Sitting at a desk for long periods of time—the way many of us do on a daily basis—creates a chain reaction throughout your body. The combination of hunching over your laptop and putting pressure on your lower body for hours on end spells bad news for your hips, which is why it’s extra important to stretch them out on the reg. While it can be hard to find time between Zoom meetings to get on the mat to give them the TLC they need, there are plenty of seated hip stretches you can do to melt away tension without having to get up from your chair.
“When we are sitting [at a desk] all day, our iliopsoas muscle is shortened, which bunches up the muscles in the hips and makes them weaker, and can cause the lower back to overcompensate and cause severe back pain,” says Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon based in NYC. “Having poor posture can also make your hips stiff and tight because it puts more pressure on your hips than necessary, and this stiffness and tightness can cause swelling, pain, and tenderness in the hips.”
There are a few different ways your body might be telling you it’s time to stretch your hips, the first of which is, of course, pain in your hips themselves. Additionally, says Dr. Okubadejo, if you have aches in your lower back or neck, or are experiencing groin pain when you stand up, it’s a sign that your hip flexors could use a little extra love.
To help you integrate that “extra love” into your day as easily as possible, we asked Jessica Mazzucco, an NYC-based trainer and founder of The Glute Recruit, to share her go-to seated hip stretches, which you can do without having to step away from your laptop.
1. Forward fold hamstring stretch
You’re probably familiar with standing forward folds, which help you loosen up your hamstrings, but you can achieve similarly melt-y results while you’re still seated at your desk. Place your heels up on shelves, boxes, or anything else that will elevate them slightly off of the floor, and pull your belly button toward your spine while folding forward at your hips. Reach forward toward your feet to stretch both legs simultaneously, or reach toward one foot at a time to stretch them one by one. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, and be sure to take slow, deep breaths while you do it.
2. Modified Seated Pigeon Stretch
This ooey-gooey hip stretch is a yoga class staple and can be easily modified to allow you to do it from your chair. Sitting up straight, cross your right ankle over your left knee, and flex your right foot. If you’re doing it correctly, you should feel a stretch through your glute and outer hip. If you don’t feel a stretch, slowly fold forward at your waist and lean into your right hip. Stay in the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
3. Hip Flexor Warrior 1 Stretch
This stretch requires you to stand up, but you won’t have to go far. Place your right foot forward and your left foot back, no wider than your hips. Bend your front knee while leaving your back leg straight, and pivot your back toes so that your toes are facing slightly forward (as if they were pointing to the number “2” on a clock). Put your hands on your hips, above your head, or on your desk for extra balance, and focus on engaging your core and relaxing your shoulders. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
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