Thanks to my hour-each-way commute and a job that requires more computer time than I’d like to admit, I’m in a constant battle against gravity to avoid the all-too-common shoulder slump of office workers. The only thing that’s saved me from winding up a hunchback: my yoga practice. But you don’t have to spend an hour on the mat each day to reap the benefits. Start incorporating a few of the these stretches into your daily routine. They work to open and relax the upper and middle back, as well as the neck, chest and shoulders, all of which will help you counteract shoulder slump and help you stand straighter. Bonus: You can do them anytime, anywhere. If I don’t get to them in the morning, my favorite time, I’ll close my office door and stretch at least once or twice throughout the day. Not only does it help my posture, it refreshes my mind, boosts my mood, and energizes my day. (Check out 7 weird ways poor posture messes with your mood.)
Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Interlace fingers behind back, pressing palms together and straightening arms behind you. (If your shoulders are very tight, your palms may not touch; the more you stretch, the easier it will be to press them together, which helps deepen the opening in your shoulders.) Inhale, taking your gaze to the ceiling and bending backwards slightly. Exhale, folding forward at the hips, bringing the crown of your head towards the floor. Allow your hands to fall forward, keeping arms straight, rinsing out your shoulders. Breathe deeply, trying to keep palms together and allowing hands to fall forward a little bit more with each exhale. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Slowly roll back up to standing.
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on floor, arms by your sides. Walk your feet close enough to your butt that you can graze your heel with your longest finger. Inhale, pressing through heels and lifting hips to the sky. Wiggle shoulder blades underneath you and interlace your fingers, elongating arms on the floor and pressing fist toward heels. Breathe deeply, holding the pose for 3 or 4 long breaths. Tuck your chin and slowly lower hips. Repeat 2 to 5 times. (Not into yoga? Here are three other ways to reboot your posture.)
Lie face down on mat, palms directly under shoulders, elbows bent by sides, and legs extended, tops of feet flat on floor. Inhale, pressing firmly into palms pulling torso forward slightly. Straighten arms, rolling shoulders back and down, taking gaze slightly toward ceiling. Press into tops of feet, lifting torso and thighs a few inches off floor. Hold for 2 to 4 deep breaths. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Sit on floor and cross right leg over left leg, trying to line right knee directly over left knee, bringing right foot by left hip and left foot by right hip. Inhale and stretch right arm out to right at shoulder height, then rotate thumb toward floor and then to the back wall, palm facing ceiling. Exhale, sweeping right arm behind you, resting right forearm on low back and bringing back of right hand between shoulder blades. Inhale, stretching left arm out in front of you at shoulder height, turning palm toward ceiling. Raise left arm to sky, palm facing back wall. Exhale and bend left elbow, brining left hand to meet right hand, trying to hook your fingers. Hold here for about 1 minute. To deepen stretch, hinge at hips and lean torso forward. Repeat on opposite side.
Sit on floor with knees bent, feet flat on floor, palms by sides with fingers facing forward. Inhale, pressing through heels and lifting hips until spine is perpendicular with floor, allowing head to fall back. Continue lifting hips as you breathe deeply, holding for 3 to 5 deep breathes. Repeat 2 or 3 times.