Desk Yoga: 13 Poses For A reinvigorating Work Stretch

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No matter what type of work you’re actually doing at your desk, if you’re sitting at your desk all day there’s one thing you’re probably not doing for all those hours—exercise.

Of course, while your priority at work needs to be getting your work done, doing a little yoga at your desk throughout the day is actually a great way to offset the tightness you might feel in your hips, shoulders, ankles, and back from sitting all day.

Desk yoga can help you stay active at work, which can improve the way your body and brain feel and perform.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of desk yoga and we will share some easy yoga poses you can do at your desk to break up hours of sitting.

We will cover: 

  • 4 Benefits of Desk Yoga
  • Desk Yoga: 14 Desk Yoga Poses For Keeping Active At Work

Let’s jump in! 

a woman stretches at her desk

4 Benefits of Desk Yoga

Our bodies weren’t designed to sit at a desk and be sedentary all day. 

#1: A reduced risk of sedentary diseases

Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis, and metabolic syndrome.

For example, physical inactivity leads to poor circulation and chronic inflammation, which, in turn, increases your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.

#2: Stronger muscles

A sedentary lifestyle also leads to muscle weakness due to disuse. As your muscles get weaker, it becomes more difficult to perform more active activities of daily living, such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries.

Muscle weakness also makes it more difficult to enjoy or feel motivated to exercise or take on vigorous workouts that could otherwise build muscle and counteract sitting at a desk most of the day.

#3: Improved mental wellbeing

Physical inactivity doesn’t only negatively impact your physical health; a sedentary lifestyle is also associated with an increased risk of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

#4: Improved productivity

Research suggests that desk yoga can potentially improve your productivity and concentration at work.

For example, studies have shown that stretching before or during work the work day not only decreases employees’ pain levels, it can also improve performance at work, increase problem-solving abilities, and calm employees’ minds.

Desk Yoga: 14 Desk Yoga Poses For Keeping Active At Work

#1: Desk Yoga Chair Raised-Hand Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

a group of office workers stretch at their desks

Although it’s not a yoga pose that builds significant strength, the seated raised-hand pose is a great desk yoga pose for elongating your entire spine, opening up your chest to allow for deeper breaths, and counteracting poor posture and slumping.

You can do this modified yoga pose at your desk when you want to stretch your upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, and psoas.

It can also strengthen your back and shoulders if you perform the pose regularly.

This simple desk yoga pose just involves lifting your arms towards the ceiling and flexing your wrists and fingers. 

It feels good after typing for a long time or when your shoulders and neck feel stiff and tired.

  • Sit up straight in your chair with good posture.
  • Inhale, reaching your arms out towards your sides and then up towards the ceiling.
  • With your arms extended overhead, press your palms together, allowing your gaze to look up at your thumbs as your shoulder blades slide down your back.
  • Squeeze your abdominal muscles in towards your spine to reduce pressure on your lower back.
  • Hold for 5-10 deep breaths, releasing the pose on an exhale.

If you experience tightness in your neck when you look upwards at your hands, just keep your gaze neutral and straight ahead.

#2: Desk Yoga Eagle Arms 

a man doing eagle arms side on

One of the biggest complaints among people who sit at a desk all day typing at a computer is tight wrists and fingers. This may even escalate to carpal tunnel syndrome.

This desk yoga pose helps stretch out and release tension in your wrists and fingers to combat these issues.

  • Sit upright at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms extended straight in front of you so that they are perpendicular to your body.
  • You can cross one leg over and hook one foot behind the front leg.
  • Cross one arm over the other arm to interlock them, pressing your palms together.
  • Lift your elbows and stretch your fingers up towards the ceiling as high as they will go. 

#3: Desk Yoga Chair Crescent Moon Pose (Añjaneyāsana)

a woman doing desk yoga in a blue shirt

Almost anyone who’s sat hunched over at a desk for long periods of time has felt pain and discomfort in their neck and shoulders. 

This, in turn, can further deteriorate your posture. 

You can modify Crescent Moon pose for desk yoga by performing right from your chair in a seated position.

This desk yoga poses lengthens your spine to release tight muscles in the shoulders and neck, allowing you to hold better posture.

  • Sit upright with good posture with your spine straight and along the back of your chair.
  • Inhale, extending your arms overhead and spreading your fingers nice and wide.
  • Exhale, bending your torso to the right to stretch the left side of your body.
  • Inhale, using your core muscles to bring your body back upright to the center.
  • Exhale, bending your torso to the left.
  • Inhale, coming back to center.
  • Repeat 10 cycles.

#4: Desk Yoga Chair Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

This desk yoga pose can be modified so that you can perform it right from your chair. It mobilizes your spine, improves posture and core strength, and can strengthen your obliques, shoulders, abs, and back.

