Ah, there’s much to love about yoga. We know those brilliant yogis have secrets we could all benefit from, and your uber-cute colorful workout gear is fresh from a laundering. But sometimes, after a long day at the office, the last thing you want to do is trek all the way to a studio and then get through an hour-long class. That doesn’t change the fact that your neck is sore, back aches and hips are supremely tight. Fear not! That’s why we tapped top yoga instructors for some simple moves you can do at home to erase all that cubicle malaise without stepping foot in a studio. Bonus: You’ll feel rejuvenated for when you decide to crush that treadmill workout tomorrow.
1. Seated Pigeon: This position is the perfect move to perform to open the hips and lengthen the hip flexors, which are tight after a long day of sitting,” advises Patrick Mason, a TruFusion yoga instructor in Las Vegas. To get into the pose, sit forward in a chair so you’re not leaning against the back of the chair. “Place your ankles directly below your knees. Bring one knee to chest, flex foot, and begin rotating the leg outward from the hip joint, all while keeping your knee bent. Place your ankle on the opposite thigh, just above the knee,” says Mason. If this gives you a stretching feeling, breathe deeply and count to 10. Or, take it further by inhaling, sitting upright and folding forward from your hips. Do this exercise on each side two to three times. “You can even perform this during the day and use the chair you are sitting on!” exclaims Mason.
2. Cat and Cow: To reverse some of the bodily stress you create from sitting at a desk all day, try this simple flow to free tension from your back. The “cat”: “Start by sitting in your chair, feet flat on the floor directly under your knees, shoulders over hips. Extend your arms in front of you to rest your hands on your thighs just behind your knees. With an exhale, push into your hands as you round your shoulders and scoop your back into a letter-C shape, dropping your chin toward your chest to lengthen the back of your neck,” says Diane West, yoga instructor at The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House, a luxury resort in New York’s Hudson Valley. Onto “cow”: “Next, begin to inhale as you push into your hands and lift your heart; you will feel your hips root into your chair as your back arches. As your shoulder blades come closer together, lift your head and look up. Continue several times, [taking care to] keep the movements coordinated with your breath.” Anytime you’re feeling particularly on edge, turn to the cat-cow flow for a dose of legit namaste. We promise it works.
3. Seated Twist: “The twist in this move stretches your shoulders, hips and neck and loosens the spine, all of which need a stretch after sitting in a chair all day,” says Mason. Plop on the floor (amen) and start out by putting your legs straight out in front of you. Next, bend your right knee and place your foot on the outside of your left leg. “Exhale and gently twist your torso to the right, placing your right hand on the floor behind your buttocks,” says Mason. “Wrap your left arm around your right leg and breathe into the pose while keeping your spine lengthened, your right hand pressed into the floor, and your left arm pressed into your thigh.” After taking three long, slow breaths, repeat on the opposite side. Repeat this twist three times per side and everybody will wonder where you got that extra spring in your step the next day.
4. Eye of the Needle. Swap out that “Eye of the Tiger” inclusive pump-up party playlist for the restorative, soothing glory that is the Eye of the Needle. “Eye of the Needle can help open your hips after sitting still,” says West. “Start [seated] with your feet flat on the floor directly under your knees, shoulders over hips. Lift your right leg and place your right ankle on top of your left thigh just behind your knee, being careful not to place it right on top of your knee. Your right leg will be parallel to the front of your chair. Sitting tall press your right knee down.” Need a little aid? Press the palm of your hands on the inner side of your right thigh, while being sure to stay seated with a straight spine as you press down. “You may feel a gentle stretch as your IT band releases. Hold for several breaths, then repeat on your left side.” West also recommends this one as a great yoga pose to try before or after a hike. Because you totally planned that epic fall hike with your girls, right? It’s one of our favorite free fall activities too.
5. Fish Pose: Tension in the neck? Throat? Head? Release it with this relaxing pose that also helps open up the chest muscles and your lungs. “Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you and your toes pointed. Place your hands under your buttocks, then gently lean back and place your forearms on the floor (your back will arch!),” explains Mason. “Release your head back and rest the back of your head (or the crown if you can arch your back high) onto the floor. Be careful not to place a lot of weight on your head — you don’t want to crunch your neck!” After you hold this for about 15 to 20 seconds, breathing deeply throughout, repeat on each side two to three times.
6. Thread the Needle: Here’s another simple and deeply calming move to help quell tension in the upper chest, shoulders, upper back and neck. “Start in tabletop [on the floor] on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Inhale, and on an exhale, slide your right arm under your left arm with your arm facing up. Your arm should stay straight, your right shoulder should come to the floor, and rest the right side of your face on the mat,” offers Mason. “While in the move, be sure to keep your left side lifted and do not press into your head, so as not to put strain on your neck and shoulder.” You can stay in this pose for up to a minute on each side — repeat one more time on each side after your first set, if you’d like — and conclude by releasing gently, and coming back into tabletop. If only our 18-year-old finals-cramming selves knew about this one.
7. Standing Backbend: Ah, sweet relief is on its way. “This move will open the entire front of your body, including hips and chest, and relieves back and neck pain,” says Mason. Stand in mountain pose (stand as you would normally, with your arms by your sides and your feet a few inches apart) and place your palms on your lower back with your fingers extending downwards toward the floor. “Press your feet into the ground. Inhale as you lift tall through the crown of your head. On your exhale, begin to press your hips forward and arch your torso backward. Remain here for three to five deep breaths.” Return to mountain pose after this, before repeating two more times. Done-zo!
What’s your go-to stretch to crush stress after a long day? Tweet us at @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)