Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

6 Simple Yoga Stretches for Daily De-Stressing

We have a tradition at the Behance office called the “four o’clock stretch,” where we step away from our desks to do a few simple stretches and recharge. When energy is waning mid-afternoon, it’s pretty incredible how a little deep breathing and muscle movement can completely re-invent your mood.

Below are a few of my favorite “office-friendly stretches.” They don’t require any special clothing, equipment, or training – just a willingness to take a break from hunching over your desk.

1. Square Breathing: Shake off anxiety and clear your head.

There is no aspect of relaxation more important than breathing. When I get particularly hyper-focused at work, my breathing becomes quite shallow. If you’re anything like me, deep breathing alone can have a huge impact on your state of mind. It’s like hitting restart to restore calm, clear thinking.

To begin square breathing, sit in a comfortable, upright position on the floor or in a chair. Inhale through your nose for four counts (1, 2, 3, 4). Hold that breath in for four counts. Exhale through your nose for four counts. Hold that breath out for four counts. That’s one cycle.

Repeat 10 times, going at your own pace: Inhale 2, 3, 4. Hold 2, 3, 4. Exhale, 2, 3 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4.

2. Shoulder stretch: Release neck and shoulder tension.

Interlace your fingers, and raise your arms above your head, with your palms facing upwards. Try to keep your arms in line with your ears, while you look straight ahead and relax your shoulder blades down your back (don’t shrug them up!) Hold for five full breaths in and out through your nose.Let your arms fall down to your sides, roll your shoulders backwards and forwards a few times, then repeat the stretch, holding for five full breaths.

yoga2

3. Eagle arms: Ease the deep-seated shoulder knots.

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Hold your arms straight out from your sides, parallel to the floor.  Swing your arms toward each other, bringing your left elbow over your right. Then bend your elbows, so the backs of your hands are touching. Now, hook one hand over the other so that your palms are facing each other. For a visual of this complicated explanation, watch this video.

Once you have the arm wrap going, look straight ahead and try to keep your elbows lifted. Press your palms into each other, while you try to pull your elbows apart. Keep your shoulders relaxed. You should feel a powerful stretch in your neck and between your shoulder blades. Hold for five breaths.

Unwrap your arms and hold them out to the side again. Swing them back toward each other, this time bringing the opposite elbow on top. Repeat the pose in the opposite position, holding for five breaths.

yoga4

4. Heart opener: Counteract the concave chest of computer hunching.

Still standing with your feet hip-distance apart, reach your hands behind you, clasping them together in a fist at the base of your back. Looking straight ahead, lift your clasped hands as high as you can behind you, pulling your shoulder blades together. (If you want more of a stretch, you can fold over your legs, and let gravity pull your clasped hands toward the floor.) Hold for five full breaths.

yoga5
 

5. Standing forward bend: Let back and neck tension melt away.

Keeping your feet hip-distance apart, fold over your legs. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees. Try to relax into the pose for five full breaths. (If you want a little help from gravity, grab opposite elbows and let your head hang down.)

Then stand up, take a few breaths, and fold over your legs again. This time shaking your head “no” and nodding your head “yes” as you hang over your legs for another breath cycle.

yoga1

6. IT Band Stretch: Loosen up after hours of monotonous chair-sitting.

OK, so this last stretch is not the most office-friendly. You have to lay down on the floor, and your jeans can’t be that tight. But if you meet these qualifications, I highly recommend it. You will probably discover some crazy hip tension you didn’t even know you had.

Lie down on your back. Bend your left leg, keeping your left foot flat on the ground. Now put your right ankle on top of your left knee. Then, reach down and clasp your hands around your left thigh, pulling it in towards you. Ultimately, your lower left leg will be parallel to the ground. Keep both feet flexed and breath there.

You should feel the stretch in your hip and buttocks on your right side. If you want a little more stretch, you can push your right elbow into your right knee.

