How to practice yoga to counteract sitting all day in Half Monkey God Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana)

Do You Sit Too Much? Try These 5 Yoga Poses

Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Updated: 
November 14, 2020

We’ve probably all heard by now that sitting is the new smoking. We know we’re supposed to use a standing desk or get up and take a stretch break every 20 minutes. But in reality, life often gets in the way. We always seem to be racing against the clock to meet a deadline or we get lost in a creative sprint, and suddenly five hours have gone by.

We know that we shouldn’t sit all day, yet few of us actually don’t sit all day long. Thankfully, yoga can alleviate some of the aches and pains and discomfort that excessive sitting can create. 

Excessive sitting often leads to pain and discomfort in our hips and back. So some quick and simple yoga poses may often offer some relief.

5 Yoga Poses to Relieve Your Hips and Back After Sitting All Day Long

1. Anjaneyasana Variation (Low Lunge Pose)

Alt text: The benefits of Low Lunge Pose variation (Anjaneyasana) on relieving the effects on the hips and back from sitting

When we sit a lot, our hip flexors shorten. These muscles can, in turn, pull on the lumbar spine to create excessive lordosis of the lower back, which can lead to pain and discomfort. So it’s wise to stretch and release your hip flexors after prolonged sitting.

  1. Start in Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose) with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and your hips aligned over your knees.

  2. Step your right foot forward and place it next to your right thumb.

  3. Energetically magnetize your legs toward each other and activate your core.

  4. Use this stability in your base and center to lift your torso and sweep your arms to the sky.

  5. Interlace your fingers behind the back of your head.

  6. Hug your navel toward your spine and curl your entire spine inward from your tailbone to the crown of your head to round in on yourself and create a Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) shape in your back body.

  7. Scoop your tailbone underneath your torso to exaggerate the posterior tilt of your pelvis. 

  8. Breathe into this stretch for about 30 seconds and then switch sides.  

2. Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey Pose)

How to practice Half Splits yoga pose (Ardha Hanumanasana) to counteract the effects of sitting on the body

Sitting too long also tends to shorten our hamstrings. When these muscles contract, they often pull the pelvis down into a posterior tilt, which can lessen the curvature of the lower back and lead to different sorts of aches and pains. This is another group of muscles that are worth stretching after prolonged sitting. 

  1. Start in Tabletop Pose with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and your hips aligned over your knees.

  2. Step your right foot forward and place it next to your right thumb.

  3. Bend forward and place your hands onto yoga blocks or the floor and elongate your spine.

  4. Lean the weight of your hips backward until they align roughly over your left knee. (You may wish to place some padding underneath that knee.)

  5. Flex your right ankle and straighten your front leg as much as you comfortably can.

  6. Either choose to keep the foot of your front leg where it is or slide your heel forward in space to intensify the sensations.

  7. Press your heel firmly into the floor and energetically scissor your front heel and your back knee toward each other.

  8. Maintain the length you created in your back body, and either choose to stay as you are or fold the weight of your torso forward over your front leg. 

  9. Breathe into this stretch for about 30 seconds before switching sides. 

3. Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose)

Yoga student experiencing the benefits of Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana) for the hips and back after sitting all day

When we sit a lot, we often allow gravity to pull us forward. Not only that, but the bones in our lumbar and thoracic spines are shaped in such a way it’s easy to surrender to a “hunched” position. Excessive rounding in the back can cause back pain, especially when it becomes a habit. A nice way to “undo” this is to move the spine in the opposite direction—into gentle extension.

  1. Start lying down on your belly and plant your hands on top of each other to create a pillow to rest your forehead. Place your feet in any position of comfort, toes turned under or tops of the feet on the floor. 

  2. Observe the sensation in your lower back, and either choose to stay here or plant your elbows roughly underneath your shoulders with your forearms parallel. Ground your knees and the tops of your feet and lift your chest up away from the floor.

  3. Draw the tips of your shoulder blades toward each other and expand and open your chest forward between your arms. 

  4. Soften your shoulders away from your ears and reach the crown of your head toward the sky.

  5. Hold here for about a minute before releasing back down to your belly.

4. Agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose)

The benefits of practicing Fire Log yoga Pose (Agnistambhasana) to balance the body after sitting too much

Sitting a lot tends to wreak havoc on the outer hips. The soreness felt in this part of the body can be serious, so it’s always nice to give this area some tender, loving care when we sit too long.

  1. Start seated on a prop such as a folded yoga blanket, or on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet wider than your mat. 

  2. Externally rotate your right leg, bend your knee and draw your shin toward you so that it is roughly parallel to the short edge of your mat.

  3. Externally rotate your left leg, bend your knee and place your left shin forward of and parallel to your right shin.

  4. Either choose to stay here or lift your left leg and place your shin on top of your right shin with your left ankle resting on your right knee. Your left foot should be off and to the outside of the right knee. If your left knee is more than 2 or 3 above your right ankle, it’s best to place your left shin in front of the right shin rather than on top of it.

  5. You may wish to elevate your seat by sitting on a folded yoga blanket or you may wish to place a folded yoga blanket between your ankle and knee to support your weight. Keep your left ankle flexed.

  6. Place your fingertips behind you and press down into the mat. Feel your spine lengthen and your pelvis tip forward slightly.

  7. Either stay as you are or fold your torso over your legs, but only if you can bend from your pelvis and not from your waist. 

  8. Hold for about 30 seconds before switching sides. 


5. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)

Yoga student practicing Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani) to counteract the stress of sitting on the body

This very simple and relaxing inversion helps to soften the lower back and posterior hips. But perhaps more importantly, this gentle shape soothes the nervous system to allow all of your musculoskeletal system to release tension. 

  1. Start seated against a wall with your right hip touching the wall and your knees bent with your feet on the floor. 

  2. Reach your arms behind you and lean your weight into your hands for support.

  3. Swing your legs forward and up the wall as you turn your torso to face toward it. 

  4. Release your back to the floor and slide your legs up the wall. 

  5. Scoot your sitting bones as close to the wall as you comfortably can. If your low back is rounded and pressing into the floor, scoot away from the wall until the lumbar spine curves slightly away from the floor. 

  6. Soften your arms into any comfortable position—at your sides or in Cactus Arms Pose—and close your eyes.

  7. Allow the weight of your legs to draw down with the force of gravity and melt your thigh bones in toward your hip sockets. 

  8. Relax here for a minute—or as long as you have the time. 

Practice These Yoga Poses, But Minimize Your Sitting Time As Well

While yoga can be a powerfully effective way to cope with aches and pains, it isn’t a panacea. It’s typically better to attack the root of musculoskeletal issues than the symptoms. 

Yes, yoga can help our overstressed bodies, but it would be preferable not to overstress them in the first place. So be sure to get up and move your body as often as possible. Stand up and take a stroll up and down the aisle on your next train commute. Pull over on your next long car ride to give your legs a stretch. And consider using a standing desk so that you can switch positions while you work.

Use these yoga poses to help relieve your aches and pains as a last resort. But first, try to nip the aches and pains in the bud before they even arrive in your body! 

 

Lynn Crimando, MA, C-IAYT, certified personal trainer, board-certified wellness coach, YogaUOnline Teacher

 

Leah SugermanLeah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.