Easy Yoga Poses For People Who Sit All Day

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Update: This story was previously published on Nov 21, 2015.

Are you sitting down? Okay, take a minute to assess: Are you slouching in your seat? Are your shoulders tight? Are you stressed out while racing to meet deadlines before the holidays? Here's a tip: Try some yoga at your desk.

We know, we know — jumping into downward-facing dog in the middle of the office sounds a little bit ridiculous. But you don't have to go full-on vinyasa to get some serious benefits. And over the past few years, there has been mounting scientific evidence to prove that yoga has a powerful, positive impact on your health. Studies have shown that yoga can aid the healing process and can even help those suffering from chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

We asked Jennifer Grims, an instructor at Yogamaya studio, and JOana Meneses, founder of Body Roots, to come up with stretches and poses that pretty much anyone can do at work—without any special equipment— all while seated at a desk.

We repeat: You do not have to be a yogi (or even get out of your chair) to do these moves and reap their benefits. These stretches can energize, de-stress, and help you achieve optimum Om in the office. They won't add up to a strenuous workout, so feel free to repeat 'em anytime you need a pick-me-up.


1 of 9
Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
The Problem:
You've spent the day hunched over your computer. That bad posture is causing back pain.

The Solution:
Try doing "Cobra Head" neck-and-spine circles. Moving your spine in all its ranges of motion will help avoid a chronic forward-flexed position and will send oxygen to the spine.

Steps:
1. Sit up tall at the front edge of your office chair, with your feet grounded and legs hip-distance apart. Gently clasp your fingers behind your head and open your elbows our wide to the sides of the room.

2. Begin by inhaling and side-bending your head and upper body to the right; then, slowly bring your head and upper body forward and down.

3. Exhale to continue circling your head and upper body to the left, and then back up, finishing by opening your ribcage and extending your upper body and neck up to the sky.

4. Repeat four more times and reverse the circle to the left for five reps.
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2 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
You’re slouching, and it’s starting to screw up your back.

The Solution:
Try Seated Cat-Cow. It has all the same benefits of the cat-cow move you'd do on all fours on a yoga mat, including opening up your chest, bringing movement into your spine, and engaging your abs.

Steps:
1. Sit up tall at your desk. Place your hands on your knees.

2. As you inhale, press your chest forward, arching your back and feeling your shoulders slide down your back. Tilt your head up towards the ceiling (shown).

3. As you exhale, round your spine, drop your head, and turn your gaze down towards your lap.

4. Repeat this stretch 8-10 times.
3 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
It's been over an hour since you rushed through lunch at your desk, and your stomach isn't feeling great.

The Solution:
Try a Desk Twist. Twists provide a gentle "massage" to your internal organs, potentially improving digestive function. Plus, they may help with back pain as well as stress and anxiety.

Steps:
1. Sit up straight and inhale.

2. Keeping your feet on the floor, exhale as you twist your shoulders and torso to one side, using the armrest or back of your chair for support (shown). Avoid rounding your back.

3. Hold on to the chair and stay twisted for five deep breaths, feeling your spine elongate as you inhale, and twisting slightly deeper as you exhale. Then, repeat on the other side.
4 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
You’re feeling stiff from hours in your seat.

The Solution:
Do a Seated Side Bend. This modification on the side-bend pose will help lengthen the muscles between the ribs and pelvis and open the sides of the ribcage. That can improve mobility in the part of your torso that's near your lungs, which makes breathing a little easier.

Steps:
1. Scoot a little to the right and then sit up tall in your seat.

2. Place your left hand down on the chair, grabbing the seat. Press down, but let your left elbow bend so your left shoulder stays relaxed and away from your ear.

3. Raise your right arm straight up.

4. Now, bend slightly to the left, with your right hand reaching over to the left (shown). Take a few deep breaths; then, repeat on the other side.
5 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
It’s been a draining day, and you’re feeling tired.

The Solution:
Get re-energized with one of the easiest stretches there is: a Back-Bending Chest Stretch. You've most likely been slouching in your seat all day, with your shoulders hunched over, so bending backwards will help you fight against the forward-creeping trend. Plus, backbends invigorate you by opening the front of your body and stimulating the nervous system, Grims says.

Steps:

1. Sit up tall on the edge of your seat.

2. Reach back behind you and grasp the seat of the chair.

3. Push forward with your chest and tilt your head back (shown). Hold for five breaths; then, release. Repeat as needed.
6 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
You just finished sitting in a super-long meeting, and you're uncomfortable.

The Solution:
Try a Seated Pigeon. This will stretch your hip flexors and hip rotators, which benefits your back. Just listen to your body; don't force it.

Steps:
1. Rest your right ankle over your left thigh, just above the knee.

2. Lengthen the spine and breathe in. As you exhale, fold forward from your hip, keeping the spine extended (shown). Only go as far as comfortable, and try not to hunch.

3. Hold and breathe for about five breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.
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7 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
Your legs are stiff from sitting at your desk for hours.

The Solution:
Do a Warrior II With Chair pose. This pose is a hip opener, it helps strengthen and stretch your legs, and it's invigorating. Trying Warrior II with a chair adds stability and balance.

Steps:
1. Move your legs around to the side of the chair.

2. Swing your right leg behind you. Plant the sole of your foot on the ground, toes turned in slightly, and straighten the leg. Keep your left leg bent and spread the legs wide, with hips facing out.

3. Raise your arms overhead, and then open them out as you exhale. Your left arm should be in front of you, and your right arm should be behind you (shown).

4. Hold for five breaths, gazing out over your left fingertips. Then, switch to the other side.
8 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
Your neck and shoulders ache from stress and tension.

The Solution:
The Neck Roll, also known as The Neck Release. It's easy to do, and it can help ease tension in your neck and shoulders.

Steps:

1. Sit up nice and tall at your desk. Press down into your feet to make sure they’re firmly on the floor.

2. Tilt your head towards one shoulder. Make sure you draw both shoulders down, away from your ears (shown). Hold for about five seconds, continuing to breathe.

3. Roll your head forward and around to the opposite shoulder. Hold for about five seconds. Alternate and perform five holds on each side, 10 total.
9 of 9
Illustrated By Mary Galloway.
The Problem:
It's midday and you're feeling lethargic.

The Solution:
Try doing a Seated Forward Bend. You're basically folding your body over at the hips. Your head is below your heart, creating a change in blood flow and a boost of oxygen and energy.

Steps:
1. Scoot to the edge of your seat.

2. Widen your feet.

3. Release your torso forward and down. Let your head hang heavy. You can grab opposite elbows as they hang over your head (shown), or place your hands on the ground.

4. Breathe deep in this pose for 30 seconds; then, slowly return your torso upright.
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