Unless you’ve been off in the Seychelles with no internet access for the last few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly heard about and been impacted by the coronavirus. It continues to threaten our health, so in a concerted effort to limit social contact, many companies have implemented a work-remote policy and are promoting social distancing. Working from home has many pro’s, like not having to change out of your pajamas if you don’t want to and having more flexible work time throughout the day. However, it also has its challenges. Sometimes working from home can lead to more time spent sitting around, often from the couch which can result in poor posture. I don’t know about y’all, but when I’m blogging away on my couch (like I am right now), I usually am hunched over my lap top with my legs criss-crossed like applesauce! Talk about some tight hip flexors and traps! Since so many of us are displaced from our offices right now, we thought it timely to bring you the best stretches for working from home.
Areas of Focus
Before we get into the exact stretches, let’s talk briefly about the benefits of stretching. One of the greatest benefits of stretching, particularly dynamic stretching, is that it restores blood flow to tight muscles. Additionally, it helps your joints and muscles move through their full range of motion after being limited to certain positions all day. For those of you trying to use odd objects around the house to workout while you’re out of the gym, stretching is super important to maintain your muscle health and prevent potential injuries resulting from exercise. At the end of the day, everyone can benefit from stretching and given our current circumstances, it’s especially important. The areas we are going to focus on today are your hips and glutes, forearms, and your back and neck. Check out the best stretches for working from home!
Best Stretches for Working from Home
1. Pigeon Stretch
The pigeon stretch is one of our favorites for opening up the hips and glutes. To get into this position, start in a down dog. From there, raise your right leg in the air, shift into a plank position, and thread your leg through your hands so that your knee is resting on the ground near your elbow. Sink both hips to the floor, attempting to keep them squared off with your torso facing forward. Ease into this stretch slowly. Start by sitting straight up, then slowly inch your hands forward, ultimately getting as far as resting your chest over your legs if possible. Hold this position for 1 minute to :90 seconds. To switch legs, sit all the way up and shift to your right side so that you can bring your left leg forward. From there, shake out your legs and return to the down dog position; then repeat on your left side and hold for 1 minute to :90 seconds.
If you can’t get into this pigeon position, you can achieve a similar stretch through the lying figure 4 (pictured below). Start by lying on your back. Then bring both knees together, with your feet off the ground. From there, cross your right ankle over your left knee and use your right hand to drive your right knee out, while using your left hand to pull (gently) your left shin closer to your body. Hold for 1 minute to :90 seconds, switch sides, and repeat on the left.
2. Couch Stretch
The couch stretch is one of the best stretches for working from home. It does a great job of opening up the hip flexor by releasing the quad and groin. All you need is a couch, wall, or chair and something to put under your knee on the floor. As is pictured above, start with your left shin up against the wall, with your left knee resting on a mat on the floor. Your right leg should be out in front, heel planted. Sit up nice and tall for this stretch and lean slightly forward into your right leg for the optimal stretch in your left quad and hip flexor. Hold for 1 minute, and then switch sides.
2. Forearms and Wrists
1. Wall Grip Stretch
If you spend a lot of time on the computer every day, chances are your forearms, wrists, and hands get pretty tight. One of the best ways to stretch out your forearm muscles is to do a wall grip stretch. Turn your palm down to the ground and place it at about shoulder height on a wall or door frame. Hold for :2o seconds, then drop your hand and switch sides. Do this 3 times on each side. Alternating arms and holding for a shorter amount of time makes this stretch more dynamic!
2. Wrist Circles
One of the best wrist-opening stretches you can do for keyboard-battered hands is wrist circles! Clasp your hands together in front of your chest and move them in a circle to the right for :30 seconds. Then switch and move them to the left for :30 seconds. Do this two times on each side.
3. Back and Neck
The cat-cow is another popular yoga stretch that targets your entire back, from your spinal erectors all the way up to your trapezius. This is meant to be a dynamic stretch, but you get to determine the speed at which you move. Start from all fours, then tuck your chin under and push your shoulders up to the ceiling. This position is the “Cat” portion of the stretch and you should feel a lengthening sensation through your thoracic spine and even into your neck. Hold for 3-10 seconds depending on how it feels for you, then shift back to a table-top position before arching your back and bringing your eyes up to look at the ceiling. This is the “cow” position. You should feel a nice stretch through your chest, shoulders, core, and lower back. Again, hold for 3-10 seconds depending on feel. Move through this flow for 1 minute to :90 seconds.
2. Cross Body Stretch
This one is the king of all stretches in my book. It hits your spine, shoulders, lats, hips and glutes juuuuust right, especially after a day of sitting. Start lying on your back, then bring your right knee into your chest, guiding it to the floor on the left side of your body with your left hand. Reach your right arm out to the side and look in that direction. For a deeper stretch, push your knee as close to the floor as possible with your left hand. You may feel some cracks and pops throughout your low and mid-back, which is wonderful and totally normal. Hold this stretch for 1 minute to :90 seconds. Then switch sides.
3. Upper Trap/Neck Stretch
Most of us carry our stress in our traps. For those who spend most of their day doing computer work, that is usually compounded by the physical stress of looking down and staying hunched over a keyboard. This is one of the simplest, most effective stretches to give your traps and neck some relief. You can do this from a standing or seated position. Cradle your head with your left hand and gently pull down and to the left (picture bringing your left ear to your left shoulder). While you are pulling your head to the side, take your right hand and press down on your right shoulder. This helps to lengthen the trapezius muscle. Hold this position for :10 seconds, then relax for :10 seconds and repeat 3 times on the left. Then switch sides and complete on the right.
This is a hard time for everyone right now. Being cooped up inside isn’t always the most entertaining, but we need to do our part to protect our healthcare systems and compromised populations. One of the best ways to prevent soreness (and boredom!) is to move! Make sure you are getting up to walk around every hour, and try to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. We may not be able to go to the gym right now, but we can still go outside. Taking a walk not only helps to break up your day, it also gets your blood pumping and gives you a change of scenery.
Take advantage of these best stretches for working from home and keep your heads up! If we all do what we’re supposed to, we’ll be business as usual in no time. Stay healthy and stay safe!