Easy Stretches You Should Try If You Have Been Sitting for Too Long
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have adopted a new work routine of sitting in front of our laptops, be it having video conferences, or simply working on a project, all from the comforts of our own home, which translates to – more privacy. (Yay!!) No more feeling embarrassed to do a side lunge in an open workplace or having to run to the bathroom or break room to stretch. On the other hand, some of us are also becoming more of a couch potato either binging on Netflix or gaming to kill time, which all involve long hours of sitting down.
That being said, here are some reasons why sitting for too long is damaging to the body:
- Shoulders hunched over, which closes off the chest and you may face difficulty breathing deeply.
- The back and shoulders that are bent over the desk will stiffen your muscles from neck to hips.
- Hips and legs muscles will tighten up as they are not in use when sitting for too long.
These are a few of my favourite stretches, that do not require one to curl into a pretzel, nor do you need to be a certified yogi to accomplish. Just grab your yoga mat for extra cushioning, or if you do not have one, a towel will suffice as well.
Cat and Cow Pose
This is a gentle flow that brings flexibility to the spine. It stretches the back and the neck, opens up the chest and restores postural balance. If practised regularly, this pose helps to alleviate back pain. Most yoga sequences start with this pose, and it is my personal favourite after a long day of sitting in front of my desk. Here is a simple step-by-step on the correct way of easing into the Cat and Cow Pose.
Butterfly pose (Seated/reclining)
This seated butterfly stretch opens up and relieves tightness in the hips. Most people are unaware that long hours of sitting impact your hip mobility by shortening the hip flexors and weakening the glute muscles. Restriction of range of motion at the hip could possibly magnify itself over the years to become a significant issue. However, fret not, this stretch will offset hours of sitting and help improve hip flexibility. For an extra upper body stretch, the reclining butterfly also opens up the chest, as you lift your hands up and over your head for a nice elongation. Here’s a demo on a seated butterfly pose and reclining butterfly pose.
Reclined spinal twist
Another stretch that is done lying down comfortably, this spinal twist improves spine mobility and stretches the shoulders, chest, upper back and hips. It is both relaxing and re-energizing as the twist encourages better blood flow throughout the body. If you’re new to this, do check out Abi Carver’s easy tutorial on how to do a proper reclined spinal twist.
A restorative calming pose, Child’s Pose is commonly done at the end of a yoga workout. It is pretty much a full-body stretch, relaxing your neck, spine and shoulders, and also gently stretches your lower back all the way down to your ankles. It calms the mind and relieves stress which is perfect to help wind down at the end of the day. Here’s a quick demo on how to do the child’s pose.
You can choose to do each of these poses individually or all together, for a nice and easy flow, especially if you want to catch a break from being hunched over a desk. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete these stretches, but you can also choose to stay in one pose for a longer time as they are all restorative stretches which help on a therapeutic level as well. Remember to breathe deeply to get all the oxygen in, replenishing the body at the same time.
However, if you’d like to relieve your tight muscles while you’re back in the office after the MCO, here are some office-friendly stretches you can practice. Here are some recommendations that are discreet enough yet yield sufficient benefits for overall mobility.
This is a natural stretch that you will do after long hours hunched over your desk. You can do this either seated or standing. Start with your fingers laced together, and stretch them up towards the ceiling. Inhale deeply as you reach up as high as you can, then exhale and release your arms, sweeping them back down. For an extra lateral stretch, lean into one side when your arms are stretched up, and then alternate on the other side. Repeat 4 to 5 times, or as needed.
Seated spinal twist
Remain seated on your chair with your knees in line with one another, place your left hand on your right knee and twist your entire upper body to the right. You can rest your right hand on the back of the chair for additional support and hold for 5 seconds, then twist back and repeat on the other side.
Seated hip stretch
Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor and sit towards the middle of your chair. Place one ankle on top of the opposite knee and, maintaining a straight back, tilt forward at the waist until you feel the stretch. Hold for 5-8 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Alternatively, you can check out Yoga with Adrienne’s video on a 10-minute stretch that can be done at your desk.
There are many benefits to stretching regularly and working on our flexibility, so what better time than now to try out these stretches for a quick reset when we are at home 24/7. A little goes a long way!