Long hours of being chained to your desk can leave you feeling stiff, achy, or ready to hand in your resignation letter and apply to one of those companies that has a nap room. But don’t throw in the towel (or fall asleep on your keyboard) just yet.
Yoga teacher and wellness influencer Jenay Rose (@namastejenay) has the solution: five quick and effective yoga-inspired stretches that you can do at your desk. “Whether at home or in the office, it’s important to move your body to keep you alert, focused, and comfortable,” says Jenay, a certified yoga teacher based in Los Angeles.
Here are some of her favorite yoga stretches to shake you out of your midday slump and help you refocus.
Garudasana (“eagle arms”)
This is the perfect stretch to counter all that slouching that happens when you lean over your keyboard, which Jenay says “puts pressure on the scapula, trapezoids, neck, and lower back.”
Here’s how to do eagle arms properly, according to Jenay: “Inhale your arms out to a T shape. Exhale and bring the right elbow under left, wrapping your arms around each other to your own degree. Bring your elbows down and away from your body, and try to relax your shoulders down your back. Breathe, smooth and long inhales and exhales. Stay here for about a minute. Do the opposite side. Finish this with a few yummy, slow neck rolls going both directions.”
“Sitting all day has a huge impact on your lower body posture, including the inner and outer hips and low back,” says Jenay. “Your hips store your emotions, stress, anxiety, fear and trauma, so that compounded with sitting for a long period of time is bound to hurt!”
Here’s how Jenay does reclined pigeon at her desk: “Bring the right ankle over the left knee. Fold forward to the degree that works best for you. If you have any tightness or pain in the knee, trying sliding the right foot towards the left / farther over the knee so instead of your ankle over the knee it's more of the shin bone. If this still hurts, please release the leg.”
This pose stretches out the hamstrings (which are notoriously tight), arms, and chest.
“Stand over your desk with bent knees, arms on the desk,” says Jenay. “Tighten your abs, bringing belly button towards spine to stabilize your low back. Lean forward toward the ground, slowly bringing the legs almost straight. Do not lock the knee, or allow the ribs to jet out. Don't force anything, but rather respect your body. Try this a couple of times throughout the day. Breathe into the stretch for 30 seconds.”
Jenay thinks of twists in yoga as “a massage for your internal organs.” Twists also help reset your posture by releasing the spine, which is mega important for anyone stuck in a desk chair all day. (Here are tips for setting up your desk for better posture.)
To do the gentle twist stretch, sit at the edge of your chair with feet together and parallel, and gently twist your body at the waist to the right. “Hands can be on the chair or desk—whatever gives you the most leverage,” says Jenay. “Lead with your chest, not your neck. Feel free to let the head hang slightly (chin toward chest) or stay in a neutral position. Inhale and think about lifting up through the crown of your head and getting long; then exhale and twist a little deeper. Repeat this 3-4 times, and then twist to the left.”
Uttanasana (forward fold)
This pose is perfect for undoing the damage of not-so-great posture. “When you sit, typically you become unaware of your posture,” says Jenay, “so your stomach spills forward, your low back over arches, your shoulders creep up to your ears, and your head jets forward.”
To do a forward fold, keep you feet parallel and hip-width apart. Says Jenay, “Fold your chest over your thighs, taking a generous bend in the knees. Clasp opposite elbows, or just hang like a ragdoll. Gently sway or just breathe here. Feel free to gently begin to bring the legs almost straight, but avoiding locking out the knee. Bent knees release the low back while straighter legs becomes a hamstring stretch. Breathe here for 30 seconds. Slowly come up to reset the spine.”
Find more tips on mindfulness and holistic living from Jenay on her website.