If you're thinking that you might feel a little bit self-conscious stretching in the office, let us assure you — there are a multitude of easy, quick stretches that you can do quickly in the ladies' room, an abandoned conference room, or even at your desk, that will make a huge difference with your energy, digestion, and tension. To get schooled in stretching 101, we reached out to Lauren Imparato, Founder of I.AM.YOU. Yoga and partner at FITiST, and Raul Perez, massage therapist at Exhale MindBodySpa at the Gansevoort Downtown, both based in NYC. Read on for their stretching prescriptions.
For Bloating and Indigestion
Raise your hand if you've experienced uncomfortable bloating and/or indigestion from a combination of stress, too much lunch, and too little movement during the day. While getting up and taking a walk can do wonders to get things moving, so to speak, Imparato suggests a stretch that you can do in between e-mails (i.e., without leaving your desk). "One move that's great for digestion is to make your hands into fists and place them into your mid to lower abdomen. Inhale, then as you exhale, press your fist in, and then up." This will increase circulation to your digestive system.
Alternatively, says Imparato, try a chair twist (you'll have to stand up for this one). "Stand tall, inhale, bend your knees and take your arms up. Exhale and twist to the right, hooking your left elbow outside your right knee, palms pressed. Look up and breathe. Then repeat on the other side."
Headaches are often caused by neck and shoulder tension — basically a given when you're toiling for hours while hunched over a desk. To release this tension, Imparato suggests this neck stretch: "Inhale and reach your arm up and over the top of your head, placing the hand on the side of your head. As you exhale, pull your head gently to the side [as shown in the photo above]." Hold for ten seconds, then repeat on the other side.
To get even more of a stretch, according to Perez, you can then pull the neck straight forward, towards your chest — this will stretch the muscles on the back of your neck that can also tense up after all of that typing.
For Back Pain
Imparato promises this move will make your back feel ah-mazing: "Start with your feet touching. Bend your knees and open them to the side as you sink your butt as low as you can, to the balls of your feet. Drop your head, reach your arms forward, and then out to the side. As you breathe, round and lengthen your spine."
To improve your posture (and prevent said back pain), Perez recommends this chest-opening stretch: "Place your hands behind your head with palms facing the back of your head. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, bring your elbows back as far as possible, and hold the stretch for fifteen to thirty seconds. Relax, and repeat until you feel diminished tension in your chest and back."
For Increased Energy
Oh, the dreaded PM slump. Before you go running for coffee or hit the office candy jar, Imparato has a quick move you should try. "For quick energy blasts during the day, lift your arms up alongside your ears and open them into a V shape. Stay here for one to three minutes." Opening up your chest will remind you to breathe deeply — which is easy to forget when deadlines get relentless.
For Improved Circulation
"To improve circulation, try a standing forward bend," says Perez. "Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and place your hands on your hips. Inhale, and as you exhale, bend forward from your hips keeping your back flat and your knees slightly bent. Continue bending forward until you can rest the palms of your hands on the floor."
If you're chained to your desk, Imparato says that you can get a similar effect while sitting. Simply bend at the waist while holding your elbows with opposite hands — this shift in posture will get your blood flowing, warm you up, and ensure that yes, you can handle one more meeting!
Photographed by Akos Simon