5 Yoga Poses to Release Back Tension at Your Desk


Earlier this week, we discussed how sitting all day can lead to an accumulation of tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw and reviewed 5 Poses to Release Neck and Shoulder Tension at Your Desk. Unfortunately, the problems caused by long-term sitting aren't usually limited to our neck and shoulders and can radiate down our back. Today's poses complete the chair yoga spinal series. The following five yoga poses can be done in your office (and in your chair) to reduce muscle tension and improve the functional mobility of the thoracic and lumbar spine. 

These simple poses chair yoga poses take approximately 5 minutes and can yield immediate results. 

A few notes before we get started . . . 


Set yourself up for success by integrating proper breathing into each pose using the following techniques:

  • Breathe in and out through the nose
  • As you inhale, feel your belly expand
  • As you exhale, draw your belly toward your spine
  • Breathe in and out to your full capacity and at an even cadence 


A proper foundation is key to the success of any yoga pose. All of today's practices start in the following neutral seated position: 

  • Straight spine
  • Feet on the earth, hip-distance apart
  • Knees over your ankles
  • Shoulders over your hips
  • Chin very slightly tucked 

1. Cat / Cow Stretch

  • Begin in the neutral seated position.
  • Place your hands on knees. 
  • As you inhale, move your belly forward and press the chest out and up toward the front of the room as you shoulder blades move toward one another. 
  • Imagine the tips of the collarbones expanding toward opposite sides of the room.
  • Exhale and round the spine like an angry cat by tipping the hip bones back, spreading the shoulder blades, and bringing your chin toward your chest.
  • Complete at least 5 sets. 

2. Side Bend

  • Begin in the neutral seated position.
  • Sweep your arms out and up overhead.
  • Clasp your hands together, keeping the pointer fingers facing up (jupiter mudra).  
  • Take a deep breath in. 
  • Tuck the bottom ribs slightly, exhale and side bend to the right keeping your chest square with the front of the room and your arms in line with your ears. 
  • Keeping the hands clasped, extend your right arm energetically toward the right side of the room to deepen the stretch.
  • Breathe deeply into the stretch on your left side for 3-5 breaths. 
  • Inhale back to center.
  • Repeat on the left.

3. Chair Twist

  • Begin in the neutral seated position.
  • Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand somewhere on the seat behind your right hip. 
  • Take a deep breath in and imagine the crown of your head reaching toward the ceiling. 
  • Exhale and twist to the right, gazing over your right shoulder.
  • Inhale and imagine the crown of the head reaching tall.
  • As you exhale, suck in the belly and twist a little deeper. 
  • Press your left hand against your knee to deepen the twist. 
  • Breathe deeply for 3-5 breaths.
  • Inhale and return to center.
  • Repeat on the left. 

4. Back Bend 

  • Begin in the neutral seated position. 
  • Place your hands on your lower back and squeeze your elbows in toward each other. 
  • Take a deep breath in and image the crown of your head reaching toward the ceiling. 
  • Exhale and lift your sternum up and back until you come into a back bend. Gaze up at the ceiling or (if you're really flexible) at the wall behind you. 
  • Breathe deeply for 2 breaths. 
  • Inhale and return to center. 

5. Seated Forward Fold

  • Begin in the neutral seated position, about 2' away from your desk. 
  • Clasp your hands behind you. 
  • As you inhale, press your shoulder blades together as you press your hands toward the back of the chair. 
  • Exhale and fold forward over your legs, placing your belly and chest on your thighs. Let your legs support the full weight of your torso.
  • Keeping your fingers clasped and your arms straight, arc your hands up and over toward the front of the room.
  • Relax your jaw and let your head hang heavy between your knees.
  • Take 5-10 of your deepest breaths.
  • Release the clasp of your hands and sit up slowly. 
  • Note: If your shoulders are tight and you can't comfortably clasp your hands, use a strap or other material (jacket, scarf, handkerchief) to increase the space between your hands.  

You can repeat these practices as often as needed throughout your day. For maximum effect, practice at least once per day. 

Interested in learning more about Yoga at Work? Aria Yoga Co. offers a variety of personalized corporate wellness programs to empower employees with tools to reduce tension, improve memory, attention, focus, emotional intelligence, and performance under stress. Visit Aria Corporate to learn more or contact us at inquire@ariayoga.co.  


About the Author. Elisar Hares, ESQ. is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Aria Yoga Co. She has completed 200 hour yoga teaching programs in two disciplines, power vinyasa and PranaVayu. In addition, Elisar studied inner engineering, meditation, and Ayurvedic healing modalities through the Isha Foundation and the Chopra Center. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, Elisar founded Aria in order to give people tools to live healthier, happier lives.