Earlier this week, I described how I recently began to integrate Yoga Tune Up® stretching into my daily routines at work, at home, and on the road. Like many of you, I spend a lot of time sitting and using my cell phone and computer and I often feel the consequences of this in my hands and wrists, neck, and lower back, so I’ll focus my suggestions on these areas of the body.
Whenever I’m sitting for an extended period of time (which is too often), whether in the car, at my desk, or in a meeting, my back is the first thing to start hurting.
Until recently, I didn’t understand how connected the muscles of the side body are to the back. When our deep side-body muscles, especially the quadratus lumborum, are tight, the pain is often concentrated in the lower back.
A great quick-fix for this is Yoga Tune Up’s Boomerang Exercise, a stretch utilizing proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) that can be done practically anywhere there is a wall, pole, support beam, or something to lean against. PNF in a nutshell is when you actively contract a muscle while it is being stretched to “trick” the stretch receptors/sensors into relaxing further.
Wrists and Hands
This next stretch goes out to all of us humans who use our hands a lot… which is pretty much everyone. Whether it’s typing on a keyboard, holding a cell phone, gripping a steering wheel, playing an instrument, or any other use of our highly-mobile phalanges with their opposable thumbs, our tissues of our hands and forearm are often over-worked.
As a result, our wrists are often trapped in a vicious tug-of-war between the many muscles and connective tissues (fascia, tendons, etc) that bridge the gap between the lands of our forearms and hands. Try the Wrist Curl exercise here!
While the solution to this widespread problem is complicated and deserving of its own post entirely, for the purposes of something quick and effective you can do every day, I recommend taking frequent breaks from your hand-activities and practicing the stretches in the video below religiously.
If you’re in a place where you can’t get on your hands and knees to leverage your bodyweight, try these against your desktop or a wall.
Last but not least, the neck. Due largely to our screen-staring lifestyles, our necks are often cocked forward in positions where they carry the load of our 10+ pound human heads with compromised integrity. This overworks and shortens several of the muscles of the front side of the neck, including the small but mighty scalenes.
This exercise is great because it combines massage and stretching in a potent combo move and requires no floor or wall – just your own hands and neck!
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that these exercises are quick fixes are meant to undo the daily accumulation of tension that many of us face. They won’t, however, thoroughly address the underlying structural causes of chronic pain that many experience.
The long-term solution for musculoskeletal imbalances and the problems they cause is to spend extended periods of time practicing sequences that combine not only self-massage and stretching, but also strengthening and corrective exercise techniques to create a more stable and balanced foundation for our bodies. This is why Yoga Tune Up® classes, workshops, and retreats come in. Click here to find one near you!
YES. To this. Excellent videos and advice. I’ll be sharing this with colleagues during the Employee Assistance Program movement classes that I teach. Thank you.
This is one to show the boys and men in my family! This neck stretch is a little funny and might catch their attention. I see my husband at the computer and my kids on their phones all the time and I worry about their posture and their necks while I am not sure they see what I see. Thank you.
Thanks for a great relative article. I think these simple exercise can go a long way as quick fixes to small discomforts we face in our daily activities. And keep us from reaching towards more accumulated pain due to lack of attention to the areas of the body. It can also help identity if something doesn’t feel right in one or another area and address it before it gets worse. Great article.
Thank you Max for all the different tips on stretching! I especially love the wrist stretch and the boomerang, and since they can be done at home or at the office, I will be incorporating them into my daily breaks!
These are all great stretches. The boomerang especially seems to hit some very tight and ignored portions of my body. I also agree with your conclusion, that often to fix chronic discomfort or to truly change how you move throughout the day it takes more than a quick stretch but rather a long term plan that strengthens, stretches, and challenges the body. Moreover, it’s important to note that if your environment (your workplace your home your habits) is what got you in pain the first place then that has to change or else you just end up doing corrective exercise forever.
I think these are all great. I would love to do them since I sit for long hours at the computer for work. What I struggle with is actually taking the time to take a break and do something about it. It’s almost like I need to put time on my calendar to save the spot and then do it. Perhaps having a buddy / accountability partner or someone to do it with can help with reminding me. I think it’s the same as people knowing they need to exercise and eat healthy, but we make other choices. Even as I continue to go to trainings and workshops and classes, it’s a challenge then to do it at home, or work, or other places. I don’t think I’m alone here, but it could just be me. We need to make the choice to take care of ourselves, because no one will do it for us.
