Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Sitting all day, especially now when most of us are doing home office, can create quite some tension in our body. After a while the back starts hurting and the hip muscles are shortened due to the constant sitting and the lack of movement during the day. That's why I want to share my top 6 simple and easy exercises to release tension and give our muscles a good stretch. These exercises are easy to do on your chair and do not require you to stand up! You don't have to do all the exercises at once or in a specific order, with this post you have a toolbox you can choose from when you need it.
1. Neck Relaxation
I'm sure you've felt it before, that stabbing pain in your neck area when you have been sitting in a weird unergonomic position for way too long. It's so painful! Even though a short exercises won't eliminate the pain completely, it can help you to significantly reduce the tension and head ache that so often comes with the neck pain. I recommend doing this exercise for about 5min for you to feel the benefits.
Neck stretch (5min):
Start by moving your head towards the right shoulder, giving your neck a nice side stretch. Stay here for a few deep breaths. In a slow half circle you move over towards the left shoulder and stay there for another few deep breaths. After a while you can start moving your head in slow circles really connecting your breath to your movement. If you feel a lot of tension at a specific point, stay there a bit longer and give it a good stretch. Do what feels good for you and remember our breath has a huge impact on our stress level.
2. Shoulder Relaxation
Another area that is tensioned way too often without us even realizing it is our shoulders. First of all start by dropping your shoulder right now while you are reading this. Often when under stress we automatically pull our shoulders up. So drop them, and keep them low during your entire work day! An easy and fast way to relax your shoulders is the following movement.
Shoulder rotation (2min):
Place your hands on your shoulders, elbows facing outward. Inhale and start rotating your elbows upward in front of you, exhale move the elbows back down behind you. Use your full range of motion to really give your muscles a gentle massage. After a while you can change sides, moving upwards behind you when inhaling and then exhaling moving downward in front of you. Do slow movements, connecting your movements to your breath.
3. Chest Opening
This might be one of the most important stretches not only for people who sit all day but for all people that tend to have a bad posture when working. Standing / sitting with a straight, upright back position all the time is very difficult, but the more we open our chest and strengthen our back muscles, the easier it becomes. In this point we are opening our chest with a two simple variations for chest opening. Do this exercise as long as you wish but more importantly do it regularly during the day. It really helps preventing back pain a lot and improving your posture.
Chest opening (3min):
Place your hands on your lower back and press your elbows together. Automatically you will feel your chest opening. You can increase that movement by actively opening your chest and slightly looking upward. Use that increased lung space to take a few deep inhalations and calm your nervous system.
4. Back Relaxation
Relaxing our back is so important for a good quality of life since most people suffer from pack pain at some point due to their working position. One of the most effective way to lower the pain is doing gentle twists, as these twists not only reduce tension in the big back muscles but also in the tinny muscles near our vertebrae. Little back relaxation exercises each day can take you a long way!
Back twists (5min):
Inhale and lift your arms over your head, exhale turn to your right side placing the left hand on your right leg and your right hand on your lower back so you're looking over your right shoulder. On your next inhalation move your arms back over your head, exhale turn to your left side. You can either change position with every breath or you can do a more calm version by staying on one side for a few breath and then changing to the other side.
5. Hip Relaxation
Oh our dear hip muscles. The worst thing we can do for them is to sit all day long. Yet this is inevitable most of the time. Therefore it is extra important to give them some extra stretching each day. Since we have been sitting most of our life (it already starts in elementary school) our hip muscles have suffered a lot. Even more important do stretch them well now.
Hip extension (4min):
Move to the edge of your chair and straighten your right leg to the back. Push your hip slightly back so your lower back is straight, this will increase the stretch. Keep your leg straight and your toes tucked. Stay here for a few deep breaths and then move over to the other side.
6. Leg Relaxation
And last but not least it is important to stretch our hamstrings - the back side of our legs. A shortened hamstring can also cause back pain in the long run. In general our goal should be to keep our body balanced. So if you do something for your upper body, also do something for your lower body. They all work together in some way or another. A simple way to stretch our hamstrings is the following exercise:
Hamstrings stretch (4min):
Move to the front edge of your chair and straighten your right leg, toes pointing upwards. While exhaling move your upper body towards your knees keeping your back as straight as possible. Stay here for a few deep breaths, you should feel a nice stretch. The deeper you go with a straight back, the more intense it gets. When you are done with one side, change to the other side.
Short upper relaxation flow
If you attend my yoga classes, chances are you've done this flow already a few times with me. It's so simple yet so powerful, that's why I love it! The key of this flow is to connect your movement to your breath and doing it as slow as possible.
1. Inhale, interlock your fingers and raise your hands above your head. Pull your hands towards the ceiling, lengthening your spine as much as possible. This releases tension in your spine and back.
2. Exhale, move your arms halfway down, rounding your spine and pulling your hands away from you. You should feel a nice stretch between your shoulder blades.
3. Inhale, move your arms back up and over your center line. Go as far as it is possible for you without experiencing any pain. This movement is a wonderful chest opener.
4. Exhale, bring your spine back into a neutral position and move your arms back down.
From here you can start again with 1. and do this flow as often as you like. I recommend doing it at least 6 times to really feel the benefits.
As you see, none of this exercises is super complicated. The hard part is staying committed and actually doing this exercises on a daily basis if possible. I know our daily life can get so stressful at times and the last thing we have on our mind is to take a few minutes to do something good for our body. But health is so important and it starts with the little things. If you have no chance to do physical exercises at work, at least take a few minutes to:
- Take a few deep breaths and calm your mind
- Drop your shoulders
- Relax your face muscles (also your tongue!)
- If you can close your eyes for a few minutes to reduce the sense overload
Let me know how these tipps worked for you and if you could feel any improvement. Feel free to reach out to me or connect with me on Instagram.
Hi, my name is Danielle, I'm a certified health coach and yoga teacher. I live and teach Yoga in Switzerland. My goal is to share my passion for health with you and inspire you to do something good for yourself.