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Sitting at your desk each day may seem harmless, but engaging in this sedentary behavior for the bulk of your everyday life can have serious effects on your health.

You may have noticed you struggle with tightness in your hips and legs. Perhaps your neck, shoulders, and lower back feel tense as well. This is all a result of sitting hunched over your keyboard for hours a day. 

And even worse, while you sit at your desk hunched over your keyboard, you are reinforcing poor posture. So, when you finally step away from work and step out into the world, you likely carry a similar posture with you.

That is unless you implement these daily yoga exercises. Each of the exercises can be done traditionally on a yoga mat or modified right from your desk. 

Here are the nine best exercises to add to your yoga practice after sitting at a desk all day. Your entire body will thank you!  

1. Downward-Facing Dog

downward dog on ground

Benefits:

If you only do one pose during your day, make it a downward-facing dog. This yoga pose targets and lengthens so many areas of the body, including your back, hips, hamstrings, calves and shoulders. 

The inverted position also allows heightened blood flow (oxygen) to your brain, neck and shoulders. After even 5 deep breaths, you may feel a significant release of tension in these areas.

How to:

From your mat - Start on hands and knees. Walk your hands forward slightly, tuck your toes, lift your knees off of your mat, and press your hips up and back. The goal is to make an inverted “V.” 

If you have tight hamstrings, keep a generous bend in your knees. Work to lengthen your spine by pressing your chest back to your thighs. Stay for 5-10 slow breaths.

Modified downward dog standing and using desk

From your desk - Stand up beside your chair or desk. Place your hands on the stable surface of your chair or desk and walk your feet back ~1-2 feet. Press your hips back as you drop your chest between your arms. 

Allow gravity to support the opening on your shoulders and chest while lengthening your spine and hamstrings. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths.

2. Cat/Cow 

Cow position on floor
Cat position on floor

Benefits:

When you sit at your desk with rounded shoulders and a hunched spine, your spine may forget that it can actually move into other positions. This spine-focused yoga duo is an incredible way to open up your chest and retrain your back muscles to support your posture. (The cat/cow pose also just feels really good.) 

How to:

From your mat - Start on hands and knees with shoulders directly over your wrists and hips directly over your knees. Drop your belly to your mat, look forward, and reach your heart forward (inhale). As you exhale, press your hands, shins and tops of your feet down into your mat and round your spine to the ceiling. Tuck your chin to your chest and draw your low abdominals in. Try 5-10 of each, moving slowly.

Cow position in a chair
Cat position in a chair

From your desk - Sit tall on the front edge of your seat with your feet planted on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs or the front of your knees, lift your chest, open your heart and arch your spine as you inhale. Hang on to your thighs or knees as you exhale and press your spine to the wall behind you. Drop your chin to your chest and press your spine back to get a deep stretch. Try 5-10, moving slowly.

Related: The 11 Best Stretches for Tight Hip Flexors

3. Neck Stretch

Neck stretch on ground

Benefits:

Most people hold tension from stressors from everyday life in and around their neck. When you add on the slouched posture and forward head position from sitting at your computer, you can imagine how powerful these neck releases could be.

How to:

From your mat - Sit comfortably with your spine tall and shoulders down, away from your ears. Drop your left ear towards your left shoulder. Reach your right arm down to the ground or take a half bind position by placing it behind your low back. 

If you want more, gently rest your right hand to your head, allowing gravity to assist the stretch further. Hold pose for 30-60 seconds then repeat on the other side.

Neck stretch while sitting in a chair

From your desk - Sit comfortably with your spine tall and shoulders down, away from your ears. Reach your left hand down to grab ahold of your chair seat, then drop your right ear towards your right shoulder. If you want more, gently rest your right hand to your head, allowing gravity to assist the stretch further. Hold pose for 30-60 seconds then repeat on the other side.

4. Spinal Rotation

Spinal rotation on floor

Benefits:

When you sit at your desk with rounded shoulders and a hunched spine, your spine may forget that it can actually move into other positions. Twists are essential for posture, overall spinal health, and they also relieve back pain and digestive woes. 

How to:

From your mat - Lay on your back, hug your right knee into your chest and draw it across your body to the left side of your mat. Use your left hand to hold your leg here and reach your right arm out to the right. Stay and breathe slowly for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Spinal rotation in chair

From your desk - Sit tall in your chair, and without moving your hips or legs, rotate to the right. Place your hands on the side and back of your chair to assist your twist and offer more leverage. Sit taller every inhale, twist a little further every exhale. Stay for 5-10 slow breaths. Repeat on the other side.

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5. Ragdoll

Ragdoll position on mat

Benefits:

Hello, happy spine! This yoga pose offers a fantastic release for your spine. Sitting for hours a day causes a compressed spine. Ragdoll reverses this by allowing gravity to assist your spine into a decompressed (and more lengthened) state. The extra oxygen and blood flow to your head, neck and shoulders mean less tension too.