These are really helpful exercises that my husband and I can easily fit into our schedules. Thanks for sharing!
Awesome tips that I can easily integrate into my 15 minute breaks at work – and who cares if my coworker is giving me a weird look while I streeeetch. Really loved the bonus link with the wrist curl – felt great on my wrist which has been a grumpy jerk since my TFCC ligament tear a year ago that never felt like it healed fully. Thank you!
I loved this article! Super practical exercises to share with desk bound folks. I do that anterior neck fascial stretch all the time, plus I add in the action of jaw elevation/depression to bring the masseter into the stretch as well!
The connection of doing boomerang to relieve lower back pain was fantastic. What a great set of stretches to do at work – looks like I have another trick to show my coworkers!
Thanks for sharring! I already do the wirst and hands work as I am a desk worker and it’s help me a lot with the wirst pain. I will do more often the boomerang for my lower back.
Thanks for sharring this! I already does this hands and wrist work, but I will do more often the boomrang for my back as I am a desk worker.
Just tried Boomerang for the first time–my QLs LOVE IT!! My wrists and fingers really like the back bending releases to counter all the planks and pushups and handstands I work on frequently. The neck release was surprisingly effective; I could feel a release of tension from just a few seconds on each side.
It’s great to find new additions to the back of tricks that are simple and efficient 🙂
Great post! I love when I find new ideas to incorporate into our daily routines. When I learned Boomerang at YTU L1 training, I experienced an ‘aha’ moment. What a lovely side body stretch; and coupled with PNF, heaven! I’ve been using this stretch more often in my yoga classes and when you dial in the PNF component, whoa, people are tuning into an area often overlooked. Thanks for the great post!
Oh my gosh, yes, BOOMERANG! I am constantly looking for ways to improve my work day. YTU balls are always in tote, but more YTU stretches integrated throughout my day will not only improve my sitting time, but my breathing time. Thank you for the tidbit!
This stretches are genius, and I wish I found them years ago when I first started working at a desk all day long. I’m planning on leaving the desk life soon, but will definitely practice these stretches any time I find myself sitting for long periods of time. Thank you for embedding these three videos so I can easily reference them.
The boomerang is wonderful to do at work,you just need a wall,it will get lots of fingerprints! Great explanation on the roll of the QL.the video of why not to do a downward dog was illuminating,the alternative dolphin supinate makes so much sense,I will try this with my students.
Great post! I always think of the boomerang as a stretch of the shoulder and side body, but I tend to forget that it can help elevate back pain by stretching the QL too. Thank you for the reminder!
I love that you added in videos, as well as the article/instructions for wrist curls. I really like the Boomerang , I have started to show my clients with low back issues this stretch and strengthen exercise, and they are liking it, and doing their home care!!! I teach my clients stretches for their scalenes, very similar to the video you posted, engaging the myofascia while performing a stretch. I have never though, seen this exercise where you include the “underbite” to stretch the platysma. It felt great! I will be adding that in when I teach this stretch from now on.
I love the wrists stretches. Often ignored until you’re in pain! Thanks for sharing these videos. Great to incorporate into daily maintenance!
This is awesome, Max! Lately, I’ve made it my goal to elicit funny looks from coworkers during my self-care practice at my desk. The funnier the look, the more satisfying the work! I can’t wait to add the Brando and the Boomerang to my repertoire and see how they react. Riffing off of your idea of inserting the exercises into your daily routine, the Wrist Curl sounds like a great way to close my morning meditation practice before standing up.
This is such useful info. I never saw that neck stretch done like that and I can’t believe the relief I felt in my trapezius too. Thank you
Like the video that shows fourarms, wrists and fingers stretching. In my classes I have a lot of office workers, who sit whole day in front of computer. And that stretches are very useful for them
love the neck tips!
These YTU sequences are a reminder that a little YTU goes a long way in helping release the tensions that accumulate from hours of repetitive work, usually seated! I find the results to be remarkable and applaud Jill’s genius in creating this work and all the YTU teachers skill in bringing it to all of us stuck behind a desk.
