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Release Stress Right at Your Desk With 5 Chair Yoga Moves

By , Kristin McGee
You've been sitting at your desk for several hours and you haven't moved. It's you, your computer and your phone for the foreseeable future. Your back starts to ache and your neck feels stiff, so you wiggle in your seat and try to find a better, more comfortable "sitting" position. Nothing seems to work. The ache persists and you spend the rest of the afternoon cursing your uncomfortable chair for turning on you.
What you don't realize is that if you took a few minutes out of your day to stretch out with some simple yoga poses, you would be doing your body a great service. Not only can a few targeted poses strengthen your core and spine, but they can also help you in opening up your lungs, activating your breath, focusing your mind, and in fact stretching your entire body without ever fully abandoning your chair.
As yoga and Pilates instructor, I discovered that not everyone can fit exercise into their daily—often overbooked—routine. However, many Americans tend to be more sedentary than physically active, making it even more important to move every day. In addition to sitting all day at work, we spend time sitting during our commute to and from work in a car, on a bus or subway, and then sinking into the couch to watch TV at the end of a long day. A 2013 survey by Ergotron, a global manufacturer of sit-stand desks, found that 86 percent of American workers spend their day sitting, and the effect of prolonged sitting is taking a serious toll on our health. In addition to causing strain on the neck and shoulders, back, hips and legs, when we sit for long periods of time we are increasing our risk for diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and postural and muscular problems, to name a few.
While yoga in the middle of the work day might sound crazy, it's actually a time-effective and efficient way to combat some of those health risks while releasing tension. Knowing how important it was for people to find some way to move each day, I put together "Chair Yoga," a book featuring a series of 100 low-impact yoga exercises and poses that can be done anytime, anywhere, in a chair.
"Chair Yoga" helps combat the negative impacts of sitting by reducing muscle pain and tension, decreasing mental stress and aiding in digestion. Get started by incorporating some of these popular poses into your daily routine, right at your desk.

Your Mid-Day "Om"

Sun Salutations with Twists
When it comes to your spine and core—two areas which are often in compromising positions when slouched over at a desk—yoga twists are the move to do.  
  • To start, sit tall with your feet on the floor, hips toward the edge of the chair and your back straight.
  • Inhale, reaching your arms overhead to press your palms together.
  • As you exhale, drop your arms down as you twist to the left, bringing the right hand to the left knee and the left arm behind you to the top of the chair.
  • Inhale back to center, then repeat on your right side.
  • Continue this flow eight to 10 times.

Starting position.

Extend the arms.


Eagle Arms
Eagle arms help to open your shoulders, upper back, elbows and wrists.
  • To start, sit tall with your feet hip-width apart and firmly on the floor, hips toward the edge of the chair and your back straight.
  • Take your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, palms open to the ceiling.
  • Next, wrap the left arm under the right arm as high as you can, then double cross your forearms and try to press the palms together.
  • If you can't touch your palms, press the backs of the hands instead.
  • Work on lifting your elbows toward the ceiling while softening your shoulders.
  • Hold for five to eight breaths before releasing your arms and repeating with the opposite arm crossing under.

Downward-Facing Dog
Downward-facing dog is a great way to engage your lower body. This full-body stretch opens your upper back, shoulders, head, neck and legs. It also helps to refresh your mind and connect with your breath.
  • Start by facing the back of your chair and place your hands on the back of the chair, shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back until your chest is parallel to the floor.
  • Next, engage your abdominals as you lift your ribs away from the floor. During this phase, think about arching out of the lower back and lifting your hips up and away from your shoulders.
  • Bend your knees to pull back even more, then straighten your legs again.
  • Hold this for eight to 10 breaths.

Goddess Squat
For additional lower-body work and an opportunity to further open up your hips and strengthen your buttocks and legs, try goddess squats.
  • Start at the edge of your seat with your hips in the middle of the chair.
  • Open your legs out to the side as wide as you can, and press your hands together in your heart center and hold for eight to 10 breaths.
  • To advance this movement, try lifting up a few inches from your chair and holding as long as you can.