How to:

From your mat or desk - Stand with your feet at least hip-width apart. (Note: widening your stance may feel better if you have tight hamstrings.) Bend your knees and do a forward fold so that your head is lower than your hips. 

Keep a soft bend in your knees, grab hold of opposite elbows, relax your neck, and breathe. Stay for at least 10 slow breaths.

Related: Amazon’s 7 Best Yoga Mats [For Channeling Your Inner Yogi]

6. Standing Half Moon

Emily in standing half moon position

Benefits:

When you sit at your desk with rounded shoulders and a hunched spine, your spine may forget that it can actually move into other positions. This yoga pose helps improve posture and relieves back pain. 

How to:

From your mat - Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Reach your arms up overhead, use your right hand to grab your left wrist, and stretch up and over to the right. Keep your chest and hips facing straight ahead, and shoulders down. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Sitting half moon position

From your desk - Sit tall at the front of your seat with your feet planted on the ground. Reach your arms up overhead, use your right hand to grab your left wrist, and stretch up and over to the right. Keep your chest and hips facing straight ahead, and shoulders down. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side. 

This is a great pose for stretching your upper body! 

7. Half Pigeon

Emily on mat in half pigeon position

Benefits:

This pose helps release the tightness in your hips and glutes while also reducing stress and anxiety. Sitting forces your hips to stay in one position all day, so this stretch is essential. It also supports a happy back!

How to:

From your mat - From a downward dog position, sweep your right leg forward so that your right knee lands to your mat right behind your right wrist, and your right shin and foot lower to the ground. 

Slide your left leg back as you lower your hips to the mat. Stay tall or walk your hands forward and fold over your front leg. Stay for 60-90 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Emily sitting on chair doing a modified half pigeon

From your desk - Sit tall at the front edge of your chair with your feet planted on the ground. Place your right ankle on top of your left thigh (right above the knee). Stay here if the stretch suits you; otherwise you can gently press your right thigh down and lean forward for a deeper stretch. Stay for 60-90 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

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8. Mountain Pose with Cactus Arms

Emily standing on her mat with catcus arms

Benefits:

When you sit at your desk with rounded shoulders and a hunched spine, your spine may forget that it can actually move into other positions. This pose feels like a “good morning” stretch with an added posture perk. It’s a perfect and simple way to reset your spine with a slight backbend and counter your “turtle back” posture.

How to:

From your mat - Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your arms up to the ceiling as you lengthen your spine and side-body. Then, bend your elbows to a “cactus” position while drawing your shoulder blades down your back and in towards your spine. Open your chest, lift your head and look up slightly. Hold here or move back and forth between the reach and cactus arms 5-10 times.

Emily in cactus position

From your desk -  Sit tall on the front of your seat with your feet planted. Reach your arms up to the ceiling as you lengthen your spine and side-body. Then, bend your elbows to a “cactus” position while drawing your shoulder blades down your back and in towards your spine. Open your chest, lift your heart and look up slightly. Hold here or move back and forth between the reach and cactus arms 5-10 times.

Related: 7 Steps to Nail Your Headstand

9. Wrist Release

Emily on hands and knees, stretching her wrists

Benefits:

Typing fatigue is real, and you most likely don’t even realize how fatigued your wrists and forearms are. This is one simple wrist release pose to relieve any built-up tension from your hours of typing each day.

How to:

From your mat - Start on hands and knees. With your palms planted directly below your shoulders, flip one palm up, fingertips towards the opposite wrist. Stay and breathe or gently rock side to side. 5-10 breaths each side.

Emily on mat, stretching her wrist

From your desk - Sit tall and reach one arm out ahead of you. Flex your wrist so your fingertips face down, and your palm faces you. Use your opposite hand to gently press your flexed wrist towards your chest. Stay for 5-10 breaths each side.


You may not be able to change your day-to-day work schedule, but you can certainly support your body with these nine simple yoga poses. 

Relieve neck, shoulder, back, hip and leg tension while also decreasing your stress levels. While a yoga class is great for stretching out all of your tense muscles from working at your desk all day, it might not be possible to get into a studio right now and visit your favorite yoga teacher as she guides you through multiple asanas, sun salutations and the lovely child's pose. 

But the good news is, you can do these seated and standing poses from the comfort of your own home. You can even create your own unique vinyasa flow, focusing on the areas that need a little extra love—winning all around! 

You might also be interested in: How Yoga Can Help Heal Your Low Back [With 10 Poses]

The 9 best yoga poses for people with desk jobs are:

  1. Downward Dog
  2. Cat-Cow
  3. Neck Stretch
  4. Spinal Rotation
  5. Ragdoll
  6. Standing Half Moon
  7. Half Pigeon
  8. Mountain Pose (with Cactus Arms)
  9. Wrist Release
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Posted 
Sep 9, 2020
 in 
Health & Wellness
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