Sitting is the new smoking, say all the experts everywhere. Hunching over a keyboard creates tension in your shoulders, neck and lower back. (Do you feel that way right now?) So, we asked yoga instructor Holly Ramey to show us six stretches to help soothe our aching bodies…
First, Holly suggests stretching with your shoes off, if possible: Feeling your feet connecting with the floor is very grounding. You can also take mini breathing breaks, which will help you feel centered and reveal where your body is holding stress. The hands and fingers often hold onto tension, says Holly. Theyre always ready to work, ready to go.
Pose #1: Cat and cow: These seated poses help counter hunched-over-the-keyboard posture by stretching the spine and shoulder blades. The cat pose is a gentle backbend, and the cow is a forward bend. Start with your feet flat on the ground, hands on knees. On an inhale, push your chest and belly forward, letting your spine gently curve. Life your gaze slightly upwards. As you exhale, round your spine, drop your head and take your gaze downward toward your navel. Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths.
Pose #3: Shoulder opener: If youre feeling the mid-afternoon slump, simply interlace your hands behind your back, then draw your shoulders in behind you. This opens up your shoulders and the front of your chest. To go deeper into the stretch, extend your arms backward and bring the stretch all the way into your wrists and forearms.
Pose #4: Ankle-to-knee pose: When we sit, our hamstrings can become tight, which can then create tension in the lower back, cautions Holly. One way to counter lower back pain is to open up the hips. Cross one leg over the other, so your ankle aligns with your knee. Hold it for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side. If you want to go deeper, lean your upper body over the desk.
Pose #5: Side stretch: Place one hand on the side of your chair, the other arm up. Keep both shoulders relaxed as you lift up and over. Repeat on both sides. There are breathing muscles between our ribs, called intercostals, says Holly. When we breathe into them, they soften. The fuller and deeper our breath is, the more relaxed our mind will be. (Sounds nice, right?)
Pose #6: Twist: If you only have time for one quick stretch, make it the twist, says Holly. Lace fingers behind your head. Gently twist your body in your seat from one side to the other. Twisting is also good for digestion (so try this post-lunch!), detoxifying, and stimulating the kidneys. Twists create release for the neck and shoulders, as well.
Pose #7: Just kidding.
Thank you so much, Holly! Were feeling more relaxed already.
P.S. Do you exercise?
(Written by Caroline Donofrio. Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo. A huge thank you to Holly Ramey for demonstrating all of the poses)