Boost your posture and alleviate back ache in just five minutes with this chair-based yoga sequence

Squeeze some extra movement into your day without leaving your office chair

Man stretching in office chair
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like many people, I spend all day long in front of my laptop, and however much effort I make to sit up straight it never lasts long.

Humans aren’t designed to sit for such long periods, and all that sitting we do on chairs, sofas and in cars takes its toll on our posture. It can result in tight, aching shoulders, a sore neck and back pain of all descriptions. The best way to remedy this? Regular stretching and exercise. 

"Movement is medicine," says yoga teacher and author Naomi Annand. "The best thing is standing up and just walking around at intervals throughout the day. The action of walking is so good for the lower back." 

It’s also really important not to over-correct, when you realize you’re slumping. "It’s very important not to sit up too straight and rigid, that’s not necessarily good for your back either."

Annand recommended this little sequence to reboot your posture that takes just a few minutes and can be done from your chair. I gave it a go and experienced immediate relief from some tension along with a feeling of balance and suppleness.

Naomi Annand
Naomi Annand

Naomi Annand runs her own yoga studio Yoga On The Lane in east London, and has published two books, Yoga: A Manual For Life and Yoga For Motherhood

Watch Naomi Annand's five minute chair yoga sequence

Chair yoga sequence for back pain

Before you start, stand up and take a few strides around the room to wake your body up. Then sit down, making sure your hips are a little higher than your thighs. 

"If you have your hips lower than your knees and you try to do these exercises you're just going to strain your lower back," says Annand.

1. Pelvic circles

Naomi Annand performs pelvic circles in a chair

(Image credit: Naomi Annand)

Roll your hips in a circular motion, tilting it around in smooth circles. Take three circles in one direction and switch to the other direction. Allow your upper body to feel fluid, and imagine your spine is a spoon stirring the bowl of water. Closing your eyes, let the circles get smaller, and come to a still point in the center. 

"We want our spine to have the three natural curves and the spine to feel more like a beaded necklace that moves, that's not rigid," says Annand. 

2. Spinal twist

Naomi Annand performs spinal twist yoga move from a chair

(Image credit: Naomi Annand)

Turn to one side, placing a hand on the chair behind you and the other hand on the opposite knee. Inhale, creating a sense of space between your vertebrae. On the exhale, twist a little more deeply. After five breaths here, stretch your arms above your head and then repeat on the other side. 

3. Side bend

Naomi Annand performs side bend yoga move in a chair

(Image credit: Naomi Annand)

Sitting with your hands down by your sides, allow your right ear to drop slowly towards your shoulder until you feel a gentle stretch in your neck and side. Leaning on your right hand, place your left hand on your left ribs and feel them expand with each breath. Take five slow breaths here and repeat on the other side.

"Lateral flexion, moving side to side, is something that we don't do enough of in day to day life," says Annand. "Just feel into where there’s stiffness, hold for a few breaths and breathe into your side body. That's really good for your back."

4. Head turn

Naomi Annand performs head turns yoga move seated in a chair

(Image credit: Naomi Annand)

Slowly turn your head from side to side as if saying "no", and then nod up and down, allowing these movements to get smaller and smaller, until your head feels balanced and centered. Soften your jaw and create space between your upper and lower teeth.

By now you should be feeling some space in the top of your head. Try and align your head, chest and hips, connected by the soft curve of the spine. Imagine your spine is like a piece of seaweed, searching for light at the surface of the water.

Making this kind of mindful movement a habit is key. 

"If you can start to think about your posture throughout the day, and open up parts of your body that feel tight, breathing into the shape, then your body will remember that feeling the next day," says Annand. "If it felt good, you’ll want to do that again."

Want to explore other ways to limber up after a long day spent sitting down? Try these classic hip stretches, or have a go at this hip mobility yoga flow

This sequence appears in Yoga: A Manual For Life, published by Bloomsbury.

Camilla Artault
Contributing editor and writer

Camilla Artault is the chief tester of women’s running gear over on our sister site Coach. She also interviews experts and writes about a wide range of topics encompassing health, fitness, food, lifestyle and parenting.