The best stretches to add to your work-from-home routine
If you work or attend school remotely, taking regular breaks to move and stretch is one of the most effective ways to avoid developing aches and pains. But where to start?
Stacey Pierce-Talsma, DO, who specializes in osteopathic manipulative medicine and also teaches yoga, explains the basics and the benefits of several of her favorite stretches.
Cat/cow pose: This pose consists of kneeling on all fours and alternating between gently arching and flattening your back.
- First, first inhale, curl your back into a U shape, look up, and feel your shoulder blades lowering down your back as your tailbone lifts up to the sky.
- Then exhale and reverse, rounding your spine up to the sky, looking down and in toward your belly button, and drawing your tailbone down to the ground. Look for any areas of restriction or decreased motion and try to stretch into those places.
Sidebending stretch: From a standing position, stretch both your arms gently overhead.
- Drop your right arm toward your right side and lean to the right, getting a sidebending stretch on the left side from your hip to your fingertips.
- Next, straighten up, release your left arm toward your left side, and lean to the left, feeling the same stretch on the other side of your body. As you inhale and exhale, you can stretch to one side and then the other, getting a great stretch in your back.
Twist: Adding a twist to your stretching routine can help loosen muscles if you’ve been sitting for long periods.
- Starting in a seated position, cross your right leg over your left leg, inhaling as you sit up tall and feel your spine lengthen.
- Use your left hand to press on your knee and aid you in turning, twisting and opening toward the right. With each inhalation, lengthen through your spine and with each exhalation, twist a little deeper, as is comfortable. Repeat on the opposite side.
Shoulder and neck stretches
Shoulder stretch: In a standing position, interlace your fingers behind your back, making sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows—or if this is inaccessible, grasp opposite elbows or wrists behind your back.
- Gently push your chest forward and lift your spine long. If your hands are interlaced, stretch your arms and hands backward. If you are hanging onto opposite wrists or elbows, work to draw your shoulders back.
Cactus arms: From a sitting or standing position, stretch your arms into a cactus/goalpost shape.
- As you stretch, try to gently bring your shoulder blades onto your back—you should feel a stretch and opening across the front of your chest.
- Inhale and lift your arms into the air; exhale and form the shape of a cactus with your arms. Repeat.
Neck stretch: For a gentle neck stretch, bring your left arm behind your back.
- Use your right hand to bring your right ear to your right shoulder for a gentle stretch. You can gently move your neck a bit forward and backward to get stretches in different muscles.
Release and repeat on the other side.
Hip flexor stretch: From a standing position, step your right leg forward into a lunge position—this will give you a stretch on your left psoas muscle (the front of your hip).
- To intensify the stretch, bring your pelvic bowl up and drop your tailbone toward the ground. For an even bigger stretch, place your right hand on your hip while bringing your left arm into the air, and lean to the left. Repeat on the other side.