"Oh, my aching back!" I can't tell you how many of my students have back issues. And it's no wonder, considering most of us spend our days tied to our desk chairs and parked in the same position in front of our screens hour after hour. The problem: Sitting for prolonged periods can cause or exacerbate back issues. When we're stuck in this position, our hip flexors shorten in front and pull on our lower back. Not to mention, constant slouching can lead, over time, to compressed disks. That's why it's crucial to stretch your back every day. Here, four moves you can do right in your office.
1. Backbend Arch
Start seated at edge of chair, placing hands behind you with fingers facing away from hips. Prop yourself up on fingertips, drawing sacrum in and up to lift lower back. Follow backbend all the way up chest to shoulder blades and open up entire front body. Hold and breathe for 8 to 10 breaths, then release.
Sit at edge of chair with feet flat on the floor. Place hands on knees and inhale, lifting chest and sticking hips out behind you. Lift gaze, open chest, and gently squeeze shoulder blades together (A). On an exhale, round chest, scoop in belly, and curl tailbone under as you drop head toward sternum (B). Repeat for a series of 10 cycles.
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3. Lower-Back Circles
Sit with feet hip-width apart and hands resting on knees (A). Inhale, then begin circling torso clockwise, making sure to initiate movement from base of spine (B). Complete 8 to 10 rotations. Stop and then repeat the motion, this time circling in a counterclockwise direction. Continue alternating for 2 to 3 minutes.
Sit with feet hip-width apart and hands hanging at sides (A). From head, start rounding down through spine (B). Exhale, letting forehead release forward and the weight of your head bring you over until top of head is by thighs (C). Inhale; slowly start stacking vertebrae as you round up to sit. Draw belly button to spine to protect back, and feel the articulation as you round up. Continue rolling down and up for 5 to 8 cycles.
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Adapted from Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You by Kristin McGee ($19; amazon.com). Copyright 2017 by Kristin McGee. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.