After you’ve held for a few breaths, switch sides. Bend your right leg, and cross your left angle on to the right knee. Clasp your hands behind your right thigh and pull the leg in as before. Hold for five full breaths.

yoga3

The most important thing to keep in mind as you’re stretching is continual breathing, and not trying too hard. If something hurts, ease off the stretch a little bit, and keep breathing. You’ll get there eventually.

How Do You Stay Loose?

What stretches or meditation techniques do you use to release tension?

More insights on: Energy / Fatigue, Well-being

Jocelyn K. Glei

more posts →
A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with understanding how work gives our lives meaning. She has authored three books about work, creativity, and business, including the Amazon bestsellers Manage Your Day-to-Day and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.
load comments (48)
  • Emma Carpendale

    Neck Stretches are great for anyone stooped over drawings and/or their Macs :)

  • Scott

    I’m a former weightlifting, gym-rat type that always put down yoga — until I tried it. I did my first routine about 4 months ago. Overall I feel better, fewer aches and stiffness, and my flexibility is much improved. I’ll have to give some of these moves a shot during my afternoon energy dip.

  • Skyrill.com

    I look at posters or anything with writing from distance, to relax the eye and get it out of the state of focusing on the computer screen at close distance for a long time

  • scott88

    Now I just need to make this a routine…

  • Scott Belsky

    Now I just need to make this a routine…

  • Craig Tommola

    Indeed. Perhaps that’s the next post – “How to turn a nagging ideal, into a routine”. Thanks for your work.

  • Graphicdesignboss

    I always get up and read the morning paper and have a latte – It brings me a joy & serenity and a caffeine rush that yoga cannot buy.

  • Angela

    When I taught elementary school, I would try to give the students a stretch/ mini yogq break every hour and a half or so. They loved it, it helped them think (oxygen to the brain), AND it kept down on the “squirmies.”

  • Jon

    You guys are going to love me forever for this recommendation (I do this nearly every day and it is amazing, takes 5-10 minutes and has serious ROI):

    http://www.intu-flow.com/ (be sure to watch the short demo)

    same demo on youtube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  • Masa

    In addition to yoga, “The five Tibetans” exercises do wonders in 10-15 min it takes to do them. Granted, maybe not the best solution for the office, but even the first one will have an awakening effect after hours of sitting at the desk.
    Here is one of the numerous links on how to perform them: http://www.lifeevents.org/5-ti

  • write my paper

    oh thanks a lot. it seems not so difficult so i can do that but i want it so much to help me… thanks for those tips!!!!! hanks a lot!!!

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  • Stephen Bradley

    Thanks for reminding me to relax and pace myself :)

    Stephen – veetoo, Belfast

  • Sherrin

     This is awesome Scott. Maybe we can arrange a Relax Max and aromatherapy office tradition, since you guys can’t make Sunday. :)

  • Annie

     This is so fantastic. Happy to be reminded to take the break & include breathing and stretching. Only negative here is that the video link forces you to watch commercials before you can access the yoga instructor. SERiously annoying. If possible, please provide another link to her that bypasses the commercial assault!

  • RateYogaTrainings

    I’m an avid runner and find any ITB related stretches I can do spare me from injury. Specifically for running, I use yoga in a more preventitive manner.

  • miami bikram yoga

    perfect positions for anyone to do. highly recommend them

  • sportslive
  • Relationship Coaching

    Wow, These all the great tips, I agree, To begin square breathing, sit in a comfortable, upright position on the
    floor or in a chair. Inhale through your nose for four counts (1, 2, 3,
    4). Hold that breath in for four counts. Exhale through your nose for
    four counts. Hold that breath out for four counts. That’s one cycle.
    Relationship Coaching

  • industrial equipment

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful information. I think some people make a mistake by using a colored stain–just doesn’t look natural.

  • Eddie11

    I know things like that really helps people feel better and be more productive sometimes but sadly, more than 90% of people don’t do them I believe. I think it should be a must do before or during work at offices.

  • custom essays

    very interesting! thanks!

