14 Yoga Poses That Promise Soothing Relief If You're Hunched Over a Computer All Day
Working, studying, watching Netflix on your laptop: many of us spend long hours hunched over a computer screen. Sometimes it's not until you stand up, stretch, and feel every muscle ache that you realize how much it's affecting your body. Going for a walk, standing up every hour, and taking quick stretching breaks can all help. Another remedy: yoga. Moving through a flow in the morning can loosen up your body and mind for the day; a relaxing bedtime sequence puts your muscles and thoughts at ease. Even just hitting a couple of key poses every day can ease your soreness.
Any kind of stretching will help, but for the absolute best poses to relieve tension after a day on the computer, we turned to the experts. These yoga instructors pitched in to recommend their favorite moves for the days when sitting, peering into a computer screen, and hunching over a desk have all taken their toll. If you don't have time for a full flow, try to incorporate at least a couple of these quick postures into your day. A few can even be done right at your desk! Sink in, stretch out, and feel the stress slip away.
This classic pose stretches out your spine, lower back, hips, and glutes, said yoga instructor Brooke Diaz of Yoga Joint. Mentally, she said, it can help you ground yourself before, after, or even during a stressful work day.
- Kneel on your mat with your knees hips-width distance apart and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your arms beside your legs, with palms facing up, or try extending your arms out in front of you.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
"In my opinion, Cat-Cow does it all," said yoga instructor Kathleen Clemons: it opens up your chest, gets your body moving, improves posture and balance, and increases strength and flexibility in your spine. CorePower Yoga instructor Alexa Hirschberg added that Cat-Cow is a great way to relieve lower-back pain and stretch our your body after a day of hunching at a desk.
- Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Take a big, deep inhale.
- On the exhale, round your spine up toward the ceiling, and imagine you're pulling your belly button up toward your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin toward your chest, and let your neck release. This is your cat-like shape.
- On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax, and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up toward the sky — without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow portion of the pose.
- Continue flowing back and forth from Cat Pose to Cow Pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for Cow Pose, and exhale on Cat Pose.
- Repeat for 10 rounds.
Standing Forward Fold With Clasped Elbows
This relaxed hamstring and back stretch is great for decompressing your spine, Clemons told POPSUGAR. She recommended bending your knees as much as you need to in the beginning, focusing on getting your chest against your thighs. As you loosen up, you can straighten your knees to deepen the stretch.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a breath in, and as you exhale, hinge at your hips, folding over your thighs.
- Bend your arms and take hold of opposite elbows.
- Keep your weight pressing forward as you enjoy this stretch for the lower back and hamstrings for 20-30 seconds. Gently sway your torso and nod and shake your head to release tension in your neck.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend With Chest Stretch
This pose stretches out your tight pectoral muscles, "which are chronically contracted thanks to all that hard work you've been focusing on," said yoga instructor Morgan Balavage. It's also a great stretch for your hamstrings and lower back.
- Stand with your feet four or so feet apart, heels turned out slightly wider than the toes. Standing tall, interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist.
- Take a deep breath in, and slowly fold forward at your waist, lowering your hands as far as you can. Keep your spine long and straight as you breathe for five deep breaths. Engage your legs, and slowly rise up to stand.
You can do this pose, recommended by yoga instructor Sara Quiriconi, either standing or sitting in your chair. It's a quick side stretch that releases the tension in your chest and upper body.
- Stand or sit with your feet under your hips and interlace your fingers above your head with your palms toward the ceiling.
- Lengthen the right side of your torso as you lean to the left. Hold this for five seconds, then switch sides. Repeat two to three times on each side.
- You can also lift one arm at a time to focus the stretch on one side.
This classic pose is therapy for your back. Downward-Facing Dog lengthens your spine, which is often slouched over when you're sitting, said certified yoga teacher Alex C. Wilson. The pose also decompresses the lower-back muscles and vertebrae that scrunch up when you sit, and can alleviate lower-back pain.
- Come onto your hands and knees with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
- Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into an upside-down-V shape.
- Spread your fingers wide, and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground. Relax your head between your arms, and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button.
- Breathe deeply for five breaths.
This pose can help strengthen your quads and upper-back muscles, Wilson said, which can become weak when you spend all day sitting or hunching in front of a computer. It also provides relief for tight hip flexors.
- From Downward-Facing Dog, inhale to step your right foot forward between your hands. Turn your left heel in, press into your feet, and lift your torso up.
- Raise your arms up, and press your palms together. Draw your shoulder blades down toward your hips, and gaze up toward your hands.
