Here, you’ll learn six simple office stretches that you can do in or near your chair at work. Take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes of stretch breaks at work per hour, and you will accumulate a lot more peace and “here and now” body awareness.
A stretch break is one way to make meditation easier, as stretching and meditation go hand in hand. Even if you aren’t interested in meditation, stretching has a lot of health benefits and it’s a darn good thing to do.
Always breathe through the nose during these stretch breaks unless it’s noted otherwise.
1. Shoulder Rolls. Sit with your back straight, palms on thighs and feet flat on the floor. Inhale and pull your shoulders all the way forward and up and and then backwards in a circle. Repeat 10 times. Exhale and Rotate your shoulders in the opposite direction. Repeat 10 times.
2. Head Rolls. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor and your arms comfortably on your lap. Drop your head forward. Roll your head to the left for a full 360 degrees making the widest circle you can so that you feel the stretch. Repeat 10 times, switch direction and repeat another 10 times.
3. Cat Pose in a Chair. Like the above exercises, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor and your palms on your lap. Leading with the center of the front of your chest, inhale and push your chest and head forward and upward, then stretch your head back as far as it will go. You are looking straight up and feeling the stretch at the point between your shoulder blades. Exhale as you pull the point between your shoulder blades backwards and let this lead as your chest caves in and your head drops. Again you will feel this stretch a lot in the point between the shoulder blades. Alternatively, you can take multiple breaths through your nose during each stretch.
4. The Twist. Keep your feet flat on the floor while sitting in a chair. Keep your back straight and twist to the left. Your butt doesn’t move, but your torso and head do. Grab the left side of the chair to guide yourself deeper into the stretch. You should feel this along the spine, neck and the back of the head. Hold at least ten seconds and breathe through the nose into the stretch. Repeat for the left side.
5. Neck Rotations. Stand up and put your hands on your hips. Give your spine and neck a little upward pull so that you feel a light stretch. Inhale and turn your head to the left so that your nose is pointing to your shoulder. This whole motion is initiated by the point between your shoulder blades. You are gazing straight ahead to your left. Keep breathing through the nose and fully feel the stretch. Look to the right using the same method. Repeat this exercise a few times.
6. Face Scrunches. Scrunch up your face and contract it as much as possible. Then, try to expand your face by stretching it as big as possible. When stretching, your eyes will be wider and your eyebrows will move upward as far as they can. Your mouth is open as widely as possible.
7. Shake it out. This certainly isn’t a stretch, but it will have a similar effect on body awareness and on your ability to meditate. Stand up and shake your left foot, then your right foot. Shake out that tension. Shake your knees from side to side, then your hips, then your chest and shoulders. Inhale deeply through the nose, then audibly exhale through your mouth while wobbling your head from side to side. Your cheeks will cause your breath to make that funny sound that horses make sometimes. Lots of fun!
If you have a meditation practice, slip these stretch breaks into the brief down times of your day and watch your practice become easier. Try it for a month, and you’ll notice a huge difference. Office stretching at work is just one of many of the techniques that you can add to your meditation “toolbox”.
Tom Von Deck is a meditation trainer, speaker and author of Oceanic Mind – The Deeper Meditation Training Course. Tom specializes on making meditation a much easier and more customized process for busy and non-busy people from backgrounds and paths. He is the Mackdaddy of The Deeper Meditation Blog and DeeperMeditation.net.
Share your experiences with stretching at work in the comments below.