10 Chair Yoga Stretches To Undo The Damage of Sitting

avatarPaleoHacks Team

Does your body feel like it’s getting tighter every time you sit? Use these pain-relieving yoga poses to release muscle tension from the comfort of your chair.

Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day. When you factor in sleep time, that averages out to 21 hours a day of inactive time. (1) This creates a lot of achy tension in your neck, shoulders, hips, and back. Luckily, a few feel-good poses can release those tight muscles.

Something as simple as stretching in your chair can help loosen muscles and relieve stress, making it easy to fit movement into a daily routine.

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Note: All the stretches below are done seated with feet hip-width distance apart. Sit towards the front of the chair for more movement accessibility, and keep your weight evenly distributed in both feet.

10 Chair Yoga Stretches

Cat-Cow | 5 reps


The spine can hold a lot of tension throughout the day. Moving the spine in flexion and extension helps to loosen the whole body. Do it anytime you’re craving movement!

  1. Sit up straight, with your hands resting on your thighs.
  2. On an inhale come to cow pose: arch your back to look up, hugging your shoulder blades together.
  3. Exhale to come to cat: round the back, bring your chin towards your chest, and hold your belly button in.
  4. Continue moving with your breath between these two poses, until you’ve done five reps of each.

Rib Circles | 5 reps per side


Creating circles with your ribs brings more movement into the torso. Go slowly, feeling how big you can make the circle. Keep your breath long and slow.

  1. With hands on your thighs, shift your ribs out towards the right side.
  2. Then, think about making a circle with your ribs: move them forward into cow pose, then shift them to the left, then back into cat pose.
  3. Continue moving in this circle until you’ve done five rotations, then repeat in the other direction.

Sun Breaths | 5 reps


Connect your breath to your movement in this energizing stretch.

  1. Start with your arms down by your side, palms facing up.
  2. Inhale to raise your arms up above the shoulders.
  3. Exhale to bend the elbows, palms turning down towards the ground.
  4. Repeat for five reps.

Note: To keep the movement nice and slow, count four seconds per inhale and four seconds per exhale.

Forward Bend | 5 breaths


This releasing pose helps relieve tension in the neck and upper back. Try it anytime you’re feeling tightness in your back body.

  1. Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale to bend forward, letting your chest rest on the thighs.
  2. If your hands touch the ground, rest your palms on the floor. If not, rest them on top of your feet or shins.
  3. Relax the neck and let your head hang heavy towards the ground. Close your eyes and stay here for five breaths.
  4. To come out of the pose, lengthen your back, bring the crown of the head forward, and slowly walk your hands up your legs to come back upright.

Extended Twist | 5 breaths per side


This twist adds arm movements, which lengthen the front of the body and stretch the chest and shoulders.

  1. Inhale to reach the right arm diagonally up and back. Bring your left hand to the outside of the right thigh.
  2. If you like, look up towards your right hand to deepen the stretch.
  3. Stay in the twist for five breaths. With every inhale, get longer in the body; with each exhale, twist a little deeper.
  4. Slowly release out of the pose on an inhale. Switch sides.

Tip: I find that releasing a twist on an inhale keeps the body in control, avoiding potential injuries.

Figure 4 | 5 breaths per side


Stretching the glutes is key when sitting all day. Tense hips can lead to lower back tightness and pain.

  1. Bend your right leg and rest the ankle on your left thigh.
  2. Flex the right foot. Place one hand on your heel and one hand on your thigh.
  3. Keeping the back long, hinge forward at the hips over your bent leg.
  4. Stay for five breaths, then slowly release out of the pose. Repeat on the other side.

Extended Side Bend | 5 breaths per side


Side muscles get tight when sitting all day. This leads to a shorted side body, which pulls the torso forward into a rounded position. Stretching the sides of the body brings the body back into a natural upright position.

  1. Place your right hand on your thigh, and inhale to reach your left arm up above your shoulder.
  2. Exhale to side bend over to the right.
  3. Hold for five breaths, elongating the pose on every inhale and going deeper with each exhale.
  4. Repeat on the left side.

Seated Twist | 5 breaths per side


This one is great for spine health. Concentrate on growing taller rather than twisting to the maximum.

  1. Sit sideways on your chair, facing the right side.
  2. Inhale to lengthen the torso, then exhale to twist to the right. Hold onto the back of the chair for support.
  3. Hold for five breaths, lengthening on every inhale and twisting from the lower abdominals on every exhale.
  4. Release on an inhale. Then, sit sideways on the other side of the chair to repeat the twist on the left side.

Shoulder Stretch | 5 breaths


If you’re sitting at a desk all day, you’re probably typing on a computer, too. This causes slumped shoulders, which can lead to tightness in the chest and neck. This stretch is a perfect way to release that achy tension.

  1. Bend your elbows and clasp your hands behind your back, touching the back of the pinkies to your lower back.
  2. Squeeze the elbows and shoulder blades towards each other. On an inhale, lengthen your hands behind you. Arch your back and reach your hands behind you.
  3. Stay here for five slow breaths. On an exhale, slowly release out of the stretch.

Extended Neck Stretch | 5 breaths per side


Neck muscles carry a lot of tension from typing, texting, driving, and stress. This stretch can be done anytime to relieve the discomfort.

  1. Bring your right arm up and over the left side of your head.
  2. Inhale deeply, and exhale to gently use your fingertips to pull your head down to the right shoulder. Reach your left arm away from the body to deepen the stretch.
  3. Relax the shoulders down away from the ears and hold for five slow breaths.
  4. Slowly release and repeat on the other side.


(Your Next Workout: 7 Easy Chair Stretches to Fix Back Pain)

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