Thanks, Max! You address some of the most common issues I see in clients. These stretches can be done by almost anyone, anywhere. Super simple self-care to reverse our daily habits. Also great for gardeners!
I really like the modification of boomerang against the wall for stretching out your lower back. Many of the clients I teach sit behind desks all day, so this is a very helpful blog post for me.
Love these simple quick stretches that could be easily done throughout the day! The first is a closed chain side stretch for Quadratus Lumborum done against the wall–demonstrated by Kyoko Jasper. Having recently had a serious bout of sciatica I think this stretch will be a part of my daily routine. I like the addition of PNF at the end to strengthen the QL. The third stretch of the Platysma muscle found on front and slightly to side of neck feels like it frees up the front body from pulling head and neck forward. Both stretches could easily be done in an office. The second—a wrist stretch—might be a bit more difficult. All of these are great for those of us who sit too much and spend too much time in a car or at a computer!
These are great and simple enough stretches that can be done anywhere…love it. Will be teaching those to anyone I know who is willing to try. Neck and lower back pain as you mentioned is experienced by pretty much all of us so being able to help ourselves so easily is great! Thanks for putting them together like that.
I’m just starting to add PNF stretching in to my practice. It really increases strengthening and stretching of each pose. I was missing out on that.
I bought an extra pair of plus size and original therapy balls to keep in a drawer at work recently – now they are at the ready as soon as I feel something coming on throughout the day, rather than waiting to the end of my day to address my ick. (Side note, I also said goodbye to the extra weight in my purse from carrying the therapy balls around with me that likely would eventually cause some additional tension!) I’m actually thinking they would make a great Christmas present for my team at work – and that we could start each team meeting with a good roll of something as a little mood booster!
Love the variety here and will definitely be bringing these to work and sharing with my coworkers! I’ve personally been focusing on the short/quick exercise throughout they day approach to weave in mobility/movement consistently. The more tools the better! I also find that my yoga students struggle with wrist issues, so the wrist section was particularly useful. Thanks!
These look like great daily maintenance exercises. I haven’t tried the wrist exercise yet, but given how much time many of us spend on computers and driving I imagine it will be a great stretch. I look forward to incorporating this into my daily routine. And I really enjoyed the boomerang exercise. Though my quadratus lomburum often gets irritated, I haven’t known how to stretch it well. I love the idea of using a PNF to facilitate its relaxation and release. Thanks again!
Love the concept and reminder to layer in short exercises in during the day to counter some of the forces of daily life. These three target key areas where stress seems to creep in to the body. Another one I like to do is – bend one elbow, take that arm behind your back bend. Lean the opposite ear toward the opposite shoulder, add a little weight to the head with hand on that side. Nice stretch for the upper traps. can also take the gaze slightly toward the ground (head rotating slightly down) and get the levator scapular.
As a pianist and teacher of piano students, I have been thinking a lot about how little attention is given to the physical aspect of playing the instrument and developing self-care that will prevent injuries (which ultimately means more years of playing pain free). These three stretches address some of the most chronic issues that pianists have. I will be incorporating these into my lessons and my own practice regimen.
I just learned the Boomerang exercise yesterday. I didn’t realize it was beneficial for receiving back pain. I will definitely add this to my regular practice.
I LOVE the Marlon Brando stretch and have started to add it to my cow pose. I stick my jaw out in Cow and feel a really delicious stretch on down the whole front of my neck.
Great combo for desk-sitters (including me). I also use the wrist stretch a lot at the gym before wrist-intensive movements like front-racked lifts, or grip-heavy activities like farmers carry.
This is such a helpful article. As a therapist, I sit in my chair for long hours during the day. When I am not in my chair working with a client, I am at my computer. Thank you so much for these sequences- I am going to try them tomorrow at work!!
