Jessica Matthews by Jessica Matthews

Prolonged periods of sitting can wreak havoc on your health. Not only is it important to add more physical activity of any kind to one’s day to minimize periods of uninterrupted sedentary behavior, but it’s also crucial to incorporate specific movements designed to address the muscular imbalances and associated postural deviations often caused by spending numerous hours a day seated at a desk. The following yoga poses focus on stretching commonly tight muscles associated with extended periods of sitting (e.g., hip flexors and pectorals) while also engaging weakened and lengthened muscles (e.g., gluteals and rhomboids) to help improve posture, minimize incidents of low-back pain, decrease the risk of injury, and enhance overall movement quality.

Goddess-to-star pose

Stand facing long edge of mat with feet three to four feet apart with heels turned in and toes pointed slightly out. Inhale to extend arms overhead in V-shape with arms wider than shoulder width, palms facing forward. Draw shoulders down away from ears while actively outstretching through hands, spreading fingers wide. Exhale to hinge hips and bend knees, lowering into a wide squat position. At the same time bend both arms, drawing elbows in toward ribs and shoulder blades toward one another while maintaining length in spine. With each inhalation extend hips, knees and elbows, and with each exhalation flex hips, knees and elbows, draw shoulder blades together. Continue this rhythmic movement with breath, completing five breath cycles.

Wide-legged forward fold with chest expansion

Begin in standing position facing long edge of mat with feet approximately three to four feet apart, depending on your height and degree of flexibility. Keep feet parallel to one another with both sets of toes pointing forward. Hold a strap in one hand with palm facing wall behind you, then reach opposite hand back to grasp other end of strap. With core engaged, inhale maintaining length in the spine, then slowly exhale as you hinge hips, allowing torso to fold forward and crown of head to draw toward floor. Allow arms to move forward while continuing to hold the strap, maintaining a very slight bend in the knees to protect the joints. Hold this position for three to five complete cycles of breath.

Eagle pose variation

From standing with feet together, sweep arms overhead then draw right arm underneath left, crossing at elbows and wrists to connect palms. For a more accessible option, simply cross arms in front of chest, placing each hand on top of opposite shoulder. Hinge hips and bend knees slightly, holding a modified squat position. Shift weight to left foot and pick up right foot, crossing right knee over left, touching right toes down on ground just outside of left foot. Inhale to maintain length in the spine then exhale lean torso forward slightly while draw hands and elbows gently away from body and guiding shoulder blades down to create sensation in upper back. Hold this position for three to five complete cycles of breath before switching sides and repeating.

Reverse plank

Assume a seated position on mat, extending legs fully along floor. Place hands on the mat directly behind body, fingers pointed toward backside. Inhale to gently press into palms, lifting glutes off floor to extend hips while rooting soles of feet into ground. Gently draw shoulder blades toward one another while opening chest toward ceiling. For a more accessible variation of this pose, bend the knees with feet flat on mat for reverse table top position. Hold this position for three to five complete cycles of breath.

Supine figure-4

Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Pick up right foot, crossing right ankle just above left knee, allowing right knee to open toward right side of room while drawing toes toward shin to stabilize knee. Maintain this position if this creates enough sensation in the right hip or to move into a deeper expression lift left foot off floor keeping left knee bent. Thread right arm through space created between legs and reach left arm around left leg to interlace hands behind left thigh. Keeping head, neck and shoulders on floor gentle guide left knee in toward chest while continuing to open right knee outward. Hold this position for three to five complete cycles of breath before repeating on opposite side.

Wind removing pose to supine spinal twist

Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Outstretch left leg fully along mat, placing a block underneath left thigh for additional support if needed, or keeping knee bent if more accessible. Pick up right foot and interlace hands below right knee on the shin. Inhale to open right knee toward right side of room then exhale to guide knee up toward right armpit, just outside of chest. Hold this position for two to three cycles of breath then unbind hands, extending right arm out to right side wall while using left hand to gently guide right knee across the body to rest lightly on a block placed outside left hip. Adjust hips slightly if needed, scooting hips slightly to the right while turning head to look toward right hand. Hold this position for three to five cycles of breath before repeating the sequence on the other side.