If You Spend All Day Sitting, You Need These 6 Yoga Poses

How to stretch, expand, and otherwise release all that tension.

Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia

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If you find your back aching or experience dead butt syndrome (yes, it’s a thing) after responding to emails for hours you’re not the only one. As Americans, we spent a lot of time sitting. And it’s slowly taking its toll.

Research has shown that excessive sitting does a number on your mental and physical health—from increasing the risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions to straining your neck, back, and spine and spiking anxiety.

If all that makes you want to get up and move, yoga can help. These six poses—from fun inversions to full-body stretches—will loosen you up and leave you feeling invigorated. Your legs, back, and neck will thank you.

Yoga Poses to Combat the Effects of Sitting

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)

Person demonstrating Wheel Pose variation on the toes
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Boost your creativity with this full-body inversion. Getting your head upside-down literally changes your perspective, and the focus required to keep yourself from falling over instantly replaces the dullness of sitting at a desk with a fun challenge. Plus, this posture engages your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abs, triceps, deltoids, the full back, and doubles as a heart opener, quickly reawakening any tired or strained muscles.

To practice this posture:

  1. Lie down with your back on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet hips-width distance apart with your heels close to your sitting bones. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head with your fingers pointing toward your shoulders.
  2. On an exhalation, press your feet into the floor while lifting your pelvis to the ceiling. Firm your glutes to round out your pelvis and keep your quadriceps engaged and parallel.
  3. On an exhalation, press your hands into the floor, keeping your shoulders blades flat against your back. Keep your arms parallel, trying to not flare the elbows out. Lift the crown of your head onto the floor.
  4. On an exhalation, press your hands and feet into the floor, lifting your head off the floor and straightening your arms. Lengthen the tailbone to the back of the knees while your pelvis lifts toward the navel.
  5. Hold for 5–10 seconds, then gently lower yourself back down.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Woman demonstrates Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

This gentle inversion will provide a deep stretch through the sides of your calves, hamstrings, glutes, back, and shoulders, and releases tension in your neck.

To practice this posture:

  1. Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your arms extended by your sides.
  2. Step your feet out so they’re in line with your wrists (about 3 to 4 feet), keeping them parallel.
  3. On an exhalation, fold forward from the hip joints, keeping your torso open.
  4. Lower your fingertips to the floor, or interlace your fingers behind your back and with straight arms, lift them toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose)

Shayla in goddess pose
Photo: Brien Hollowell

Step into your power and take up space after hours hunched over a computer. This posture activates your root and sacral chakras, stirring powerful feminine energy, while also engaging the quadriceps, inner thighs, and core; and stretching the hips and low back.

To practice this posture:

  1. Start with your feet and arms mimicking Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend, but then turns your toes out and your heels in at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and flip your palms forward, facing in front of you.
  3. Bend your knees toward your toes and drop your hips in a squatting motion, pressing your pelvis forward and your tailbone to the floor.
  4. Engage your core while maintaining a flat back.
  5. Option to rock your hips from side to side, leaning into one knee at a time (without extending your knee past your toes), to feel a deeper stretch in your hamstrings.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Downward-Facing Dog Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

This classic pose offers a full-body stretch, lengthening the neck, arms, chest, back, and legs. Pedal out your feet to wake your legs up, and then do “yes” and “no” movements with your head to release tension in your neck.

To practice this posture:

  1. From Tabletop, walk your hands 3 inches in front of your head.
  2. Firmly press your palms into the floor while spinning your biceps toward your ears.
  3. On an inhalation, tuck your toes under.
  4. On an exhalation, press your hips back and up toward the ceiling.
  5. Allow your shoulders to spin out and up while maintaining a flat back.
  6. Let your head hang freely.
  7. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.


Banana Pose

Stretch out your side body and spine with this gentle posture. The psoas will feel the majority of the stretch while your spine gets lengthened. This is an excellent way to reverse the feelings of slouching and provides movement to your side body, which may stay mostly sedentary while you’re at a desk.

To practice this posture:

  1. Begin by lying down with your arms by your sides and your legs out in front of you.
  2. Press your heels and palms into the floor to raise and scoot your pelvis up and to the left of your body, about 3 inches. Try to keep your arms and legs where they were, only your hips should move.
  3. Walk your feet out to the right about 3 inches while keeping your legs touching, and reach your arms overhead and interlace your fingers. Keep them straight.
  4. Bend through your side body to stretch your arms to the right of your head.
  5. Point your toes down toward the floor, increasing the stretch on the tops of your feet.
  6. Hold for 1 minute, then switch sides.

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)

A woman demonstrates crocodile pose while lying on a deck with mountains
Photo: AzmanL / Getty Images

Let all your tension go in this soothing pose that releases the neck, shoulders, and low back. If you’re feeling anxious, this pose will help you calm down, while also giving relief to areas of the body that may have tightened up from typing all day.

To practice this posture:

  1. Lie down on the floor with your chest, quadriceps, the tops of your feet, and your arms on the ground.
  2. Fold your arms above your head and rest four fingers from your right hand over the knuckles of your left hand while forming a V shape with both thumbs
  3. Rest your forehead in the V between your thumbs and fingers.
  4. Hold for as long as needed.

This article has been updated. Originally published on May 29, 2021. 

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