Pause and check in with your neck, shoulders and back. Do they feel tight? For most folks, at some point during the work day, they do. But a solution is at hand: Stretching.
Even if you’re among the rare few who don’t get knotted up, stretching is still a good idea because it stokes your attention and helps you breathe better.
First, keep in mind that you shouldn’t contort yourself to fit your workspace, a big no-no, according to the National Institutes of Health. Properly adjusting your keyboard, desk and chair can save you from excessive back, neck and wrist pain. And remember to sit up straight, with your shoulders over your hips and the natural curve of your lower back intact.
Still, even with an ergonomically perfect workspace and proper posture, tension winds up muscles. Plus, the simple act of sitting in a chair tightens the front of your thighs near your hips.
Here are five ways to loosen up:
- Front-thigh stretch: Stand and rest your right hand on a wall, chair or desk, for balance. Bend your left knee and bring the heel toward your left buttock, grabbing the ankle or foot with your left hand and pulling it toward your left buttock. Don’t pull your ankle putting your foot in a sickle shape.
- Chest stretch: Interlace your fingers behind you, palms facing each other. Draw your knuckles down and pull the outer edges of your shoulders toward each other. This one feels even more juicy if you stand up.
- Neck stretch: Exhale and drop your chin toward your chest. On an inhale, roll your head to the right. On an exhale roll the chin back toward the chest. Inhale and roll your head to the left. Exhale and roll the chin to the chest. Stop throughout and breathe into sticky spots. Repeat several times.
- Chair spinal twist (see photo at right): Keep your feet flat on the ground. Exhale and twist from your hips to the right, taking your right hand to the chair’s back support for leverage to help the twist. Your left hand can hold the right side of your chair’s seat or press against your desk. On an inhale draw back through center, and then repeat to the left.
- Shoulder stretch: Reach your arms ahead, palms facing each other, and bring your right arm under your left. Exhale and hug yourself, hands holding opposite shoulders or just below them. Try to creep the fingers closer toward your spine, lengthening the space between your shoulder blades. Repeat with your left arm under your right. This is another stretch that feels great to do standing.
Try these once a day. There’s really no excuse not to. You can stretch anywhere. You don’t even have to have equipment.
Journalist Mitra Malek writes about wellness, fitness and innovation. She has taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal magazine. Learn more at mitramalek.com.