You sit all day at your job, typing on your computer, writing, getting up for coffee than doing it over and over again, 8-hours a day, 5 days a week, and your body is feeling it. You hunch over when you’re focusing on your screen, your hips get tight from not moving, your back gets thrown out at the most random times, and it’s beginning to really take a toll on your health. What do you do? Quit your job! Okay, we’re kidding about that part, but by regularly practicing these 5 yoga-inspired stretches for people who sit all day, you can begin to see improvements in your tightness, especially in the shoulders and back, making sitting at work all day a little more enjoyable. Together, they can counteract the compression from sitting all day, lengthening the spine, creating space in the back body, and strengthening your core.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
The tree pose provides great insight into our hips and their health, as well as their limitations. Tree post is one of the greatest stretches for people who sit all day to strengthen the hips, as it’s mainly a balancing pose that relies on our core strength, breathing, stability and hip-opening ability.
To avoid falling over, try not to force the lifted knee to be straight out, but rather, where it wants to go naturally where you have the most stable alignment. It’s okay if you’re not steady and still - embrace the subtle changes and movements that come along with this stretch, and if you need to, head over to a wall and use it as a guide. If standing is too much, try the reclining variation of Vrksasana by laying on the floor.
- Root both feet into the ground and pick a leg to begin lifting. Brace the core, breathe deep, and move slowly as you raise one foot to meet the thigh of the opposite leg. Press one foot deep into the ground and press the other into the side of the thigh for stability.
- Rotate the thigh out and imaging pushing it behind you, opening the hip joint and pelvic region. Bring your knee as far forward as needed. If you cannot reach the thigh, place the foot on the inner calf or even at the ankle.
- Keep the face soft, neck and jaw relaxed, and breathe into the area of the hips that feels the tightest
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and perform equally as many reps on both legs.
Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)
Stretches for people who sit all day don’t have to be complicated or extremely difficult in order to receive maximum benefit. Take hero pose and reclining hero pose for example - a relaxing stretch for fatigued legs from sitting all day. We recommend placing something soft under the ankles or knees if any pain arises throughout the position.
This pose (both seated and lying) stretches the ankles, knees, and thighs while improving circulation, digestion, gas, high blood pressure, and even asthma. By opening the hips and chest areas, we can improve the flow of oxygen and blood flow into the areas that are often pinched and compressed from sitting all day.
- Kneel down on the floor (we suggest having a mat or soft surface, like a folded blanket/towel beneath you) and bring the inner thighs together until they’re touching.
- Move the feet away from the body, slightly outside of the hips, with the tops of the feet on the floor.
- Center your breathing into a steady rhythm and on your exhale, begin to sit back on your feet/heels while slightly leaning forward with your chest (try not to arch your back).
- Pull the shoulder blades back, breathe deep into the lower lobes of the lungs, and sit tall and proud, with the jaw and neck relaxed. From here, for a further stretch, place the hands on the feet and gently lean yourself back into reclining hero pose, only going back as far as you can without shaking or pain. You can bolster yourself on a pillow, blanket, or block, or lean all the way back.
- Hold this pose wherever you’re most comfortable for 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Make sure to breathe deep and remain relaxed.
Marichi’s Pose (Ardha Matsyendrāsana)
Marichi’s pose, sometimes called Sage’s Pose, is a stretch that massages our organs, opens up the shoulders, alleviates back tension, aches, and pain in the hips from sitting all day, while also strengthens and lengthens the spine. It is important to note that in this position, the hips tend to sink back, leaving us with a rounded back which is what this pose is designed to avoid and improve. Only go as far as your flexibility allows until you progress forward in your mobility.
- Start in a seated position, rooting the hips (sit bones) into the floor beneath you. Open the chest tall, strengthen the spine, and align the hips with the neck. Exhale, and bend one knee, pulling it towards the chest with the foot on the ground on the other side of the opposite leg. The foot can be by the calf, knee, or thigh, wherever your body allows, keeping your torso upright.
- Exhale and reach around the knee that is bent and twist the torso, maintaining an upright position. Pull the thigh up towards you loosely and press the hip into the ground. If your mobility allows, reach behind you and you can even look behind you, so as long as you’re not straining or collapsing forward.
- Breathe deep into the lungs and lengthen the spine up towards the ceiling. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then with a deep exhalation, unwind slowly and repeat on the opposite side.
Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Upward-facing dog pose is designed to lengthen the spine, arms, and wrists while stretching the chest, lungs, shoulders, and abdomen. Not only does it call the buttocks into play, but this pose will also stimulate your abdominal organs and improve your posture. Because this pose places our spine in the opposite form of being hunched over at our desk, we can breathe life into the abdominal organs, open up the lower lobes of the lungs, and relieve the compression/pressure on the sciatic nerves in the low back.
- Start by laying flat on the floor or mat. The tops of your feet should be on the floor and your hands should be placed directly underneath your shoulders.
- Inhale and press through the palms of the hands against the floor, extending your chest, shoulders, and head to the sky, squeezing the buttocks firmly, and pressing the top of the feet into the ground.
- Actively draw the shoulders away from the neck and relax. Push the shoulder blades back, breathe deep into the lungs and ribs, look straight ahead and keep your jaw, tongue, and throat open (loose, do not contract/harden).
- Hold anywhere from 15-30 seconds (breathing easily, not straining)
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
Extended Triangle Post is one of those stretches for people who sit all day to practice regularly, as it’s the most quintessential standing pose in many styles of yoga. The pose focuses mainly on strengthening the ankles, legs, back muscles and shoulders while improving the power and stability in the abdomen.
When the abdomen is strengthened along with the ankles, legs, shoulders, and back, we can enable ourselves to sit taller and stronger at our desk jobs, relieving the spinal pressure and compression that contributes to advanced aging and unwanted side effects. Not to mention, this pose rounds out its many benefits by relieving stress, improving digestion, and proves to be quite therapeutic for anxiety, neck pain, sciatica, and even anxiety.
- Standing tall with the hands at your side and the feet together, step your feet apart (3-4 feet) and raise your arms parallel to the floor out to the side. Place the palms down and keep the shoulder blades wide open.
- Turn your feet facing the same direction at an angle and align the right and left heels together. Activate the thighs and turn the right thigh out (the knee cap should be in line with the middle of the right ankle).
- Anchor your feet into the ground for stability. Take a deep exhale and bend from the hip joint (not the waist) guiding the torso directly over the right leg.
- Place the right hand on a piece of your leg that feels best (shin, ankle, knee, the floor, your foot). Stretch the left arm towards the ceiling and keep your shoulders in line with one another.
- Keep the body loose, the breathing consistent, and lengthen. Stay in this post for 30 seconds to 1 minute, keeping the core engaged and the feet rooted deep into the floor. Inhale as you come up and switch sides.