Does your body feel like it’s getting tighter every time you sit? Use these pain-relieving yoga poses to release muscle tension from the comfort of your chair.
Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day. When you factor in sleep time, that averages out to 21 hours a day of inactive time. (1) This creates a lot of achy tension in your neck, shoulders, hips, and back. Luckily, a few feel-good poses can release those tight muscles.
Something as simple as stretching in your chair can help loosen muscles and relieve stress, making it easy to fit movement into a daily routine.
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Note: All the stretches below are done seated with feet hip-width distance apart. Sit towards the front of the chair for more movement accessibility, and keep your weight evenly distributed in both feet.
10 Chair Yoga Stretches
Cat-Cow | 5 reps
The spine can hold a lot of tension throughout the day. Moving the spine in flexion and extension helps to loosen the whole body. Do it anytime you’re craving movement!
- Sit up straight, with your hands resting on your thighs.
- On an inhale come to cow pose: arch your back to look up, hugging your shoulder blades together.
- Exhale to come to cat: round the back, bring your chin towards your chest, and hold your belly button in.
- Continue moving with your breath between these two poses, until you’ve done five reps of each.
Rib Circles | 5 reps per side
Creating circles with your ribs brings more movement into the torso. Go slowly, feeling how big you can make the circle. Keep your breath long and slow.
- With hands on your thighs, shift your ribs out towards the right side.
- Then, think about making a circle with your ribs: move them forward into cow pose, then shift them to the left, then back into cat pose.
- Continue moving in this circle until you’ve done five rotations, then repeat in the other direction.
Sun Breaths | 5 reps
Connect your breath to your movement in this energizing stretch.
- Start with your arms down by your side, palms facing up.
- Inhale to raise your arms up above the shoulders.
- Exhale to bend the elbows, palms turning down towards the ground.
- Repeat for five reps.
Note: To keep the movement nice and slow, count four seconds per inhale and four seconds per exhale.
Forward Bend | 5 breaths
This releasing pose helps relieve tension in the neck and upper back. Try it anytime you’re feeling tightness in your back body.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale to bend forward, letting your chest rest on the thighs.
- If your hands touch the ground, rest your palms on the floor. If not, rest them on top of your feet or shins.
- Relax the neck and let your head hang heavy towards the ground. Close your eyes and stay here for five breaths.
- To come out of the pose, lengthen your back, bring the crown of the head forward, and slowly walk your hands up your legs to come back upright.
Extended Twist | 5 breaths per side
This twist adds arm movements, which lengthen the front of the body and stretch the chest and shoulders.
- Inhale to reach the right arm diagonally up and back. Bring your left hand to the outside of the right thigh.
- If you like, look up towards your right hand to deepen the stretch.
- Stay in the twist for five breaths. With every inhale, get longer in the body; with each exhale, twist a little deeper.
- Slowly release out of the pose on an inhale. Switch sides.
Tip: I find that releasing a twist on an inhale keeps the body in control, avoiding potential injuries.
Figure 4 | 5 breaths per side
Stretching the glutes is key when sitting all day. Tense hips can lead to lower back tightness and pain.
- Bend your right leg and rest the ankle on your left thigh.
- Flex the right foot. Place one hand on your heel and one hand on your thigh.
- Keeping the back long, hinge forward at the hips over your bent leg.
- Stay for five breaths, then slowly release out of the pose. Repeat on the other side.
Extended Side Bend | 5 breaths per side
Side muscles get tight when sitting all day. This leads to a shorted side body, which pulls the torso forward into a rounded position. Stretching the sides of the body brings the body back into a natural upright position.
- Place your right hand on your thigh, and inhale to reach your left arm up above your shoulder.
- Exhale to side bend over to the right.
- Hold for five breaths, elongating the pose on every inhale and going deeper with each exhale.
- Repeat on the left side.
Seated Twist | 5 breaths per side
This one is great for spine health. Concentrate on growing taller rather than twisting to the maximum.
- Sit sideways on your chair, facing the right side.
- Inhale to lengthen the torso, then exhale to twist to the right. Hold onto the back of the chair for support.
- Hold for five breaths, lengthening on every inhale and twisting from the lower abdominals on every exhale.
- Release on an inhale. Then, sit sideways on the other side of the chair to repeat the twist on the left side.
Shoulder Stretch | 5 breaths
If you’re sitting at a desk all day, you’re probably typing on a computer, too. This causes slumped shoulders, which can lead to tightness in the chest and neck. This stretch is a perfect way to release that achy tension.
- Bend your elbows and clasp your hands behind your back, touching the back of the pinkies to your lower back.
- Squeeze the elbows and shoulder blades towards each other. On an inhale, lengthen your hands behind you. Arch your back and reach your hands behind you.
- Stay here for five slow breaths. On an exhale, slowly release out of the stretch.
Extended Neck Stretch | 5 breaths per side
Neck muscles carry a lot of tension from typing, texting, driving, and stress. This stretch can be done anytime to relieve the discomfort.
- Bring your right arm up and over the left side of your head.
- Inhale deeply, and exhale to gently use your fingertips to pull your head down to the right shoulder. Reach your left arm away from the body to deepen the stretch.
- Relax the shoulders down away from the ears and hold for five slow breaths.
- Slowly release and repeat on the other side.
(Your Next Workout: 7 Easy Chair Stretches to Fix Back Pain)