Since I have a desk job I find that the Boomerang Sidebend yoga pose is a great way, for stretching out the obliques and lats. Also you get an amazing arm stretch by extending it over your head. I will be definitely be doing more of this pose especially when I get tired of sitting all day. Thanks for sharing
Oh mon conjoint est arrivé pendant que je regardais la video sur les poignets et il ne comprenait pas comment on pouvait faire cet exercice! j ‘ai donc fait un test avec lui pour réaliser que ses poignets manquent grandement de souplesse puisqu’il etait incapable de déposer les paumes de ses main au sol et très loin d’être capable. Donc je lui ai fait faire des exercices avec les balles et nous allons continuer de travailler ces articulations à tous les jours pour lui donner plus de mobilité et éviter plus de problème dans l’avenir. Cela m’a aussi fait comprendre d’autre douleur qu’il avait eu récemment près du coude, surement en partie causé par le fait que son fléchisseur du carpe est trop court et trop tendu. Je vais pouvoir l’aider à corriger la situation. Merci Yoga Tune Up !!!
I like the PNF option on the Boomerang exercises! Nice list of quick exercises to do at work, great suggestions to share with people we know.
This boomerang technique is so helpful. I really find the PNF so interesting. Funny that we have to trick our muscles to relax.
Perfect format for me to share with students and private clients who suffer from common workplace discomfort. thx for sharing!
Hands! Something we often forget to stretch. I agree that we overuse our hands and hold them in awkward positions throughout the day, I’ve found it increasingly helpful to stretch the hands and fingers. Thank you.
There is a huge audience for sequences like this – short, simple, portable and effective. Those of us in the fitness/movement industry study loads of anatomy and practice cpmplex movement patterns, but the average person doesn’t have time for that and often is frankly not interested. Though not a long term solution to the issues at hand, these stretches and self-massage techiques are tools for staying mobile, hydrated, and AWARE. Very practical and important – thanks 🙂
Really great reminders, Max. I’ve always been a fan of incorporating technique throughout the day and I really like the stretches you chose to include!
Merci pour ce super article Max! Il me rappelle à quel point il est important d’intégrer dans notre vie quotidienne le YTU en nous faisant prendre conscience de nos postures et mouvements.
Great article Max! I loved how you so neatly packaged these 3 overworked body areas and created a concise outline in which to address them any place, any time. The combination of YTU stretches and accompanying PNF felt amazingly comprehensive in easily treating these areas as I followed your advice on my own currently unrelentingly tense tissues. Thank you for sharing your expertise and insight.
Thanks for writing this blog. I appreciated the succinct description of PNF. Thinking about using PNF in boomerang especially on the wall has helped me to intentiaonally incorporate PNFs into more poses
Max, The stretches described and done made a wonderful feeling of being more open to starting my day. I went through the clips. Thank you for such a thoughtful progression. I can see how easy it would be to start each day with just one or two and still feel better. Thank you. Disne
I’ve become fascinated by PNF and how it can increase the results of stretches. The simple addition in boomerang of pulling the top hand away (without actually moving) takes it to another level of effectiveness.
More generally, thanks for the tips. We all need help to combat our modern lifestyles and the weaknesses and stresses that brings. The simple exercises you shared are great tools to put into our routines. It’s healthy maintenance, like, brushing our teeth. Even better is getting to go to regular yoga tune up classes.
I sometimes call my tune up balls my first aid kit, though I try to use them regularly to avoid needing any first aid.
Thank you. I tried the Boomerang Exercise. It is great. I can and will incorporate into my workday.
Excellent. I’ve written these down, nice sequence to remember throughout the day. Thank you!
Great quick fixes targeting common trouble spots. I’d forgotten the neck one I’ll have to revisit it.
Thanks Max – a lot of good information all neatly packaged in one post and easily transported to the office.
Great movement snacks Max. As you said in your conclusion these a part of the solution, but if keep making the same postural decisions in our life then all the rolling, massage, and training will be for nothing.
Another great stretch you should check out is sidewinder. It brings awareness into the side body as well as the back body. Giving the practitioner a better understand what their core is and what activating it feels like. Keep up the good work :)Smax
Love these essential stretches Max. I think you hit the most over used and neglected areas accompanied by the most available ways to address them anywhere, and at any time. I also love that each one has an element of either PNF or self touch. The power of pressure and touch has such an incredible influence over our nervous system and higher executive functioning…it can be a total mood or day changer. Great article, thanks for sharing.