When you're working hard and life is busy, getting to a yoga or exercise class may be at the bottom of your to-do list. However, it's usually when you have the least amount of time that you need stress relief the most. Working in front of a computer for prolonged periods can strain your neck, shoulders, hands, wrists, arms, and back muscles, which can lead to headaches and muscular stiffness or pain. Don't bypass yoga--just try it at your desk.

Desk yoga modifies common stretches for the chair-bound. Doing yoga stretches at your desk will give you some of the same benefits as a yoga class without having to leave the office. Some of these benefits include:

  • Released tension
  • Decreased anxiety and stress
  • Improved memory and concentration
  • Increased energy and flexibility

Although most desk yoga stretches are gentle and appropriate for most people, you should always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. This is particularly true if you have any previous injuries or health concerns related to your neck, back, shoulders, or joints. Here are some specific stretches to try at your desk:
Alternating Shoulder Shrugs
To relieve tension in your upper back and shoulders, sit up straight, then inhale deeply while slowly lifting your right shoulder to your ear. Exhale as you roll your shoulder with control around and back. When you're back to the starting point, switch to your left shoulder, and repeat the exercise. Alternate sides a few times. To end, inhale and lift both of your shoulders simultaneously up toward your ears. Hold for a moment, then exhale as you release.

Seated Spinal Twist
While sitting straight up in your chair, place your palms on the arms of your chair, and turn your chest and abdominal area to your right. Focus on moving your left shoulder forward and your right shoulder back as you do this. Be sure to keep your knees facing forward and your feet grounded--they shouldn't follow your core in the twist. Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds, then twist in the other direction.

Seated Mountain Pose
While sitting tall in your chair, clasp your fingers together and stretch your arms out straight in front of you. Keeping your fingers laced, turn your palms away from you. Raise your arms until your palms face the ceiling, trying to keep your elbows as straight as possible. Try to lengthen your sides and feel yourself grow taller as you breathe into the stretch.

Arm Stretch
Stand up, away from your chair. Bring your arms behind your back and clasp your hands together. Then lift your hands behind your back as high as you comfortably can, trying to keep your elbows straight. Lift your sternum to help extend your stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then release the stretch and repeat a few times.

Try to incorporate at least a few of these exercises into your work routine each day if you can. You'll find that the time you spend away from the keyboard will come back to you in the form of increased productivity, a greater feeling of well-being, and improved quality of life. Take a break, breathe, and stretch.