fingers, and repeat.

  3. Shoulder Opener

  4. Many people have a tendency of slouching, and your shoulders tend to hunch forward when you sit at a desk all day. This stretch will help open up your chest and release tension in your shoulders and upper back. It may even help you breathe easier.

    Start by standing and interlacing your fingers behind your back to make a fist. Roll the heads of your shoulders back and draw your knuckles down toward the ground. Try to keep your palms together as much as you can. Stay like this for three to five breaths, gently release your clasp, switch the interlacing of your fingers, and repeat.

  5. Standing Forward Fold

  6. Are your hamstrings tight from sitting at your desk? This forward fold will stretch them right back out in a very gentle way. Plus, this pose taps into your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest part of your nervous system), so it's great for de-stressing. If you have lower back pain, however, you should skip this pose.

    Stand and fold your body forward while keeping your knees bent and bringing your belly toward your thighs. Let your head and neck relax. Your arms can hang down toward the ground or clasp opposite elbows to create a frame over your head.

  7. Standing Quad Stretch

  8. This move will stretch the muscles in the front of your leg and hips, which can shorten when you sit for a long time and then contribute to lower back pain.

    Stand in front of your desk for support. With your feet firmly rooted on the ground, lift your right foot and hold it against your behind with your right hand. Lengthen your knee toward the floor and draw your belly in. To challenge your balance, lift your left arm to the ceiling. Hold the pose for five to eight breaths, release, and switch sides.

  9. Seated Hip Stretch

  10. Our hips bear the brunt of the pain when we sit for long periods of time, and this pose can help release the tension that's stored in your hips.

    Sit on the edge of your chair and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Place your forearms on your shin and apply slight pressure to open your hips. Hold for five to eight breaths, release, and switch sides.

  11. Chair Twist

  12. Need to relax? This move helps to relieve tension in your back (and barely looks like you're doing yoga at your desk).

    Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands on the left armrest or, if you don't have an armrest, on the back of the chair. Inhale to straighten your body with your spine and exhale to twist toward the back of the chair. Hold for five to eight breaths, release, and switch sides.

Yoga at your desk doesn't have to be complicated or difficult. It doesn't even require a yoga mat, props, or a change of clothes. If you sit at a desk all day and need a break, mentally or physically, get up out of your chair and move through a few of these yoga poses—you won't regret it.

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