Office Yoga: 15 Easy Stretches for Work

Graphic a woman doing yoga in front of a building

If you’re reading this article, there is a good chance you’re sitting while doing it. Many of us spend long hours sitting at a desk, working from a computer day-to-day. Research shows that over time long hours of sitting can cause chronic back pain, increased blood pressure, bad posture, increased risk of certain diseases, and more. In fact, there are whole movements to stop sitting ⁠— some have gone so far as to remove all furniture from their homes to reclaim natural movement. 

For many of us, sitting is a necessary evil. The goal is to minimize it and, when we have to do it, make it better with ergonomics and constant breaks. These breaks can be spent standing, walking around, and doing basic stretches and yoga poses.

We’ve made a list of our favorite 15 stretches to do at the office and when you get home. Give yourself one good stretch every 15 minutes, or pick a few to practice in session every couple hours.

But first, basic office Ergonomics reminders

Here is a quick reminder of best practices for sitting at a desk. These will hopefully help fend off pain and issues in the long run. 

  • If you’re working a desk, the best approach is to use a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. 
  • The keyboard should be in a position that allows the forearms to be close to horizontal and the wrists to be more or less straight. The desk should be at a level that allows your elbows to bend at a 90° angle, shoulders relaxed. Your mouse and keyboard should be fairly close – you shouldn’t have to extend or reach for them. 
  • Set the “eye-to-screen” distance to one that makes the screen easy to read. Typically this is within an arm’s length. Set the height so the top of the screen is below eye level. You should be able to look at the bottom of the screen without tilting your head. 
  • If you’d like to take your healthy office stance to the next level, consider a low profile or ergonomic mouse, mouse pad with wrist support, ergonomic chair, ball chair, or standing desk.

Our favorite office stretches and office yoga

Click each link for directions on how to do the posture – images included. Be sure to check with your doctor or a trusted health professional before trying a new posture. Remember to breathe!

Stand up and do this:

This is a great pose for stretching the shoulders and chest while simultaneously strengthening the spine, ankles, and thighs. Try it at a wall with your tailbone barely resting for extra support. Feel free to hold this position for 30-60 seconds to increase burn or move in and out of the posture. 

A wonderful pose for relieving stress and anxiety and for creating an overall sense of being in control. Most of us have tight hamstrings, so remember to bend those knees to let the lower back (lumbar spine) release. Feel free to grab your big toes, or just let your hands hang toward the ground. 

Do your hips feel stiff from sitting? This powerful pose is great for practicing balance along with stretching and strengthening the ankles, calves, hamstrings and hips. Remember to do both sides!

This balance-focused posture helps to stretch the quadriceps muscles and the front of the body. If you have trouble balancing, use your desk or a wall for support. 

Feeling tired and full after lunch? Try this. Upward Salute stretches the abdominal region and can improve digestion. Stretch your shoulders and pectoral muscles while creating strength in your legs and back. If you feel comfortable, try a slight backbend to increase the stretch in your belly region, and potentially, hip flexors. 

This pose works better with loose pants, and can be modified by using a prop under the heels to help them find the ground. The yoga squat strengthens and stretches the feet and ankles. It also stretches the groin and glutes while opening the hips. If you’re struggling with lower back pain, pairing this with a bended-knee forward fold can do wonders.

You walked around and now you’re sitting. Do this:

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a well known office injury that can happen from bad desk ergonomics and lack of mobility / stretching. These eight hand and wrist stretches can be performed daily to increase strength and blood flow. Move those fingers!  

This image showcases the pose in its entirety, but you can do just the arm variation while seated. Eagle Arms help open the upper back and stretch the shoulders. Try bending slightly back and slightly forward moving your elbows up and down while in the pose to increase mobility in the back and shoulders.

Typically, our spines don’t do a ton of lateral bending throughout a long day of sitting. Crescent pose stretches the shoulders and arms along with our abdominal and side muscles (obliques and lats). (This pose can be done standing or sitting. Try sitting for an easier approach.)

Twists benefit the body in many ways including improving digestive function as well as helping to maintain normal spinal rotation. This is a great introduction to twisting and can be done sitting in a chair normally or in easy pose (legs crossed) on the ground.

This pose is great for lower back pain and sciatica relief. It also helps to externally rotate the hips and stretch the piriformis muscle, which can become agitated from sitting too long. 

Have an empty wall? Try this:

Long periods of sitting can cause bad posture, including our shoulders rolling forward or “hunching over.” Over time, this can cause the pectoral or chest muscles to shorten and tighten. This easy posture helps to open and stretch these muscles. 

This exercise is lovely for releasing the lower back and stretching the pectoral muscles and shoulder girdle. Letting your head hang between your arms has a nice way of relieving stress in the neck as well.

This exercise is lovely for releasing the lower back and stretching the pectoral muscles and shoulder girdle. Letting your head hang between your arms has a nice way of relieving stress in the neck as well.

For afterwork:

Feet were never meant to spend their lives in shoes. This posture stretches your wiggly ones and helps increase blood flow to the ankles and toes. 

The “cure-all” of the yoga world. This is a gentle way to improve blood circulation, relieve tired or cramped legs and feet, and feel a sense of calm after a long day.

Bonus Pose!

We asked local studio owner Tawni Lester what her favorite additional pose would be. 

You can do this pose sitting in your chair, in a standing forward fold, or to incorporate the legs from a wide leg forward fold. This pose helps to counteract all the hunching over we do sitting at a desk, typing on a computer/phone, and driving. If clasping the hands feels like too much right away in the shoulders, a great way to modify is to grasp opposite elbows behind the back.

Tawni is the Founder and teacher at Intent Hot Yoga in Bellingham. After receiving her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Yandara Institute in Baja, Mexico she moved to Bellingham with her husband, Blake. She taught at other local studios before opening Intent in September 2019.

Local to Bellingham and want to try a yoga class? We recommend Intent Hot Yoga, Bellingham Yoga Collective, and YogaNW for basic to advanced classes.

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