12 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Work Desk to Relieve Stress

Yoga at the office? Yes, you heard me right! I hear people say all the time that they wish there was space in their busy schedule for yoga. Well, now there’s no excuse because yoga has entered the workplace and loads of people are catching on. This revelation is especially useful for those spending hours on end sitting at a desk – Talk about chronic tension and unnecessary strain. These poses will make your whole body feel a little bit happier and a little less stressed even on those days when you’re buried in work and running low on caffeine.

Wrist Opening Stretches

Wrist Opening Stretches
Wrist Opening Stretches

Constant desk work creates a mound of stress in the muscles and tendons of the hands, fingers, and wrists. We rely on these delicate muscles to send emails, make calls, and grab our coffee cup – So it’s wildly important to show them some love from time to time. Sitting at your desk, extend the arms to the sides or overhead and begin to make 5-10 circles inward and outward with the wrists. Next, alternate spreading the fingers and closing the fists 5-10 times. Standing at your desk, place your hands down with palms facing up and fingers pointed towards you. Take your time and apply gentle pressure to the hands before flipping the palms flat, keeping the fingers facing you, and repeating the process. Try to remember to keep the blood flowing to these areas by practicing each stretch at least every two hours while you’re at work.

Supta Matsyendrasana — Spinal Twist Pose with Chair

Supta Matsyendrasana — Spinal Twist Pose with Chair
Supta Matsyendrasana — Spinal Twist Pose with Chair

Sometimes in order to cleanse the body of stress, we need to wring it all out. Twists are the perfect remedy for energizing our metabolic processes and stimulating detoxification of accumulated stress and tension within the body. This is likely the most common stretch you’ll notice in the office but move with caution as people frequently exert an excess of force when approaching twists. Be mindful of initiating the twist from the lower spine and slowly spiraling up from there. From a seated position, bring one hand in front of you on the desk and one hand behind you. Take a deep breath in to lengthen the spine, and as you exhale, slowly rotate the heart to twist. Move the hands back further if it feels appropriate to deepen the stretch and hold for 5 breaths on each side.

Garudasana — Seated Eagle Arms Pose

Garudasana — Seated Eagle Arms Pose
Garudasana — Seated Eagle Arms Pose

Being stuck at work may not give you the sense of freedom that’s associated with the eagle, but your shoulders will feel ready to fly after this stretch. You can take this pose seated or standing, whatever feels the most natural. Bring your left arm in front of you at a 90-degree angle and wrap your right arm under crossing at the elbows. Bring the backs of the hands as close together as possible, and if they touch, try to take a full bind bringing the palms to touch. From here, draw the elbows up and away from the body as you breathe into the center of the back. Take 5-10 full breaths here before slowly unwinding and switching sides. If you’re standing and don’t mind getting some funny looks from your coworkers – Go ahead and jump into the full expression of eagle pose!

Side Body Stretch

Side Body Stretch
Side Body Stretch

A simple lateral side bend could be just the thing you need to make it through the rest of your workday. Sitting for long periods of time places a great deal of pressure on our midsection that often leads to discomfort. Side body stretches are an excellent way to cultivate some space and length in those compressed areas. Sit tall and hold your left hand under your chair as you inhale the right arm up by your ear. As you breathe out, bend towards the left while reaching through the right fingertips. Notice the space between the right side ribs opening up as you take 5 deep breaths. Slowly come back through center and repeat on the other side.

Marjaryasana — Seated Cat And Cow

Marjaryasana — Seated Cat And Cow
Marjaryasana — Seated Cat And Cow

Cat and cow pose is a staple in most yoga classes and a favorite for bringing length and space to the spine. Begin seated with both hands in your lap and feet rooted to the floor. Inhale and slide the hands back towards your hip creases as you open across the collarbone and arch the back. Exhale and bring your hands down towards the kneecaps as you hollow out the belly and round the spine. Repeat the motion while staying connected to the breath for 3-5 rounds. If you’re feeling adventurous, try incorporating some hip circles in with your cat and cow pose.

