As a massage therapist and yoga instructor, the two most common complaints I hear from clients and students are neck/shoulder tightness and low back pain. Below are essential stretches that you can do while on break from computer work, right at your desk, even sitting on your chair. By taking just 5 minutes here and there throughout the day, you can keep your body from aching and locking up.
So, we want to feel good in our bodies, right? It’s miserable to feel tension in our neck, shoulders and upper back. When we sit for 6, 8, even 10 hours in front of the computer, we are keeping our muscles in a constant state of contraction. Our spine and joints are being compressed. Ouch!! Most important piece of advice I have is—breath!!! While you work and while you stretch, please don’t hold your breath. Breathing keeps fresh oxygen flowing through your body and keeps the muscles more pliable.
To start, sit comfortable on your chair. Let’s start by warming up the spine. We call these stretches cat and cow. Press your sitting bones into the chair and extend the crown of your head up to the sky. On an exhale, place your hands on your thighs and round your spine, pulling your belly button gently into your spine and round your shoulders forward (cat). Now, inhale and reverse that movement by pressing your chest forward and up and arching your spine (cow). Repeat these movements at least 5 times. Your body will feel rejuvenated and mobile.
From here, interlace your hands behind the base of your neck. Start to bring your elbows together and move your chin towards your chest. The back of your neck and even into your upper back will feel a nice stretch. Now, place one hand on your chest, right at your collar bones. Anchor your hand down and extend your chin up to the sky. The front of your neck will be lengthened. You may take the other hand and gently cradle the side of your face for more support if that feels good. To stretch the side of your neck, bring your left ear to your left shoulder and take your left hand to your right ear. Extend your right shoulder towards the earth. Switch sides.
To stretch your chest and shoulders, wrap your arms around the back of your chair and grasp opposite wrist. Gently arch your spine and extend your chest out in front of your and up to the sky.
Let’s focus on the spine and back. Our chair allows for a really powerful twist. Take your right hand to the outside of your left thigh. Wrap your left arm behind the back of your chair and find your grip on the chair where you can hold firmly. Press your sits bones into the chair, extend the crown of your head up to the sky and inhale. As you exhale, start to twist from the low back and spiral your way up the spine for several breaths. This is a super effective way to bring fresh blood and oxygen into the whole length of your spine. Switch sides.
I don’t want to totally overwhelm you with too much stretching so let’s just do one more stretch that gets the blood flowing throughout the whole body. Stand up and hold onto the back of your chair. You will need some space so push the chair away from you so that you can extend the arms straight. Bring your torso parallel to the floor and press your hips behind you. Knees can be bent if the back of your legs are tight. You will even feel a stretch in the legs. Let the head to relax and feel an opening in your arms, shoulders, upper back and the length of your spine. What the dizzies getting out of this stretch.
By incorporating these stretches, you will feel a lengthening, a decompressing in the spine and a release and opening in the upper body. It should only take you 5 -10 minutes to do these stretches. Heck, you can even take two breaks a day at work and stretch. What out, you might even feel happier and more productive during your work day as a result of stretching!!
Suzanne Aronoff is a licensed massage therapist in the state of Florida and a certified yoga instructor. She has been a massage therapist since 1992 and is committed to helping individuals take charge of their health and their bodies. She believes that by moving the body, we can ward off so much chronic pain and disease. Our model in these photos is fellow yoga instructor, Thom Taylor. His business, Taylor Your Yoga, LLC, keeps him busy helping yoga students feel good in their body, mind, and spirit.