For those of us who routinely spend as much time at a desk each day as we do sleeping, it’s important to be mindful of our cubicle health. The list of desk-based exercises is fairly long, but stretching is just as important as slimming, tightening and bulking. So, if your office is your daytime home, and you’re wearing clothes that aren’t particularly pliable, keep this list handy.
This pose is traditionally done on the ground, but a typical office chair works wonders as a substitute. It’ll work your abs, while also stretching your arms, back and legs.
The Practice: 1. Place your hands behind your back, to the rear of your chair, and push upwards. 2. Meanwhile, straighten your legs and hold the position for 20- to 30-second spurts, or longer if you’re a bona fide pro. Passersby will just assume you’re loosening up your shoulders, keeping things relatively discrete.
Reclining Big Toe (Supta Padangusthasana)
The rear of your office chair takes the place of the floor for this one, and if you forget the usual strap to wrap around the bottom of your foot, a belt — or Ethernet cable, if you’d prefer to inject some comic relief — will suffice.
The Practice: 1. Keep your back pressured against the chair’s rear. 2. Loop a strap around the rear of your left foot while keeping the right firmly planted. 3. As you inhale, move your hands along the strap until that left foot is perpendicular with your waist, and hold the position for 1 to 3 minutes. Lower it slowly, and repeat on the other side.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
You may get a few stares if pulling this one off behind your desk, but it’s possible to do while fully enclosed in a company bathroom stall if you’re averse to anyone casting glances. Not only does this pose stretch your back and legs, but holding it while meditating should give you a boost of endorphins — great for giving your mind tack-sharp focus prior to a big call or presentation.
The Practice: 1. Begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart. 2. Step one foot forward, toes facing forward. The back foot, rotate 90 degrees. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot. 3. Bend into the stretch, your front knee aligning over your ankle (shin perpendicular to floor). 4. Reach up with your arms, tilt your head back, and look to your thumbs. 5. To release, press into your back heel, straighten your front leg and step back to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Though you’ll need a bit more room for this one, it’s ideal for days when you simply cannot add a wrinkle to your wardrobe. Unused meeting rooms are great for a few rounds of planks, which tighten your abs, test your arms, and give you opportunity to refocus your breathing.
The Practice: 1. Start on your hands and knees, wrists under shoulders. 2. Press down into your hands, draw your abs toward your spine, move your feet back and tuck your toes. 3. Align your thighs and core and head into a straight line. Keep your butt level with your body. Hold. Breathe.
Need a great excuse to take a deep breath? Find yourself a bit of room and lunge. Once your rear leg is fully extended and your opposite arm is high in the air, take the chance to exhale slowly. You’ll stretch your hip flexors and lower back, both of which tend to tighten up after sitting for long periods.
The Practice: 1. Similar to Warrior 1, begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart. 2. Step one foot forward, toes facing forward. The back foot, keep facing forward. 3. Bend into the stretch, extending the back leg and dropping your hips. 4. Reach up with your arms, tilt your head back, and look to your thumbs. 5. To release, press into your back heel, straighten your front leg and step back to standing. Repeat on the other side.