If you spend a number of hours seated at a desk each day, you have likely felt the strain on your back, hips, legs, and, well, just about everywhere. Sitting for hours is unhealthy, simply put, but you can relieve some discomfort with a few basic yoga stretches.
One of the best stretches you can do while seated is a variation of Keyhole Pose. While seated in a chair, place your right ankle just above the left knee in a loose cross-legged position. You will have a triangle-shaped space between your legs. Flex your right foot to keep your knee safely positioned. If it feels comfortable to fold forward a bit, keep your spine long as you reach your chest forward as you fold. Stay in this position for a minute or so and then switch sides.
Next, push your chair back a couple feet from your desk. Open your legs so that you create a V shape with your thighs. Turn your toes out in the same direction as your legs. Inhale as you ground your sit bones and lengthen your spine. Exhale and fold forward bringing your hands to the ground or just letting your arms hang. Inhale and lengthen your spine as much as possible, and exhale while you relax and hang. Stay for five to ten rounds of breath. Inhale as you come up, maintaining a flat back.
Spinal twists are particularly accessible while seated in a chair, where you can utilize the chair itself as a prop. While seated, inhale and ground the sit bones as you lengthen your spine and bring your left hand to your outer right thigh as close to the knee as you can. Exhale and hold either your right arm rest or the right outside base of your chair with your right hand as you begin to twist to the right. Inhale and lengthen the spine again, exhale and twist a bit further. Continue this pattern, inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to twist as you move deeper into the twist. You may find it possible to hold the back of your chair with your right hand or arm (depending on your chair and depending on your body) to take a deeper stretch, but it’s not necessary. Stay for five to ten breaths. Repeat on the left side.
Finally, to get some blood flowing and add a bit of strength to your day, place your hands flat on your chair partially under your thighs and just in front of your bottom. Be sure your palms are well grounded and your fingers spread wide. Tuck your tailbone and with a nice deep inhalation try to lift yourself up off the chair. Your feet may even lift off the ground. More likely, however, your hips won’t rise at all. That’s OK. Now you have something to work on. One day, they will lift. Here are a few tips for this pose: Be sure each hand stays grounded—the entire hand. If your wrists are not happy, do the pose just once. Then do it again tomorrow. And again then next day. Your hands will get stronger and the discomfort will fade as long as your entire hand is well grounded. (If your chair is too soft, however, you want to do find another chair to practice this pose on.) Be sure to not hold your breath—let the lift be a complete inhalation and the descent be a complete exhalation. And release your expectations. This pose will also help relieve tension in your muscles as you relax afterward.
Practice these poses daily and you will likely start to notice you are more comfortable despite long stretches in a seated position. They can easily be practiced while you’re working away.