Let's face it: Some of us were actually pretty chuffed about working from home. But a few months later, we may be realising that the very things that we liked - not having to run for the bus or stand up in the train, and being able to slouch in the couch all day - might actually be causing us literal pain.
Lack of movement can slow blood circulation, meaning our joints and muscles aren't getting as much oxygen and nutrients, which in turn leads to stiffness. Also, bad posture from spending more time on soft sofas and in front of laptops and improvised work-desks can cause all sorts of muscle tightness and eventually, different types of aches all over. Even if you've gone back to the office, you're not immune:
Pain arises when the muscles surrounding and supporting the spinal column are held rigidly and uncomfortably contracted over a long period of time, commonly following long hours in uncomfortable car seats and office chairs. When this goes on day after day, the muscles gradually go into a state of tight painful spasm which becomes semi-permanent, as fibroblasts infiltrate the troublesome region, laying down fibrous tissues. - Platinum Yoga
If any of these pains sound familiar, don't worry: We've sourced some stretches from favourite yoga teachers and physical therapists in Singapore to help ease those twinges and tension. Just remember: you should never feel pain when you stretch, and if you do, pull back a little, or stop immediately.
Photo: Tay Kaiching
Why: This provides quick and simple relief through the spine and is especially effective for the lower back.
How: Sitting up tall, with both legs extended, step your right foot outside the left knee. Lift your left hand up and twist over to the right. Keep lifting the spine long and turn the gaze over the right shoulder. After a few breaths, repeat on the other side.
Working on my laptop the all day, I get backaches too. To alleviate aches in the lower back, I even do a variation of this at my work desk. Simply plant the feet firmly down, twist from the torso, either holding on to the arm-rest or to the back rest of the chair for a deeper twist. - Tay Kaiching (@kaiching.yoga) from Jyan Yoga Studio
Why: Looking at computer screens all day (especially those positioned below or above your eye level) can cause not just literal pains in the neck, but tension headaches. This provides relief by stretching the muscles in your neck which become tense when you unconsciously hold your head in a less than ideal position for long hours.
Either in your chair or on the ground, sit on one hand. While gently tucking in your chin and keeping the highest point of your head lengthened towards the ceiling, use the other hand to cup the opposite ear and let the weight of gravity very gently and progressively ease your head in the direction of that hand. Do not consciously pull on your head to avoid straining the neck muscles. Maintain this stretch for about 30 seconds, allowing your head to drop a little lower with each exhalation, before switching sides.-Jasmine Xie, Freelance Physiotherapist from Alevia Physiotherapy and Pilates
Why: It releases tension from the base of the spine all the way up to the upper back.
Lie on your back, allowing one leg with bent knee to fall to its opposite side, while turning your head to the opposite direction of that and having your chest facing up with open arms.- Crystal Li, Pure Yoga Teacher
Source: Fitbit Blog
Why: Again, looking at laptop screens can cause us to sit in a hunched position with rounded shoulders, also causing the chest muscles between those shoulders to tighten in a compressed position. Opening up that chest will also help release those rounded-shoulders, which would otherwise force your neck into a strange position leading to head and neck aches.
With one arm held up at chest height and at a 90-degree angle, place your palm and elbow against a wall. Then, without moving that arm, maintaining your head and torso in one plane and move that entire plane gradually away from the wall to stretch your pectoral muscles. Take care not to cave your chest in, keep you body lengthened towards the ceiling. After about 30 seconds, switch sides.-Jasmine Xie, Freelance Physiotherapist from Alevia Physiotherapy and Pilates
Photo: Platinum Yoga
Cobra pose is a great yoga pose to soothe back pain and mobilise your spine. Due to the strong muscular engagement, it strengthens the spine, the legs and buttocks, and the arms and shoulders.-Platinum Yoga
If you’re new to yoga, do approach this pose by opting for the low Cobra (arms bent) variation pictured above, also called Baby Cobra, since this requires less flexibility in the spine, while the high Cobra (arms straightened) option is appropriate for more advanced students. Remember to keep the base of your spine pressed into the ground so as not to overstrain your back.- Platinum Yoga
This helps to release the tightness of the hip flexor, which in turn helps to release the tightness of the muscles attached with the lower back, also called psoas. When you create release in the psoas, it helps to relieve the pain in your lower back which may stiffen up due to longer sitting hours.- Arun Rana, Pure Yoga Senior Teacher
How: Bend one leg and and move the other as far as you can behind you while still being able to maintain balance. If you prefer, lower that back knee to the ground. Keep your upper body upright while lowering your hips as close as possible towards the ground. Maintain this position for a few breaths and enjoy the stretch in your back thigh and hip flexor, before changing sides.
Photo: Tay Kaiching
Why: This pose not only helps relieve back pain but also strengthens the core and the legs to keep the pain at bay.
How: First stand in a lunge position, lift both hands to the heart and twist over to the right side. Hook your left elbow on your right knee. Press the palms towards each other to lift the chest high and towards the right side. Ensure that your legs are actively pressing into the floor, and your core is lifted away from your thigh.
Getting into this posture is easy, but staying there is tough! Keeping the legs and core active may seem far away from the target area of the back, but this active twist will help recruit muscles in the body's posterior chain that goes a long way to keeping future backaches away.- Tay Kaiching (@kaiching.yoga) from Jyan Yoga Studio
Why: A stiff, immobile upper back can create muscular tension that causes aches all the way up to your head. This exercise helps stretch the hard-to-reach upper back in different directions through a variety of movements.
Use both palms to hold the back of your neck, then touch your elbows together in front of you. While gently tucking in your chin, and keeping your hold on your neck as well as your elbows touching, use your elbows as the point of an imaginary pen to write the alphabet in the air in front of you, in as large letters as is comfortable without popping your ribcage outwards.-Jasmine Xie, Freelance Physiotherapist from Alevia Physiotherapy and Pilates
Why: This pose works the spine from your sacrum (base) all the way to the top of the neck.
How: Spread your legs wide apart, and turn one leg outwards from the knee so that the foot points out 90 degrees. Keeping the legs straight and firm, bend sideways from the waist in the direction of the pointed-out foot, until your hand on that side touches the floor. Remember: If this is not comfortable, instead use that hand to touch your shin or even your knee - wherever is doable for you without causing pain. Raise your opposite hand up towards the sky, and look towards that raised hand.
This side stretch also creates space around the lumbar area, which can be compressed by sitting in non-ergonomic, over-soft seats.
- Arun Rana, Pure Yoga Senior Teacher
Relieve pressure from the lower back and helps to circulate better blood flow.
Why: Not only does this simple pose stretch out the hamstrings and lower back, it uses gravity to assist circulation by facilitating the return of blood back to the heart.
How: Start by setting up a comfortable space around a wall. You can even lie in bed with you legs up the headboard. Next, shimmy your hips as close to the wall as possible, then start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position. The goal is to lie with your sit-bones as close to the wall as is comfortable for you, and as much of the backs of your legs in contact with the wall as possible.
This pose relieves pressure from the lower back and helps to improve blood circulation.
- Arun Rana, Pure Yoga Senior Teacher