After a busy, long day at work, you may feel tense in your shoulders, back or hips, especially if you have been sitting behind your desk most of the time. The seated body posture is not the healthiest, but thank god we have yoga poses to relieve the tension that has been built up throughout the day!
When I get home from work and my body is asking for some movement and stretches, the following asanas are especially helpful.
- Gentle neck stretch
Start in a cross-legged position, spine long, neck long, shoulders soft. Walk your fingertips to the side as far as you can, while keeping your shoulders above your hips. Maybe you can feel an intense stretch in your arm and the side of your neck already. For an even deeper stretch, gently drop your opposite ear to your shoulder. You could move your head softly forward and back to feel which position gives you the best stretch. Breathe easily, letting go of tension on each exhale.
Stay for as many breaths as you like, and then repeat on the other side.
2. Gentle twist
Stay seated, and on an inhale, reach your arms up, lengthening your spine. On an exhale, twist to one side, bringing the back of your hand to your opposite knee. Place the fingertips of your other hand behind you for a little support – but keep lengthening your spine, active in your upper body. Release your hips and shoulders a little more every time as you exhale.
You can hold the twist for a few breaths and then change sides, or move more dynamically, reaching up on an inhale, twisting on an exhale and alternate between left and right a few times.
3. Lizard pose
Start on all fours or in a gentle downward facing dog. Then step your right leg forward, to the outside of your right hand. Sink your hips to the floor as much as you can. You can place your knee on the mat or keep your leg active. This pose will help releasing your hips and IT-bands (the side of your upper legs). It can be pretty intense – keep breathing.
After one or several minutes, step back to down dog, walk your heels to the mat a few times, and then repeat with your left leg forward.
4. Standing wide-legged forward fold
I think this is one of my favourite poses. It gives a great stretch at the outside of your legs as well as your hamstrings, allows you to release your back and neck, and is also great to relieve headaches. You can practice the wide-legged forward fold in a relaxed way, swaying from side to side, or in a powerful way, pushing your feet into the floor and reaching the crown of your head towards the mat. But don’t worry about how far you go – remember we’re doing this practice to balance our body and mind! Important here is to keep your legs active and to let go of your neck and shoulders. On each inhale, focus on lengthening your spine, and on each exhale, soften and release.
5. Shoelace legs
Last one for today! Shoelace pose stretches your IT-bands even more. Place one leg on the mat, knee pointing forwards, your foot next to our opposite hip. Place your other leg on top – maybe there is a lot of space between your knees; you could use a blanket in between. If this is not accessible to you, you could do the figure 4 pose on your back. For an extra shoulder stretch, use cow face arms, reaching your fingertips towards each other behind your back as much as you can. This allows you to breathe deeply and fully.
Same thing on the other side. When you finish, shake your arms, stretch your legs in front of you and shake them as well. And last but not least, take some time to relax fully in savasana.
I hope you feel a lot better after this yoga sequence. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!