Nothing can make your neck sore, your back ache, your hips stiff, and your brain fried quite like a long day at the office. Luckily for us all, there are yoga poses that can target and relieve these tense areas. And practicing yoga won’t only address the kinks in your body; it has the added benefit of relieving all that mental stress that builds up throughout the day. Here are the 10 best poses to do after work.
1. Neck Stretches (see photo above)
Staring at a computer or phone all day can leave your neck feeling tight and tense. Target this sensitive area directly with some therapeutic neck stretches.
Sitting comfortably, tilt your head to the right and left, holding for one deep breath on each side until you feel the tension and soreness dissipate. Then repeat by tilting your head forward and backward. For a deeper stretch, you can use your opposite hand to apply gentle pressure to the top of your head, as shown in the picture.
Sitting all day is one of the worst things you can do for your back. Gently undo the damage with some slow cat/cows.
Place your hands under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. As you inhale, arch your spine, drop your belly and look up. As you exhale, round your spine, taking your gaze toward your navel. Repeat for 10 deep breaths.
We talk about downward facing dog a lot here at yoga.com, but that’s because it’s just so beneficial! This posture will lengthen your spine, stretch your legs and hips, open your shoulders and chest, and improve your circulation all at the same time. If you can only do one pose after work, make it this one!
Starting on your hands and knees, tuck your toes, straighten your legs and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Step your feet backward a bit if necessary and spread your fingers wide. The most important thing in this pose is to keep your spine long, so if you feel your back rounding, try bending your knees a tad. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
After work we tend to have a lot of stress and other emotions to release. Forward bends are perfect for these moments, as they encourage us to let go of anxiety, worries, and other negative feelings. Prasarita padottanasana will also release a tight lower back, provide a deep stretch to stiff legs, and open up the chest and shoulders—all very necessary after a long day siting!
Stand with your feet about three feet apart. Turn your toes toward each other very slightly and interlace the fingers behind your back. Inhale, lift your chest and engage your core, and lift your hands behind your back. As you exhale, fold from your hips and bring your head towards the floor, keeping your legs and spine straight. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
Give the sides of your torso and your lower back some love with this deeply relaxing seated stretch.
Bend your left leg and bring your left foot to the inside of your right thigh. Keeping your torso rotated to the left and your chest open, bend toward your right leg. If you can, take hold of your right toes with your right hand and stretch your left arm over your head to meet the right. Hold for 10 deep breaths. Don’t forget to repeat on the other side!
This pose provides a deep stretch to the hips, inner thighs, and (if you’re flexible enough to fold forward) lower back. It’s also great for sciatic discomfort, which is often exacerbated by sitting.
Sit up straight, bring the soles of your feet together in front of you and clasp your hands around them. You can stay here, or you can deepen the stretch by folding forward, making sure to keep your spine long. 10 deep breaths!
Pigeon might be the BEST stretch to relieve sore, tight hips and improve range of motion at the hip joint. It is also extremely relaxing, provides deep psychological benefits, and like baddha konasana, can benefit those with sciatic pain.
From your hands and knees, bring your right knee behind your right wrist, and your right foot behind your left wrist. For yogis with more mobile hips, the right thigh and calf will make almost a 90 degree angle, while others will still feel a deep stretch at a 30-45 degree angle. Stretch your left leg straight out behind you on the mat. If you want to go deeper, inhale and open you chest, and exhale and to reach your arms out in front of you, slowly lowering your torso towards the floor. Hold for at least 10 deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
After being hunched over a desk all day, it’s important to softly stretch our spine in the opposite direction with baby backbends like sphinx pose, sometimes called ‘half cobra.’
To enter the pose, lie on your stomach and engage your back muscles to lift your head and upper torso from the mat. Align your elbows underneath your shoulders for support. Keep your chest wide and open and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Look straight ahead and hold for 10 deep breaths.
This pose is a beautiful and beneficial pose to include in your practice, as it will gently ease open any areas where you’re still holding tension, as well as realign your spine and relax your mind.
From all fours, bring your feet together behind you. Bring your hips back so they are resting on your feet or heading in that direction. Stretch your arms out in front of you or place them along side you, and rest your forehead on the floor. Breathe deeply as your shoulders, chest, lower back, and hips relax and open up. Rest in this posture for 10 breaths, or as long as you need.
Working all day doesn’t only make our bodies stiff and sore—it can also make our minds feel stressed and agitated. Finish your after-work practice with a long meditation in Savasana, and re-enter the world feeling relaxed and renewed.