Relaxation exercises for work and your spare time

Relaxation exercises for work and your spare time Regular exercise can help counteract tension and pain in the shoulders, back, etc. Even if you don’t have time for a workout in the evening, short, sporadic relaxation and breathing exercises often provide quick relief for tense muscles. Here’s how to get started.

Working at a desk in front of a computer can lead to tension as well as neck, shoulder, and back pain. The cause of these short-term consequences is a lack of movement and poor ergonomics at work, starting with the height of your screen. When muscle groups are only loaded on one side, there are often long-term consequences. Back problems, herniated discs and poor posture can accumulate and worsen over time.

More exercise, regular screen breaks, and muscle-strengthening techniques can all help to address the root of these problems. Here are some exercises that you can do at your desk or in your free time, without a gym or equipment.

Relaxation exercises to do at work

When it comes to relaxation exercises while working, it’s especially important that these can be integrated into your daily routine and within short time intervals, for example between meetings or on the way to get a coffee. Staying active at work gives you a quick time out and a chance to recover. You can plan the exercises into your workday when you’re setting priorities for the day.

Stretch the whole body

This relaxation exercise is particularly easy to do with a height-adjustable desk. The goal is to stretch the whole body and loosen up your muscles.

Instructions: Stand upright, stretch your arms far up above your head, and reach for the ceiling. Make sure that your legs, including calves and feet, are also part of the stretch. The entire body should be in a total stretching motion. Yawning during the exercise also helps to relax muscles in your face. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and repeat several times if necessary.


The many virtual meetings that fill up our calendars these days can also cause tension. The consequences are symptoms of fatigue, which sometimes manifest themselves as headaches and back pain. ‘Zoom fatigue’ can also be prevented with relaxation exercises.

Breathing exercises starting with the stomach

Breathwork can be very helpful in stressful situations when our breathing often becomes faster and shallower. As a result, stress is amplified in more ways than one. A good exercise to train your breath is controlled abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing.

Instructions: Sit upright and place one hand on your abdomen to better control your breath. Then breathe in through the nose for five seconds and consciously breathe out through the mouth for five seconds.

Your breathing should be as rhythmic and even as possible until a feeling of relaxation sets in. This exercise is perfect as a relaxation routine before a presentation, for example.

Focusing on something in the distance

If you spend a lot of time looking at a screen at work (and in everyday life) then you need to relax your eyes every now and then. The interplay of looking at something nearby and then something far away is a great short relaxation exercise that you can do while sitting at your desk.

Instructions: Set your sight on distant objects for a few minutes, for example, scan the horizon for birds, clouds, or other things. The change of perspective relaxes the eyes and provides a bit of a break from Excel spreadsheets, emails, and schedules.

Relaxation exercises to do in your spare time

If you have a little more time, then longer relaxation exercises can also help you regain your balance. To start with, distractions like your phone should be turned off. A healthy work-life balance also helps avoid stress in advance. If done consistently, physical complaints will become less frequent.

Meditation to switch off and clear your mind

Especially during busy times, the practice of meditation is a great tool to manage stress. When meditating, the goal is to relax and focus your attention inward. It may sound simple, but it takes time and often requires several passes.

Instructions: Start in a quiet setting in a comfortable position. Relaxation exercises through meditation are best done at the same time of day, for example after getting up. It should fit in with your daily routine and be as stress-free as possible to achieve the best possible effect.

Whether you’re on the bed, a chair, or a yoga mat, the most important thing about the sitting position is that you’re comfortable. The pelvis is tilted slightly forward while the spine remains upright. The eyes can be closed, and the hands are placed in the lap.

While meditating, become conscious of your breathing until a deep relaxation sets in. Thoughts and feelings are consciously perceived.

Yoga is a relaxation exercise for every muscle

Many people swear by yoga to relieve tension and muscle pain with targeted exercises.

A simple relaxation exercise in yoga, which is also well suited for beginners, is the cat-cow movement. This exercise helps to loosen blockages in the shoulders and back.

Instructions: Start in the tabletop position with your knees and hands on the floor. Your hands should be under your shoulders, fingers spread, and thumbs pointed inward. Alternatively, you can lean on your fists. Hip bones are directly above knees, and knees are about shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, abdomen tense, head in line with your spine, and look toward the floor.

Start with the cow position. To do this, inhale and slowly lift your head, moving your gaze forward. Your back should turn into a controlled hollow back. Consciously move and feel the different parts of your body working.

When you exhale, move into the cat position, the back is rounded so that the space between the shoulder blades puffs up while your head moves down, moving your gaze towards the belly button.

Repeat the exercise, alternating between the two positions, until your upper body feels more relaxed and flexible.

Besides cat-cow, there are several other basic yoga positions like the dog looking down or the cobra, which also support the entire back and can prevent tension and nerve pain if performed regularly. They’re often combined in more complex exercises such as the sun salutation.

Progressive muscle relaxation from head to toe

Progressive muscle relaxation implies a sequence of relaxation exercises where muscles are tensed and relaxed in a targeted way.

Instructions: This exercise can be done either sitting or lying down. Start out in a comfortable position, for example by placing your hands on your thighs while sitting with your feet touching the floor.

Now, tense up individual parts of the body, like your arms. To do this, form a fist and bend your arms at the same time. Now tense your arms and hold the tension for several seconds. Then relax your arms for 20 to 30 seconds.

This relaxation exercise can be applied to other areas. For example, the forehead, brows, lower jaw, and lips. With time, each tense muscle area can be loosened in a concentrated way.

Summary: make use of stress for movement

Any level of stress can be turned around by way of regular physical exercise. That’s because stress, by nature, has the goal of helping us escape.

This knowledge can be used to help us relax. Short, targeted intervals help relieve it, for example circuit training. The goal of sports should always be to increase the pulse and mobilise stress in the short term. It’s important not to put the body under additional stress with overly long intervals.

For in-between periods, relaxation exercises like those mentioned above can help reduce stress. They also combine phases of physical tension and relaxation to clear the mind.

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