  • lifereview

    Thanks! Just what I needed.

  • London Fit Girls

    Thanks for the Share, this is great advice. 

  • Sam Osborne

    Great tips – often find my breathing has got really shallow, to the point where breathing normally feels odd. Must make time to do these exercises!

  • Shamem

    North Sydney Boot Camp
    Keep up this good work, you have a nice blog over here with much good information! When you post some new stuff, I’ll visit your blog again and I’ll follow it. 

  • BlueCom123

    A minimum 3star site all of above tips are really better for health and muscle i appreciated you . 
    You have really interesting blog, keep up posting such informative posts!

  • Personal Trainer Sydney

    There i read your article.yoga is best way to resuce your weight or extra fat.
    yoga has no any side effects for your health.It make you fit especially your back bone and keep you happy in your life.so thanks for share this nice article.

  • qr code generator

    You have sharing a good tips for yoga which is very helpful and useful tips for all people.it‘s very important in life for be healthy man.it‘s provide a healthy  and stress free life.i think yoga is a best thing for a good fitness.

  • Personal Trainer in Sydney

    Hello,
    you have sharing really nice positions for back bone strongness. yoga is really better for your health and and fitness yoga is very old method, it is mostly use for patients .your has really going well,so keep it up

  • סדנאות יוגה

    Wow i thing this kind of articles are really helping people with starting, at least with the basic!

  • Anthony Timmons

    Just what I was looking for, thanks.

  • brain exercise

    These techniques are awesome and tell us how to live healthy and happy in life……. Yoga has considered the best medicine of all diseases…. 

  • KIVIKO

    Супер полезные упражнения для финтеса и йоги. делайте их вы будете чувствовать себя всегда здоровым и бодрым

  • Grateful

    I have had very bad undetectable back pain for about a year now and tonight I stumbled upon these stretches and my back is feeling better already. The eagle arms stretch is the one I’d say helped me most.

  • Katster904

    Warrior pose for basic alignment, stability & balance

  • Joe

    Here’s another de-stresser: stop considering 4pm to be the middle of the workday and spend more time away from work. Sure, the bosses might have to hire a couple more people, but wouldn’t it be worth it?

  • LisAB

    SIMPLE: Breathe Deeply~ RElaxes the Body, Spirit & Mind!

  • christine

    I’d really appreciate this if I was unable to move very well, but considering I have the ability to move freely I think this would be better suited for convalescent patients.

  • Madison

    this is a goos site but u see i need better exercises for my friend and sis they want to lose weight thnx for putting this up

  • Fabr
  • http://medialoot.com/ Medialoot

    Great tips… I’ve been trying to incorporate stretching and breaks into my day (of mostly sitting and staring at a computer), so this will help a ton. It’s crazy how much deep breathing can help!

  • Clemson frost

    Wow was looking for this http://studentboards.net

  • John Smith

    Great Yoga Tips for Beginner you done a great job by write this article.

  • Steven Lee

    This series of yoga poses will help you open your hips, stretch your hamstrings and energize your body. Designed for someone with a basic knowledge of yoga, use these poses to strengthen and lengthen. See more on

    http://healthylifestylesliving.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.ArianaYoga.com/ Ariana Rabinovitch

    I just tried to post my comment but think it didn’t work. Sorry if this is a repeat. But I love hearing about yoga breaks throughout the day in working environments. I think these are great. I just want to add that the last stretch does not stretch the IT band but it is a great stretch for a little muscle called the piriformis. I would add a standing quadriceps stretch as shown here. This shows it pretty well – it’s good to try to stay upright so that you don’t tilt forward. http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/flexibilityandstretching/qt/Quad-Stretch.htm

  • Tommy

    You got that right, Joe…

  • Jenny

    Great article as well as input from others☺. I just started working from home as customer service tech and currently in school for PTA . Will be looking into a standing desk with ergonomic mat as I am finding even sitting for 2 hours is too long for me.

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