Scale Pose
A nice way to end your chair yoga routine is with an abdominal exercise. Scale pose is great for working the core and literally lifts you out of your seat. The more you strengthen the abdominals, the better your posture, energy and spine health, not to mention flatter abs.
  • Sit at the edge of your seat and place your hands on either side of you hips.
  • Engage your core muscles and lift your hips and feet so you hover above the chair.
  • Release and repeat three to five more times.

Adding these few chair yoga poses to your day will gradually help you stretch and strengthen your body. In just a few minutes a day, if you can stay committed, you will see and feel yourself getting stronger, more flexible, more focused, healthier and happier.

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TURQUROISE 9/14/2020
Love these yoga poses! thank you Report
COCOLEAN 9/11/2020
painful reminder of how much you lose gaining so much ~ I used to be able to that eagle pose with ease .... seems impossible now Report
CECELW 9/2/2020
i love these stretches Report
CKEYES1 6/19/2020
Yoga is so relaxing Report
EVILCECIL 4/10/2020
Great moves. Thanks. Report
KHALIA2 2/28/2020
Thanks for sharing this one!!!!!!! Report
KHALIA2 2/28/2020
Thanks!!!!!! Report
KOHINOOR2 2/28/2020
Great! Thank you! Report
NASFKAB 2/2/2020
Great but cant do that Eagle Arms at all Report
I could do all but that last one. Report
Thank you! Beautiful photos! However, I think that I would tilt the chair over with the last one, the scale pose! Report
CECELW 1/27/2020
hmmm. I feel like i've read this one before Report
PATRICIA-CR 1/27/2020
Wonderful! Report
NANASUEH 1/27/2020
thanks Report
NJ_HOU 1/27/2020
I just have to ask - what workplace? unless you have an office you are out of luck and the last I do not like stupid suggestions. There must be better options and hopefully you'll suggest them Report
NEPTUNE1939 1/27/2020
ty Report
JANIMOEN 11/23/2019
Nobody who works at a desk all day uses a chair like that! Ours have wheels so most of these poses will not work. Report
CD24912514 11/13/2019
thanks Report
FRAN0426 10/29/2019
Thanks, going to give these a try Report
ERIN_POSCH 10/20/2019
thanks Report
GABY1948 10/5/2019
Thanks Report
thanks Report
"Goddess Squat"! I LOVE it! :) Report
I have to try this
Absolutely Report
Good 😊 moved Report
Thank you for these! Report
Lovely routine. Thanks! Report
I loved my yoga practice, but the studio recently closed. Eagle arms is great to open your back, eagle legs is great for your hips and developing balance. Report
Will try at work tomorrow Report
Love the eagle arms! Never heard of before, felt GREAT!!!!! THX! Report
I just tried scale pose, thinking it would be impossible for me. I DID IT! Report
babysitting 1-6pm so these will come in handy Report
Destressing for me most times is just a matter of getting up and getting my body moving and clearing my thoughts. Report
Look Great-Do 'scale pose' from the floor! may not get high foot lift, but you are still performing the action & stretch. Report
I enjoy these stretches. Thanks for sharing! Report
fun to try some but hard to do Report
Great. Report
The pictures really help- Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Great routine -- except that last one: the Scale Pose is not happening here :) Report
Thanks. I just completed the series while sitting with my student. You made my day! You are an amazing encourager. This post has raised my attitude to be "CAN DO!"
Thanks! Report
Good information to know. Report
Great ideas! Report
Awesome...thanks... Report
Great article. Report
I'm really excited about these chair yoga exercises. My back KILLS me when i leave work every day. Just finished this little routine and i already feel more energized. Going to save a copy to my computer desktop to remind me to do every day! Thanks SP! Report
These look great with the exception of the Scale pose. That looks dangerous. Report
I've seen and done all of the poses shown except for the "scale pose"! That looks very interesting. Hope to try all of these later this afternoon! Great info! Thanks! Report
more should do this Report