With this month’s news cycle keeping us tethered to Twitter, the perils of Tech Neck have become all too real. Check out some stretches and movements you can do at your desk to mitigate some of the wear and tear (or really, stagnation and disintegration) caused by copious amounts of time deskbound. Unfortunately there’s no two-minute cure, much like how eating a salad on Sunday night doesn’t cancel out a weekend’s worth of overdoing it (Trust me, I’ve tried every bargain in book…but what if it’s kale?!), meaning we can’t fully undo the effects of prolonged sitting through exercise alone. However, doing these stretches and strengtheners regularly throughout the workday can act as multi-vitamins to support your body, mind, and spirit.
Connect to the breath and open your heart with a seated cow stretch.
Often yoga classes begin with a few rounds of cat and cow starting on all fours. Start this Anti-Desk sequence with cow’s more office-friendly cousin, seated cow pulses. Sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor, knees at a 90 degree angle, while maintaining the neutral curves of the spine. Bring your hand to top of your thighs and begin to find, notice, and experience your breath. On an inhale, energetically tug your hands back towards your body, tilt your hips forward and pull your sternum (breastbone) forward and up to the sky, let the gaze gently follow. As you exhale come back to neutral. Take 10-15 rounds, moving with your breath.
Make space in your upper chest and stretch your shoulders.
Either seated at the edge of your chair (yes, stretching is that exciting) or standing, clasp your hands behind your back just above your booty. If your shoulders are fairly tight, look around the office for a yoga strap stand-in: a tie, an arm of your jacket, anything that works, works. The strap stand-in will help you take your hands farther apart, making the pose more accessible.
When you take your hands behind you, notice what happens to the fronts of your shoulders. Generally they’ll round down and forward which sounds a whole lot like, yup, Tech Neck.
Roll your shoulders up and back. Keep a little bend in your elbows and try and energetically pull your hands away from one another.
Begin to gently take the hands away from the body and feel a stretch the the upper chest, across the collarbone, and in the shoulders.
Light up the arms and lean back into a seated tricep stretch.
Reach your left arm to the sky, bend your elbow, and reach your left hand in behind you and between the shoulder blades. Bring your right palm to the left elbow and hug the elbow with your right hand. Then press your left elbow out to the left and then up. Feel a stretch through the back of the arm. Press your head back into your arms, then magnetize your front lower ribs back towards the spine. Repeat. Do your second side, starting with the right arm to the sky.
Take some pain out the neck with a baby backbend.
Cup your hands behind the head with your thumbs cradling your occiput (the bony ridge at base of the skull) and elbows facing forward.
Take a deep inhale and get tall through the sides of the body. Press your head back into your hands and bring a little tone the back of the neck. Energetically lift your hands and base of the skull up, feel the space and traction this creates in the back of the neck.
Stay with this traction or begin to press your head back into your hands (yeah lean back *insert Fat Joe voice here*) so much that your heart center/breastbone begin to lift towards the ceiling. Find a small backbend through the upper chest and breathe.
Give yourself a hand with a little wrist decompression.
Bring your right elbow onto your desk, fingertips towards the sky, fingers spread wide. Take your left hand and grasp your forearm just below the wrist. Squeeze muscle to bone by hugging your left hand into the right forearm and then pull the left hand down. Repeat on the other hand.
Bring your right elbow onto the desk with the palm or your hand facing away from you. Use your opposite hand to pull the right fingers back towards your face, feeling stretch through the front of the wrist.
Enliven the legs with standing pigeon chair stabilized on your desk chair.
This pose brings some fire and life back into the standing leg and actively stretches the outer hip and abductors of the top leg.
Stand behind your chair and place your hands on the back of the chair, the desk chair will act as your stabilizer. Bend the right leg in toward the body, flex the foot, and spread the toes. Place your right outer ankle on the left thigh above the knee. As you press your hands down and forward into the chair bend your standing legs and shift your booty back and down. Make sure that you can still see your left toes. Keep your top foot active and flexed to protect the knee joint over time. Do both sides.
If you’re trying to up the ante, bring your hands to prayer (anjali mudra) or all the way overhead and see what that balance can do.
Say, “hello” to the quad squad with a standing thigh stretch.
As mentioned in Anti-Desk Club Part 1, prolonged sitting tightens the quads. Bring them a little length and love with a standing thigh stretch.
After pigeon chair, stand on two feet bringing knee towards knee, bend your right leg, and with your right hand hold onto your right foot. The extra weight in your right hand may cause your right shoulder to droop down and forward, so lift that right shoulder up and hug back. Energetically press your right knee forward as you kick your foot back into your hand. Do both sides.
Bonus: Ok, so maybe you work in an open office where busting out standing poses will garner you some side eye.
Well, first, I would suggest you show your coworkers Anti-Desk Club Part 1 and tell them to join in! But if that’s still a no-go, try pigeon chair….in your actual chair. Same deal just seated.
Come to a seat at the edge of your chair while maintaining the neutral curves of the spine, sitting tall. Bring your right outer ankle to just above the left knee — making a figure 4. Flex the foot and spread your toes. Begin to energetically press your right knee down and away from you. For more sensation and stretch, you can begin to hinge at the hips and lean your torso forward.
Take these multivitamin poses daily and bring a little relief to your seated shift. Keep an eye out for the final installment of this series of the Anti-Desk Club to get a full-body post-work sequence to soothe mind, body, and spirit.
Shortly after earrning her BA in neuroscience at Oberlin College in Ohio, Adriana began practicing and studying yoga in 2011 after taking her first Bhakti Flow class in Oakland, CA. An athlete growing up, she was first drawn to the physical challenge of the practice but quickly delighted in the equanimity it brought to her mind and spirit. Adriana believes life is a conversation and is constantly surprised and inspired by the answers found on her mat– and the questions which come from those answers.
After moving to Philadelphia, Adriana completed the 200 hour teacher training at DIG Yoga in alignment-based hatha yoga, with her teachers Sue Elkind, Naime Jezzeny, Nikki Robinson, and, mentor, Mariel Freeman. Adriana’s relaxed, conversational teaching style invites students to honor and relish the present moment in whatever form it takes, be it effort or ease. Through clear alignment cues and thoughtful sequencing, she encourages, supports, and empowers students to cultivate a deeper connection with their breath and body, creating a sustainable yoga practice to carry throughout life. Follow her on IG @adrianaadele.