  • Sit on the edge of your chair with the fingertips on your left hand to the outside of your left foot, using a block if you cannot reach the floor.
  • Inhale, twisting your torso to the right. Raise your right arm and gaze towards the ceiling, opening up your chest.
  • Hold for several full breaths.
  • When you are ready, lower back into the Forward Fold on an exhale.
  • Repeat on the other side.

#5: Desk Yoga Chair Cat-Cow Stretch (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

This desk yoga pose combats low back pain or stiffness and poor posture because it lengthens and stretches the spine. It can be modified to allow you to perform it seated in your desk chair instead of needing to get on the floor.

  • Sit up tall, core engaged, shoulders back, and chest up, with your sit bones on the edge of your chair, with your knees bent to 90 degrees directly over your ankles and feet flat on the floor with your toes pointing forward. Your thighs should be parallel and hip-width apart with your hands resting on top of them.
  • Inhale, moving into the cow position by arching your spine as you roll your shoulders down and back.
  • Exhale, transitioning into the cat position by rounding your spine, bringing your shoulders forward, and lowering your chin towards your chest.
  • Alternate between the two poses for ten breaths.

#6: Desk Yoga Chair Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

a man doing chair yoga in his bedroom

This desk yoga pose mobilizes your spine and can relieve tension in your back.

  • Sit with good posture on the edge of your chair with your core engaged.
  • Inhale, lengthening your spine.
  • Exhale, twisting your torso to the left, sweeping your arms to the left; reaching towards the back of the chair.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Alternate sides for ten breaths.

#7: Desk Yoga Upward Dog

This desk yoga poses opens your chest and extends your spine, helping improve your posture and combat a slumped position.

  • Stand upright and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of your desk (make sure your desk is stable and relatively immovable).
  • Step your feet backwards so that your body makes a straight line from your shoulders to your feet when your arms are straight.
  • Keeping your arms straight, inhale as you press your hips towards your desk.
  • Engage your legs to reduce pressure on your lower back.
  • Press into the stretch to open your chest.
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  • To release the pose, exhale while you engage your core and fold at the hips, until your body is at a 90-degree angle.

#8: Chair Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

This is a good desk yoga pose if you have tight hips and glutes.

  • Sit up tall with your core engaged. 
  • Lift and bend your right leg so that your right ankle rests atop your left thigh with your right knee out to the side and right shin parallel to the front edge of the seat of your chair.
  • To deepen the pose, you can hinge at the hips into a Forward Bend.
  • Repeat with the other leg.
a woman stretching at her desk overlooking a city

#9: Desk Yoga Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Why not take a few minutes using your own body as a chair?

Chair pose is one of the best desk yoga poses to strengthen your entire body, especially the quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, and shoulders.

You can push your desk chair aside and hold this pose when you’re on the phone or reading something on your computer screen.

  • Stand upright with good posture.
  • Inhale, lifting your arms overhead so that your upper arms are high next to your eyes.
  • You can keep your arms parallel to one another or bring your palms together.
  • Exhale as you bend your knees and hips to squat down as if sitting in a chair.
  • Aim to have your thighs as close to parallel to the ground as possible.
  • Lean your trunk forward so that your trunk and thighs are perpendicular.
  • Engage your core and inner thighs to keep your legs parallel.
  • Hold for 30 seconds or more, and then exhale to release the pose and return to standing.

#10: Desk Yoga Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)

If you can stand up for a few minutes in your desk yoga practice, this is an easy stretch for your hamstrings. It feels great after you’ve been sitting for a long time.

  • Stand up tall with good posture.
  • Take a deep breath in as you hinge at the hips.
  • Fold your body to reach down towards your toes. Keep your knees straight.
  • You can hold onto your feet or ankles to deepen the stretch, depending on your flexibility.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Slowly come back up to standing.
  • Rest and repeat 3 times.
a woman in a blue top doing chair yoga in an office

#11: Desk Yoga Standing Figure 4 Stretch

Standing up for the Figure 4 Stretch will further increase circulation and also will strengthen your legs, improve your balance, and activate your core.

  • Stand upright with good posture.
  • Bend your knee and hip to cross your right ankle over your left thigh.
  • Bend your left knee and sit your hips back as if preparing to sit in a chair.
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths and then switch sides.

#12: Desk Yoga Chaturanga

This is one of the best desk yoga poses for building strength in your core and upper body.

  • Stand upright and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of your desk (make sure your desk is stable and relatively immovable).
  • Step your feet backwards so that when you bend your elbows to lower your body into Chaturanga, your chest is at the level of the top of the desk and your body makes a straight line from your shoulders to your feet.
  • Inhale, lowering into Chaturanga, ensuring that you keep your elbows tucked into your ribs as you bend into a 90-degree angle.
  • Exhale, pressing back up until your arms are fully extended.
  • Complete 10-15 slow and controlled reps.

For more desk yoga ideas, check out this free video

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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