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Save Your Back from Your Desk with These 5 Office-Friendly Stretches

a young woman does a yoga twist on an office conference table
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Between driving, sitting at a desk, and relaxing, many of us spend the majority of our time sitting down. One major consequence of this is back pain. Here are five office-friendly stretches that can help!

You probably don’t have the time or space to run through a full yoga routine at the office, but these stretches are easy to squeeze in and undo some of the tension introduced by hours at your desk.

Forward Fold

a young woman does a forward fold yoga stretch
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

One of the best passive stretches is a simple forward fold. Using gravity to pull you down, you’re naturally creating space in between your vertebrae and stretching out the hamstrings and back muscles.

A lot of people don’t realize that tight hamstrings are one of the main culprits of lower back pain and never think to include them into their stretching routine. The muscles in our bodies are all connected and thinking about how one muscle group affects another makes it easier to pick a good stretch for it.

Making sure your knees are bent will protect the lower back and prevent the hamstrings from being over-extended. Let your upper body fall over your thighs and relax the shoulders.

You can intensify the stretch by interlacing the fingers behind your back and releasing the arms over your head. This rinses out the shoulders and pulls the lats away from the lower back, creating even more space and releasing tension. Keep breathing fully and deeply, letting your head fall heavy. When exiting the pose, curl the spine and roll up slowly, stacking the vertebrae on top of one other, head lifting last.

Seated Heart Opener

a young woman does a seated heart opener yoga stretch outside an office building
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Sitting at our desks all day keeps our chest closed up as our shoulders hunch forward to type at our computers. Performing this stretch a couple of times a day helps with combatting upper back pain, neck stiffness, and even headaches caused by overly tight muscles. Place your hands on the chair behind you, palms facing forward. Make sure your feet are hip-width distance and firmly pressing into the ground, creating a stable foundation. Push down through your palms and let your front body open up.

Be careful not to let your neck and head fall backward. Instead, elongate your spine by sending your shoulders away from your ears and breathe into the stretch. This will help create that much-needed lift and prevent any neck straining. Use every inhale to elongate the spine even more, and every exhale to go deeper. When you’re ready to come out, curl your spine the opposite way and bring your chin towards your chest to prevent any discomfort.

Neck Stretch

a young woman performing a simple yoga neck stretch
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Stretching the neck prevents upper back pain, stiff shoulders, and potential headaches. Staring at our screens the entire day and sitting in that hunched position isn’t natural for our bodies. We compensate with every possible muscle, which in turn wreaks havoc on our nerves and all the signals going into our brain.

You can perform this easy, but beneficial stretch anytime and anywhere—as many times as you’d like!

Go slowly to prevent any unpleasant sensations or injury to the neck muscles. Pulling the head down gently creates a great relief. Listen to your body and go only as deep as it allows you to. Some days you might be able to go all the way down and bring your chin to your chest, but there might be situations where you won’t be near that depth, and that’s okay. Listen to your body and let it tell you what it needs at any given moment.

Side Neck and Shoulder Stretch

a young woman performing a sideways neck and shoulder stretch
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Our neck is a delicate part of our body that has millions of nerves in a very tiny space sending all sorts of signals into and out of our brain. Sitting in the same position day after day after day puts tension on those nerves. Stretching it all out helps immensely, and you can do it in just a few minutes each day.

Press your feet firmly into the ground and sit tall in a well-balanced posture. Place one hand beside you, palm pushing into your seat. Place your other hand on the side of your head and gently pull down towards your opposite shoulder, pushing yourself away from your seat at the same time.

Remember, don’t use any harsh movements; you want to be as delicate with your neck as possible! Breathe into the stretch and try increasing the space in between your neck and stretched out shoulder with every inhale and exhale. After 3-5 breath cycles, slowly come back to center and reset, before doing the same thing on the other side.

Seated Twist

a young woman performing a seated twist yoga stretch while sitting on a bench
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Twists are an incredible way to reset our spines and bring fresh oxygen and energy into our back muscles. Performing them regularly helps us not only on the physical level but mentally as well, improving our performance and boosting our productivity in the office.

Starting with your feet hip-width and pressing firmly into the ground, sit tall, shoulders away from the ears. Inhale your left arm up into the air, creating a spinal lift, and then place your left hand on your right knee. Reach your right arm behind you and find leverage by pushing yourself away from your seat to keep the spine nice and straight.

Slowly gaze backward (as far as you can comfortably look without hurting your neck) and breathe. Inhale to elongate the spine; exhale to go deeper into the twist. Stay for 3-5 breath cycles, come back to center to reset, and repeat on the other side.

These are all stretches you can fit into a typical work break and doing so gives you a perfect excuse to stretch your legs, walk outside for some fresh air, and enjoy a few quiet minutes of stretching to release the tension from your muscles and recenter your mind.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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