“Yoga, whether seated or standing, is an excellent way to move during the workday because it doesn't require any special equipment or clothing,” Jill Braverman, a certified yoga instructor, health coach & personal trainer. “Simultaneously, it stretches and strengthens the body and provides a relief from mental stress through deep breathing.” Ready to learn some yoga moves you can use to make your work day healthier and more enjoyable? Braverman and a few other yoga instructors chimed in to share their favorite stress-busting, office-friendly yoga moves. Read on to find out which poses they recommend most.
Braverman explains that this movement is great for lubricating the joints of the spine and stretching the muscles in the area through their full range of motion. Perform cat/cow by first sitting up towards the front edge of your chair. Place your hands on your knees and then slide your hands back to the mid-thigh area as you inhale and lift your chest while tilting your chin upward slightly. On the exhale, slide your hands forward and round your back as you let your head gently release forward. Repeat the movement for three to five breaths.
Sit at the edge of your chair with a straight spine, shoulders back and down. Keep your legs together and reach your right hand to the outside of your left knee. Reach your left hand to the back of your chair as you slowly twist to your left. Braverman says you can keep your gaze forward, or for a deeper stretch you can turn your neck slowly to look over your back shoulder. After three to five breaths slowly untwist and then repeat on the other side.
Braverman says that this pose helps to boost energy and to counteract the hunched over position that many of us assume while typing. Sitting tall, bring your hands either to the sides of your chair or the back of your chair. Take a breath in as you draw your shoulders back and lift your chest, slowly tilting your chin up towards the ceiling. Hold for three to five breaths and then slowly release, returning to a normal seated position.
“Side bends create space in the intercostal muscles between the ribs, which makes deep breathing easier,” says Braverman. Place your left hand at the side of your chair and reach your right arm straight up over your head. Take a breath in as you slowly lean over to your left. Hold the stretch for three to five breaths before releasing slowly and repeating on the other side.
Another pose recommended by Braverman, she says that this forward bend pose is good for stretching your hamstrings, as well as for releasing tension in the back. Sit at the edge of your chair and stretch your right leg out in front of your so that your heel is on the ground. Keep your left knee bent. Place your hands on your thighs and inhale as you sit up tall. As you exhale, fold your torso forward slightly making sure to keep your back flat. You should feel a stretch in your hamstring (the back of your leg). Hold for three to five breaths and then repeat the stretch on the other leg.
“Seated pigeon stretches the muscles of the hips and groin, which in turn also helps to prevent low back pain,” says Braverman. Start sitting tall at the edge of your seat and then cross your right ankle over your left knee. Place one hand on your right knee and one on your right ankle and then slowly fold forward. For a deeper stretch you can lightly press down on your right knee. Hold for three to five breaths and then repeat on the other side.
“All forward bending postures slow down the nervous system and induce a gentle relaxation,” says Los Angeles based certified yoga and meditation instructor Catherine Tingey. “This one in particular lengthens hamstrings which are shortened while sitting, and elongates the spine. While in wide-legged forward bend you can add this visualization—imagine a waterfall cascading down your back, increasing space between each vertebrae and slowly pulling your head to the earth.”
Kelly DiNardo , yoga instructor and author of Yoga for the Genius, recommends this pose for stretching the shoulders and upper back. It can be done while seated or while standing. “Loop the right arm under the left and try bringing the palms to touch,” she explains. “Lift the elbows and take the hands away from your face. Hold for five breaths and switch sides.”
“Stand in front of your desk and place the palms down on the edge,” DiNardo explains. “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.”
“This full-body stretch allows you to lengthen out the spine and stretch your legs without needing to bend your legs in any tight pants or flip upside down in a dress or skirt,” says Grace Dickinson, a Philadelphia-based yoga teacher and communications manager for LifeVest Health, a wellness program that enables and incentivizes users to track and improve their health. “You can utilize the edge of your desk or a wall to align the outer edge of your back foot with it and anchor you as you stretch your torso forward.”