- Stay here for five breaths.
Low Crescent Lunge
Lengthen the front of your hip flexor and relieve the tension of sitting all day with this low lunge variation. "This shape is so amazing for the entire lower half of your body and counteracts the damage of daily life, including easing sciatica pain," Clemons said.
- From Standing Forward Fold, step your right foot back, and lower your right knee to the floor. Keep your left knee directly over your ankle.
- Inhale to raise your arms up, sinking your pelvis toward the floor to intensify the stretch in the hips. Look up to intensify the stretch, and open your chest. You can also hold the pose with your hands on your knees.
- If lifting your arms is too much, place your hands on the ground on either side of your front foot or rest them on your knee.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Come out of the pose by curling your right toes under, placing your hands on the ground.
- Come into a plank position, then walk back into Standing Forward Fold.
- Repeat with your left leg.
LA-based yoga instructor Vinnie Salemno said he loves this deep hip-opening pose because of the stretch it brings to the hips and quads. Tight hips and hamstrings can lead to lower-back pain, he explained, so stretches like Open Lizard "can be a game changer."
- From Low Crescent Lunge, place both hands on the floor and heel-toe your front foot to the edge of the mat.
- Slowly lower your front knee to the side, so you're resting on the outside of your flexed foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward to increase the stretch.
- If you're more flexible, place your forearms onto the mat to intensify the stretch even more.
- Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds.
"When we spend all day sitting, we lose mobility in our hips," said yoga instructor Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez, who has taught corporate yoga to office workers and entrepreneurs. When your hips stiffen up, it can pull your pelvis and low spine out of alignment, causing lower-back pain. "Pigeon pose is one of the most complete hip openers," she said. "If you practice Pigeon pose regularly, you will find space in your hips and in your low back."
- From Open Lizard, inhale to draw your front heel in toward your opposite left hip, resting on the outside of your front thigh.
- Exhale to lower your forearms to the floor. Stay here, or flatten your torso on your right shin for a deeper stretch.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Seated Spinal Twist
This gentle twist is a great release for your cramped back muscles. It also helps to relieve your obliques, upper chest, and the muscles between your ribs (intercostals), said CYT 200-certified yoga instructor Liz Galloway, who runs Wild Adventure Wellness Retreats.
- From Pigeon, sit up and swing your back leg forward, bending it on the ground so your heel is as close to your front sit bone as possible. The knee that was stretched out behind you in Pigeon should now be bent on the ground.
- Cross your top foot so your outer ankle is right next to your bottom knee.
- Reach your top arm behind you with your palm on the floor. Cross your opposite elbow over your outer top thigh to gently increase the twist.
- Gaze behind you and over your shoulder, staying here for 10-20 seconds.
- Gently unwind and return to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat the last six postures on your other side, beginning with Three-Legged Dog.
If you struggle with knee issues, replace the Pigeon pose with a Figure Four. "You stretch your hips, lower back, and glutes in this one — the main areas of your body that tense from sitting at a desk all day," Diaz said. You can hold this pose for as long as feels good; Diaz recommended a minute or longer "if you're wanting to really relax."
- Lie on your back with both legs in the air. Place your right ankle on your left thigh above your knee. See the shape of the number four? It is there, just upside down.
- Reach your right hand through the open space created by your right leg and grab your left hand, which is reaching around the outside of your left thigh. Slowly bend your left knee toward your chest. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right hip.
- Hold for a minute or longer, then repeat on the other side.
Knees to Chest
This gentle pose feels amazing in your lower back and hips, stretching "through the back of the pelvis and hips while creating a deep compression in the hip creases," yoga instructor Val Minos said.
- Lie flat on your back and hug your knees into your chest, clasping your hands around both shins.
- Gently pull down to increase the stretch in your lower back. Gently rock your body from side to side or back and forth along your spine (a more advanced version).
- Relax like this for 10-20 seconds.
Supported Fish Pose
Rodriguez said, "Fish Pose is the one pose every person working long hours at a computer needs to do." It stretches all along the front of your body, especially your throat and shoulders, while also hitting your abdominals and the muscles between your ribs. "If you practice it regularly, it will open your shoulders and release upper back pain," Rodriguez explained.
- Lie on your mat with your back flat on the floor. Place a block beneath your mid-back and another beneath your head.
- Bring your arms close to your sides, palms facing down. Keeping your butt on the floor, inhale as you arch your back, pressing your hands and forearms into the ground.
- Keeping your legs strong, hold for five breaths, then relax your back.