Working from home can have its perks, like working with your pet beside you, or not having to put on makeup or wear real pants (or any pants for that matter). However, working long hours in a less than optimal position can have negative effects on your posture and lead to back pain, neck pain, and even injury. Luckily, there are a few exercises to help you improve your posture while working from home, at the office, and beyond! And by “beyond”, we mean the couch.
Do these 5 exercises throughout your workday
You want to do these exercises periodically to reduce strain on your body. It’s a good idea to look away from your tech devices periodically anyway to reduce eye strain from the blue light. Take the opportunity to do some light stretching in between work! Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds each. If you feel any pain, stop immediately–these exercises should not be painful but feel like stretching.
- Stretch out your neck
An ideal desk setup would have your monitor at eye level to reduce neck strain. Unfortunately, not everyone has this setup–varying from sitting on our laptops on the couch, in bed, or on a stand that isn’t quite comfortable. These positions can cause you to hunch or extend your neck forward which can cause poor posture and lead to neck pain. Throughout the day, sit or stand up to roll your neck to either side–slowly and comfortably to stretch your neck. Then, roll your head back and towards the front in a clockwise motion, and reverse. You should feel this stretch relieve some tension on the nape of your neck.
- Roll your shoulders
Ideally, your arms should rest at a 90º angle from your shoulder to your keyboard. If your keyboard or desk is too high, your shoulders may start to strain from being too high up. To stretch, drop your arms down every once in a while and shake them out. Then roll them slowly in circular motions.
- Reach for the sky
Simple but effective–this stretch lengthens your spine to relieve tension from being crunched up into that weird position you’ve found yourself in for hours. Interlace your fingers and reach your arms up (palms towards the sky). Then, bend to your left side and your right to stretch out your obliques.
- Open up your chest
Your chest can feel tight when you’re hunched over all day. With this stretch, open up your chest as you pull your shoulders back, with your hands placed on your lower back with elbows bent. As you deepen this stretch by curving your spine towards the back, you’ll feel your chest open up and some tension release from your shoulders.
- Forward fold
Taking a practice from yoga, this one will require you to stand up and then bend over, hinging at your hips, and reach for your toes. This stretch will relieve tension in your lower back. With this stretch, allow the top of your head, and your shoulders to relax toward the Earth to deepen this stretch.
Yoga for better posture
These are a just a few simple stretches to squeeze into your busy workday. If your back and neck are in need of some more TLC, we highly recommend practicing yoga, which has been proven to strengthen your core and other muscles, relieve back pain, and improve posture.
For the following moves, be sure to use a yoga mat for comfort and support. For kneeling positions, you can fold a towel under your knees for comfort. You can do these moves every day to improve your posture:
- Child’s pose
For this move sit on your knees with your knees shoulder-width apart. Then gently fold forward, hinging at your hips and extending your arms flat onto the mat. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders, releasing tension from your upper back and arms.
Get on your hands and knees, with your knees at a 90º angle and your back flat (table-top position). Then, as you breathe in, arch your back, dropping your belly down and look up towards the sky. As you breathe out, tuck your chin to your chest and round out your back towards the ceiling. Repeat this for 20 seconds.
- High plank
Plant your palms shoulder-width apart on the mat, as you lift into plank position. The key to this is to engage your core and keep your back straight. You may have the tendency to curl your body up or dip your bitt down, so if you’re doing this for the first time, have a friend tell you if your form is correct. You should feel some tension in your arms and your core.
- Downward-facing dog
You can easily maneuver into this position from a high plank. From the high plank position, lift your bum up towards the sky, keeping your legs straight while extending your arms keeping your back and neck straight. Sort of like an upside-down V. This will stretch out your hamstrings as well as strengthening your back and improving your posture.
- Thoracic spine rotation
For this position, lay on your left side on your mat and bend your knees up into a 90º angle with your left arm stretched on in front of you. Exhale as you rotate your body and reach your right arm to the opposite side. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the opposite side.
- Hip thrusts
Strong glutes help support a strong lower back and relieve lower back pain by aligning your hips and pelvis, which can lead to better posture. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Then, left at the hips, keeping your shoulders planted on the floor, squeezing your glutes at the top. Repeat 10-15 times.
If you can spare 10-60 minutes a day to deepen your yoga practice, you will see more improvement in your posture over time. Yoga with Adrienne has a full library of yoga videos you can follow along with for free with varying durations so you can fit in your practice no matter how busy you are. You can also follow yoga practices on the Down Dog app or Nike Training Club. Don’t get discouraged, keep at it, and you’ll get stronger and stronger with every practice, and see major improvements in your posture!