If you’re anything like the average American, you probably spend more than half your day sitting — much of this time in front of computer at the office. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent studies establishing that this sedentary office-dwelling habit is linked to increased risk of developing serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
But sitting at a computer all day also does a number on the way your body feels. Changes to your posture sorta sneak up on you over time, starting small and subtle then becoming more and more significant. The change is often so gradual that you don’t notice it until things start to get really achy and hurt all the time.
We don’t often see our repetitive pattern of sitting as the problem. Instead, we blame physical activity or our workouts because that’s when the discomfort seems to intensify. But we’ve actually got that backwards.
Prolonged sitting causes certain muscles to shorten and tighten while allowing others to overstretch and weaken, resulting in problematic muscular imbalances. If you work out regularly or are hoping to start, the effects of these imbalances will most likely ultimately show up during and after your workouts, even potentially causing injury.
Of course, we can save ourselves a lot of grief by taking time throughout the day to stand up and move around a bit.
And here are five simple yoga poses that can be done anywhere for those of us who find ourselves sitting at a desk all day.
1. Bound Forward Fold
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart with your hands clasped behind your back, palms touching. Press your hands away from your pelvis, feeling a stretch across your collarbones. Hinge at your hips and fold in toward your legs as you press your knuckles toward the opposite wall. Keep your neck relaxed, your palms together and work to get your legs straighter without locking your knees, weight evenly distributed between the balls of your feet and your heels. Hold for 30 seconds, gently release your hands and slowly roll up to standing.
Stretches your shoulders, chest and hamstrings.
On your exhale, press into your hands to round and broaden your upper back as you drop your head and look back toward your legs. Repeat for eight to 10 breaths.
Come onto all fours, wrists under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Spread your fingers wide. On your inhale, pull your chest through your arms, drop your navel down, and look up.
Stretches your spine, back and chest.
3. Thread the Needle Spinal Twist
On all fours, walk your hands a little farther forward in front of your shoulders. Take your right hand across your body and under your left armpit, then place it on the ground with your right palm facing up. Rest your right shoulder and ear on the floor. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat with the other arm.
Stretches the neck, shoulders and back.
4. Cow Face with Eagle Arms
Set up your legs first by crossing your left leg over your right so that your knees are stacked directly on top of each other. Then, take your left arm under your right arm just above the elbows, bend your elbows and grab your right wrist with your left hand or bring your palms together. Press your elbows up and forearms away from your face to deepen the stretch.
Stretches the thighs, outer hips and entire back.
5. Half Frog
On all fours, extend your right leg behind you and rest it on the ground as you bend your left knee and gently move it out to the left side. Keep your hips and left knee lined up, lower your hips toward the ground. Your left shin should be parallel to your right leg with your ankle lined up with your knee, foot flexed and toes pointing out. Rest on your hands or forearms for 60 seconds then switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Stretches the inner hips, inner thighs and psoas.