Utkatasana — Chair Pose

Utkatasana — Chair Pose
Utkatasana — Chair Pose

It’s the pose we all love to hate – Namely because it’s super effective and challenging. Luckily, this variation won’t be as excruciating as the regular version you’re probably used to. Start standing high on the balls of your feet with fingertips resting on your desk. On an exhale, bend the knees and reach the sit bones back. Stay open through the chest as you lengthen the spine up and feel the power in both legs. Take 5 full cycles of breath here before lowering the heels and lifting the arms overhead. Stay for 3 more breaths – Maybe even crack a smile while you’re at it!

Kapotasana — Pigeon Pose with Chair

Kapotasana — Pigeon Pose with Chair
Kapotasana — Pigeon Pose with Chair

Good news – Everyone’s favorite hip-opener is also accessible at work! Pigeon pose gets deep into the hips and helps clear away built-up tension and stress. It also helps reverse imbalances caused by sitting with crossed legs for long periods of time. Find a comfortable seat with a tall spine and cross your left leg over your right at a 90-degree angle. Keep the left foot flexed and equal weight in both sit bones as you continue to sit upright for 5-10 cycles of breath. Slowly unwind and repeat on the other side.

Uttanasana — Forward Fold Pose

Uttanasana — Forward Fold Pose
Uttanasana — Forward Fold Pose

There’s really no better way to relieve tension in the neck and back then by hanging upside down. You’re welcome to try this pose with or without the use of your chair. Standing tall, raise both arms overhead on an inhale, and as you exhale, fold over the legs. Keep a soft bend in the knees as you let the upper body go heavy towards the thighs. You have the option to grab opposite elbows or let the arms hang heavy towards the floor. Breathe deeply for 5-10 cycles of breath, swaying side to side if that feels appropriate.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana — Upward Facing Dog Pose with Chair

Purvottanasana — Plank Pose with Chair
Purvottanasana — Plank Pose with Chair

A simple backbend can really make all the difference in decluttering your workday haze. Upward facing dog pose helps remedy rounded shoulders from an excess of computer time. Stand facing your chair with hands resting on the edge at shoulder width. Move the feet back so you create a diagonal line with your body away from the desk. Slowly move your hips towards the desk while staying strong in the legs. Open the chest between your arms as you tilt your chin towards the ceiling. Allow the shoulders to soften and breathe for 3-5 rounds.

Pranayama – Kapalabahti — Breath of Fire

Pranayama - Kapalabahti — Breath of Fire
Pranayama – Kapalabahti — Breath of Fire

For those nights when overtime is imminent – Breath of fire might work better than an extra cup of coffee. Sit with a tall spine and hands resting on your thighs. Take short, sharp breaths in and out through the nose. As you breathe even lengths, pulse the navel in and out for one minute. Notice any changes in your state of mind following this exercise and repeat as often as needed.

Anjaneyasana — Lunge With Chair

Anjaneyasana — Lunge With Chair
Anjaneyasana — Lunge With Chair

To pacify tension in the hip flexors, try this high lunge variation using your chair. Shift your sit bones to the front right corner of your chair. Turn your body to face the right so your left sit bone leaves the chair. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle with the toes facing the same direction as your torso and the sole of your foot on the ground. Keep your hips squared over the right leg as you extend the left leg straight behind, rising to the ball of the left foot. Bring both hands to rest on your right thigh as you continue to breathe here for 10 rounds. Slowly make your way back through center and repeat on the other side.

Neck Stretches

Neck Stretches
Neck Stretches

It’s hard to concentrate or do anything for that matter, with a crick in your neck. That’s why it’s so important to squeeze in some relief with a series of simple neck stretches. Find a comfortable seat with a tall spine and feet planted evenly on the ground. Starting with gentle neck rolls, drop your chin down towards your chest and begin to slowly circle your neck. Bring your right ear over towards your right shoulder, drop the head back, and left ear to left shoulder. Be patient with any areas of tension and try to stay relaxed through the shoulders. Take 3-5 rolls in this direction before going the opposite way. Notice any subtle differences between sides and be careful not to rush. For a standing neck stretch, slowly drop your left ear to your left shoulder on an exhale and use your left hand to place gentle pressure over the head. Extend your right fingertips towards the floor and take 3-5 deep breaths before switching sides.

There you have it – All the poses your body needs to make it through even the longest workday. Stress and tension don’t stand a chance when you make time to care for your body. Just a few minutes each day will lead to increased productivity and an overall healthier version of yourself. So don’t worry if you can’t make it to a full yoga class – We’ve got you covered with this short routine!

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