How does your body feel after long hours at the desk?
If you tend to hyperfocus on the computer until your back is stiff and sore, you'll benefit from adding these stretches to your work day. You don't even have to leave your desk!
Whenever you practice these suggestions, be sure to be gentle with yourself. It's not about intensity or duration... The key with stretching is frequency, because of how muscle fatigue works. The more often you can take a little break, the quicker your body will bounce back.
With that in mind, here are 4 great stretches to practice throughout your work day.
Let’s start with some gentle mobilization of the spine. The intention is to move each spinal segment and shake off any stiffness.
HOW TO: Flex and bend your spine in your pain-free range (Seated Cat/Cow). Then add some twists to the mix.
#1 Unlock Your Legs
When you sit at your desk with your legs bent, your muscles get locked into that position. That means the calf and hamstring muscles on the back of your legs want to stay short and tight because that's how they maintain the bent position...
...Then, when you stand up, you can hardly straighten out your legs and back. The tightness of the back of the leg pulls on your pelvis and creates poor posture and low back stiffness and soreness.
The solution - this stretch!
Fun fact, this simple and effective stretch is good for you in more ways than one... It's also a neurofascial stretch. It lengthens your spinal cord and stretches your nerves from head to toe!
HOW TO: From a seated position, stretch out one straight leg in front of you, and bend over it.
#2 Unlock Your Hips
If you've gotten a massage from me, you've probably felt some surprisingly tenderness and tightness in the hips. Our hips also lock up when we sit all day. Let's stretch that out!
HOW TO: Rest your ankle on your knee (you may already feel a stretch with just this). Keep your back straight and strong and bend forward at the waist to stretch your hips.
In this position, you can also add a side stretch or gentle twists to open up your spine.
#3 Open The Front of the Body
Now we’re moving from lower body to full body with one of my personal favorite stretches.
This stretch opens up the front of the hips and the front of the shoulders - which are key areas that get very tight when you’re sitting at a computer for hours.
See how this pose is basically the opposite of your desk posture? Perfect stretch!
HOW TO: Plant your feet securely on the ground in front of you and grab the sides of your seat with your hands. Now, lift your pelvis off your chair as high as you can, and press your chest and pelvis away from your chair so you get a full body stretch.
There's a couple considerations with this stretch:
Protect your neck! Be gentle and keep it relaxed.
Keep your shoulders over your hands (stack your joints!)
Consider the tilt of your pelvis. In a back bend, it's tempting to scrunch your low back, but you'll get the best hip flexor stretch if you tuck your tailbone and use your abs to pull up on the front of your pelvis. Just try rolling your pelvis forwards and backwards and see how it feels.
#4 Neck Stretch
Yes, this stretch was also on my list of the best Stretches for Headaches. It’s just that good.
This is a stretch for the base of your skull, and it's excellent for correcting "forward head" posture and preventing tension headaches.
HOW TO: Sit up straight. Tuck your chin to your chest. For some people, that's enough. For additional stretch, use your hands to apply gentle pressure to the back of the head. You can also look to the left and right while in this position to stretch the edges of the suboccipital muscles (towards your ears rather than the back of your head).
Now that's feeling better...
We’ve lengthened the major muscle groups of the leg so they’re not pulling on your low back, and we've opened up the shoulder and neck to prevent stiffness and upper back pain.
That's the majority of the desk threat defeated with just four stretches!
How do you feel after trying this routine? Personally, I need to throw in a couple more wrist stretches before I'm done. Take a minute to ask your body if any other areas need attention before you dive back into whatever it is you were doing (or maybe you need to drink some water?).
Have you considered ways to help your muscles that aren’t stretching? I love these functional rest postures that help your muscle groups balance, relax, and recover while you get to take a power nap.
Take care of yourself!