Whether your home office setup predates March 2020 or you’re still typing away at a makeshift work-from-home setup, you’ve likely found ways to optimize your remote work space to reflect how much you actually use it. Maybe you’ve upgraded to a standing desk to give your body variety as you work, or you’ve totally revamped your space with a soothing coat of paint. Whatever your setup, adding a simple stretching routine to your daily routine can help boost productivity and help your body through potential aches and pains.
According to Stephanie Acosta, a certified yoga instructor at Y7 Studio in New York City, scheduling in regular stretching breaks can help both your body and your workflow. “Taking a break and moving around can clear your mind and improve your productivity,” she tells Apartment Therapy, noting that regular stretching can also improve your posture, reduce muscle soreness, reduce or alleviate back pain, and help improve our range of motion.
But it can be all too easy to put off a daily stretch (no matter how short) until after you meet that deadline, or finish that deck, or… well, just for later. That’s why Acosta stresses the importance of incorporating stretches into your existing routine — though even she admits it can be difficult to do. “I tend to always be on the go and never give myself a moment to relax,” she says. “I also realized that I was rounding down to look at my laptop, so now I use books or my yoga block to make sure I keep my spine straight to avoid back pain.”
“Someone once told me, ‘What doesn’t get scheduled, doesn’t get done,’ so pencil in those stretches. Make them a part of your work schedule and I promise you’ll see the benefits,” she adds.
Looking for a simple stretching routine you can complete between Zoom meetings? Look no further: Acosta designed the following eight-step routine exclusively for Apartment Therapy, with an emphasis on gentleness. “Not everything has to be so intense,” she says. “Make sure you’re not pushing your body past its limits. Listen to what it needs in that moment.” (If you experience persistent pain or discomfort either during a stretch or while working, check in with your doctor.)
Here’s how to get an effective full-body stretch without leaving your desk:
How to do it: Start in a standing position and place put both your hands on your desk with your palms facing down and fingertips facing your body. Hold the stretch until you feel a slight tension, then release. Repeat two to three times, or as needed.
How to do it: Sit at your desk with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Turn your palms face up under your desk and place them under your desk. Press upwards against the bottom of your desk, hold the tension for five to 10 seconds, then release. Repeat two to three times, or as needed. “Desk jobs generally include a lot of typing so it’s important to stretch your fingers and wrists,” Acosta notes.
How to do it: Sit up straight in your chair, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Without bending your spine, lean your head toward your chest, then roll your right ear to your right shoulder. Return to center, then roll your left ear to your left shoulder. Repeat two to three times, or as needed.
How to do it: Sit at the edge of your seat with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your knees. Inhale to Cow pose by drawing your gaze up at the ceiling as you lift your chin and chest. Exhale to Cat Pose by rounding through your spine, tucking your chin in, and releasing through your neck. Make sure to keep your collarbone and shoulders broad and avoid collapsing inward if you can. “Give yourself permission to add other movements that serve your body, such as circular motions,” Acosta says. Repeat the flow as many times as you need to that day.
How to do it: Sit in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Lift your shoulders up towards your ears and squeeze as much as you can. Hold for three to five seconds before slowly relaxing your shoulders down. Repeat two to three times, or as needed.
How to do it: Sit towards the front of your chair and interlace your hands behind your lower back. Push your chest outward, and keep your shoulders as relaxed as possible while you raise your chin up towards the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 seconds, and repeat as needed. “This will help loosen the mid-back from all that time spent looking down at your computer,” Acosta says.
How to do it: Sit in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor (though you can also do this standing up). Interlace your fingers with your palms facing away from you. As you inhale, stretch up as high as you can, and hold the pose for two to three breaths. Repeat as needed.
If you’d like to add a side stretch, pull your body to the right, with the movement originating in your torso rather than from your arms. Hold the stretch for three to five seconds before coming back to center and repeating on your left.
How to do it: Keeping your core tight, back straight, and hips squared, gently rotate your torso to the right and look over your right shoulder. (Use your chair arm or back as support if you need it.) Take three to five breaths before returning to center. Repeat on the left side.