Sitting at your desk for long hours in "chair pose" can lead to chronic pain all over. Luckily, there's a simple solution to prevent and relieve that tension -- practice yin yoga at your desk. A study published in the International Journal of Yoga found that yin yoga is designed to combat irritation, sadness, anxiety and mental sluggishness and improve concentration, making it one of the best antidotes to handle the stress of your desk job. Plus, you don't have to stop doing your work, be an experienced yogi or wear yoga pants. All you need is your desk, a chair and yourself (and maybe a co-worker to join you).
1. Ankle Stretch
Beginning your practice with ankle stretches reduces the chance of injuring the calf or other lower-leg muscles. And this ankle stretch strengthens and relieves tension in the ankles and feet. But avoid this pose if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma or diabetes. HOW TO DO IT: Begin on the floor and sit on your heels. Place your hands on your knees, lean back slightly, lifting your knees an inch or two. Keep the chest lifted and shoulders relaxed. Hold for about a minute. If there is too much discomfort in the ankles and knees, don't do the pose or hold for 10-second increments. To come out, lean forward.
2. Neck Rolls
Staring at a screen for long hours tends to create stiffness and pain in the neck and upper back. Performing these stretches every day will help counteract that tension. HOW TO DO IT: Sit up straight. Gaze at the ceiling, keeping your neck long, and hold for five breaths. Bring the left ear to the left shoulder and hold for five breaths. For a deeper stretch, place the left hand on the right ear. Next, roll your head down to your chest and hold for five breaths. For a deeper stretch, interlace your fingers and place palms gently on the back of your head, elbows drawing in toward each other. Now roll your head to the right and hold for five breaths. Repeat in the opposite direction.
It's common to experience severe tightness in your lower back or hamstrings from sitting at a desk all day. Dangling gently stretches the hamstrings and back, massages the abdominal organs, slows your heart rate and rejuvenates the spinal nerves, liver, spleen and kidneys. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees just enough to take the tension out and fold your upper body forward so it's dangling with the head toward the ground. Bring your right hand to you left elbow and your left hand to your right elbow. Dangle for five to 10 deep breaths. To come out of it, bend your knees and release your hands to the floor. Slowly stand up one vertebra at a time.
If you sit with your legs crossed all day, this is the pose for you. Squatting opens the hips, strengthens the ankles and relieves lower-back tension. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold your arms out in front of you parallel to the ground and squat down. Bring your palms together with your elbows pushing lightly against the knees and shins lightly. If your heels are off the floor, place a folded towel, blanket or coat under them. Stay here for five to 10 breaths. Come to a dangling position with the hands on the floor, straightening the legs as you rise.
Related: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try
5. Single Pigeon With Desk Variation
Use your desk to open up your hips after long periods of sitting. This pose also prevents knee injury and helps regulate digestion for your metabolism. HOW TO DO IT: Stand close to the desk and draw your right knee in toward your chest. Place your right knee and ankle parallel on the edge of the desk, so your right knee is just outside of your hip. Keep the right foot flexed and both hip-bone points square to your desk. Rest here for five to 10 deep breaths, and then, when you're ready, grab your knee and slowly take your leg off the desk. Shake out the right leg and repeat with the left.
6. Cow Face Arms
This all-inclusive stretch for your upper body targets your shoulders, back, arms, armpits and chest. Not to mention it helps perfect your posture and strengthens your spine. HOW TO DO IT: Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart. Bring your right hand above your head, bend the elbow and bring your right palm to touch your back. Stretch your left arm to the side, bend the elbow and bring the hand behind your back to clasp the right hand. Slowly crawl the left fingertips up to meet the right as far as they can go. Or grab a strap or belt to grasp behind your back. Hold for five to 10 deep breaths and repeat on other side.
7. Eagle Arms
This twisted pose is the antidote to tight shoulders and terrible upper-back posture. It also relieves tension in the neck, shoulders, trapezius, rhomboids, triceps and scapula. HOW TO DO IT: Stand or sit with feet hip-width apart. Bring the arms out to the side to make a T shape with your body, and then draw them toward the center, crossing the right arm under the left so that your arms are intertwined. See if you can bring the palms together with elbows at shoulder height. If you want to deepen the position, lean forward and rest your elbows on your desk. Rest here for five to 10 deep breaths, and then sit up. Bring the arms back out to a T and repeat on the other side.
8. Spinal Twist
This is one of the best poses for spine mobility and massaging your abdominal organs. It also relieves tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back. HOW TO DO IT: Sit rooted into your chair while keeping an upright posture and a long spine. Keep your hips square and feet pointing forward, and then turn your upper body to the right. Place your right hand on the chair's back to deepen the twist and look over your right shoulder. Hold for eight to 10 breaths, then come back to center and repeat on the left side.
Related: 11 Yoga Poses to Detoxify Your Body
9. Seated Forward Fold
Having your head below your heart is not only a great back stretch, but it's also great for calming the mind because it releases tension in the back, neck and head and tightness in the hips. HOW TO DO IT: Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and legs slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Draw your navel in toward your spine as you begin to round forward, hinging from the hip. Lower your hands to the floor and your chest between your legs. Relax your head and neck and allow your shoulders to relax. Hold for eight to 10 breaths.
What Do YOU Think?
Ready to begin yin? Making yoga a daily habit will not only alleviate the aches and stresses from the job, but it will also provide other physical, emotional, mental-health and well-being benefits. Which poses will you incorporate into your routine? Will you do yoga at your desk? What else do you do to counteract sitting all day? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!