Have you ever noticed how, after you’ve been sitting for a while, your whole body just feels tense? Like, your shoulders feel like they’re above your ears, there’s a burning sensation in your shoulder blades, and your hips are so tight you’re afraid you might fall over if you try to stand?
Of course you have, you sit at a desk all day long.
Instead, I’m going to give you some practical tips for undoing some of that tightness. Because sometimes it’s inevitable that you’re going to be stuck in a long meeting where it’s highly frowned upon to get up and stand in the back of the room doing yoga (although…who the eff cares?).
Or you’re in the car for six hours and can’t exactly stand up. (Those are some acrobatics I’d love to see.) Maybe you’ve just got a long commute. Or a really long flight.
Maybe it’s just a regular day where you really wanna finish that report that’s been hanging over you head so you can finally just go home already and powering through without a break is about a million times more appealing than getting up. Because every second you’re not in that chair means more time in the office. Shudder.
Here are ten stretches you can do from the comfort of your chair that will help breathe some life back into your lifeless body.
Chin to Chest
This one is deceptively simple, like a lot of things really. Like scheduling a meeting or reserving a conference room.
Sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and bow your head so your chin reaches toward your chest. You’ll feel a real nice stretch in the back of the neck. Make sure you keep your shoulders down, and take several deep breaths.
We’re going back to gym class here with some neck stretches. You know, the ones where you were always wondering what the hell good they did.
Tilt your head to the left and gently place your left hand on your head. Don’t pull on your head — just kind of let gravity do the work for you. When you’ve taken a few good breaths, switch to the other side.
Holy crap, whenever I do this one, I swear it sounds like bones are breaking. Creak, crack, broke.
Sitting up tall, bring your shoulders up to your ears and then slowly roll them down and back. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to hear lot of noises. It’s cool, but just stop if something doesn’t feel quite right.
For Thriller arms, you’re going to stretch your arms out in front of you and bend your hands at the wrist, so your fingers are pointing to the ground.
After five deep breaths, point your fingers toward the sky (or ceiling because we all know we’re stuck inside cubicle land). Spread your fingers. For a little bit of a deeper stretch, take your opposite hand and gently pull back on the fingers. And switch.
Reach for the Sky
All I’m hearing in my head right now is Woody in Toy Story: “Reach for the sky!” You know, when you pull his string? Okay…
Continuing to sit up nice and tall, interlace your fingers at you heart and then stretch your arms out in front of you, palms facing away. Then, slowly raise your arms overhead, keeping your fingers interlaced and your palms pressed up toward the ceiling.
Keeping your arms overhead and your fingers interlaced, slowly tilt to the left until you feel a nice stretch down your right side. For a little bit of a deeper stretch, you can grab your right wrist with your left hand.
Slowly return to center and then take it to the other side. If you want that deeper stretch on the left side, too, grab your left wrist with your right hand.
Moving on to the legs! If you’ve ever done yoga and if you’re totally not flexible (oh, hi), you’re probably cursing as soon as you see pigeon. Fret not, my friend. This is a little variation that will feel oh-so-nice for your hips.
Sitting in your chair, with both feet on the floor, carefully bend your right knee up toward your chest and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Don’t worry if your knee is crazy high — that’s why we’re stretching.
You can chill out here, or you can slowly lean forward a bit, pressing your right thigh open a bit more with your hands. Be careful not to force anything. You might get some worker’s comp, but, really, no one likes to get hurt.
When you’re ready, switch to the other side, bringing your left knee up toward your chest and gently placing your left ankle on top of your right thigh. You can take the same variation on this side if it feels good.
Seated Forward Fold
This stretch was recommended to me by my chiropractor when I was dealing with some sciatic nerve issues. Sitting in a chair is not fun when you’ve got intense pain running down the length of your leg.
Sitting all the way back in your chair (so, not on the edge of your seat), widen your legs and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor. I like to point my toes at about a 45-degree angle. Then, slowly hinge forward from the waist and try to touch the floor.
Your legs should be wide enough to allow your upper body to fold forward. But it shouldn’t be so uncomfortable that you feel pain in your hips. It’s a stretch, but don’t stretch it…if you get what I’m saying.
Seated Cat Cow
Now to release a little bit of tension in the lower back, we’ll hit up some cat cow. Sit up straight with your hands on top of your thighs. Slowly, start to arch your back and open your chest up a bit. You can look up if that feels good.
Then, start to round through the spine. Your hands will slide toward your knees, and you can use that catch yourself to really get a nice stretch. Repeat a few times and make sure you’re taking those deep breaths!
The last stretch is a simple seated twist. So, still sitting in your chair, place your left hand on the outside of your right thigh and twist to the right. You can place your right hand on the back of your chair to help you get into the twist, but don’t force it.
Try to look past your right shoulder and make sure you’re not slouching forward.
Return to center and switch sides. Bring your right hand to the outside of your left thigh and twist toward the left, placing your left hand on the back of your chair if you’d like.
All right, how do you feel?
Hopefully, a bit lighter, a bit more open, a bit less tense. These stretches don’t take long, but, done over time, they will help keep your muscles loose and relaxed. And they’re just a little bit of movement to break up your day — without even leaving your chair! Although I totally recommend that…
Do you have a favorite stretch? There’s tons of good ones that involve getting out of your chair — share yours below!
P.S. If you wanna have a mid-day stretch session together, I'll be going live on Facebook, Wednesday, April 4 at 2 p.m. EST. Hope to see you there!