Couch Yoga – Quick Poses to Counter Sitting

Couch Yoga – Quick Poses to Counter Sitting

I’m sure everyone is spending just a little too much time on the couch with shelter in place orders being announced, so I wanted to share some of my favorite easy yoga poses for alleviating that lower back pain that creeps up on you and why it’s caused in the first place. I’ll cover:

What Happens As You Sit On The Couch

With almost everyone being stuck at home, it’s hard to not sit on the couch and marathon Netflix, but sitting for long periods of time has many negative effects on your body that causes pain, aches, and discomfort.

First off, sitting compresses your lumbar spine (your lower back), which is the part of the spine that curves inward at the base. But what does that mean for you? Between each of your vertebrae is a rubbery disc that allows bending and twisting of the lower back, but as you sit, it puts extra pressure on these disks which ultimately causes lower back discomfort and pain. 

Also, sitting strains your lower back muscles, ligaments, and tendons by overstretching them, which means as you sit for long periods of time – these structures lose their elasticity to hold your vertebrae in proper alignment. This compounds upon itself and leads you to put more pressure on your intervertebral disc, thus leading to even more back pain and hip discomfort.

This is why it’s important not to do any forward folding motions after you’ve been sitting for a long period of time, because your overstretched muscles and ligaments can be torn from stretching them even farther.

You heard that right. The stretch that’s so commonly thought of as the best one for relieving back pain – the forward fold – is the one you should actually be avoiding.

Instead, you should do the poses I have listed below. Even one or two poses can help to immediately relieve back pain and tension, so even if you’re committed to finishing that whole series – get up and do a few stretches to keep your back happy and healthy. 

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7 Yoga Poses To Counter Sitting On The Couch

These 7 yoga poses are specifically chosen to target the muscles of the spine as well as the muscles connected to and work with the spine to immediately relieve back pain and tension, especially from sitting on the couch too long. These quick easy poses are also great to do on a regular basis and help to improve the mobility and strength of your back to help correct posture and prevent pain from starting in the first place.

To get the most out of these stretches, remember to breathe as deeply as possible. Inhale as deeply as you can (without arching your back), and exhale as much as possible – this is diaphragmatic breathing. As you exhale you should focus on sinking deeper into the stretch. The more you focus on this element of breathing – the quicker you’ll release your tension.

You should typically hold these poses for five long breaths. However, you can hold them up to 90 seconds, if it’s feeling good and not causes any sharp uncomfortable pain.

Exercise 1: Reclined twist

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch reclined twist pose

This basic twisting pose is an essential movement for maintaining a strong and mobile spine. It helps to realign your spine and stretch your lower back, which ultimately helps to relieve tension and pain.

  1. Lie on your back. 
  2. Lift your knees directly over your hips. Bend your knees and relax your legs. 
  3. Extend arms directly out to the sides with palms facing the ceiling.
  4. Lower your legs to the left, keeping the legs stacked. 
  5. Place left hand on the right knee. Use your core to twist, and pull your ribcage toward your core to deepen the stretch in your back. 
  6. Press the crown of your head away from your shoulders, and turn to face the right. 
  7. Hold the posture, inhaling as you maintain your position, and exhaling as you squeeze your core and deepen the twist. 
  8. Repeat on the other side.

Exercise 2: Supported bridge

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch supported bridge

Bridge safely arches your back while strengthening your hips and core. This posture is essential for building stability in the spine. Do this exercise after a long day of sitting to balance your posture.

  1. Lie on your back and rest your arms at your sides, palms facing up. 
  2. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-width distance apart, no more than a few inches away from glutes. 
  3. Tighten abs and engage core as you prepare to lift your hips.
  4. On an exhale, lift your hips slowly but firmly away from the floor. 
  5. Squeeze the hips, glutes, and core to form a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  6. Reach your tailbone toward your knees to lengthen the spine. 
  7. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lift your hips higher, and exhaling as you tighten your core.

Modifications: If it’s difficult to support your body with proper muscle engagement, lightly rest lower back on a block.

Exercise 3: Cat cow

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch cat cow 1

This slow movement from an arched to rounded spine is one of the best exercises you can do for your back. Use this exercise to mobilize your spine and release kinks along your back, shoulders, and neck.

  1. Start on all fours with shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. (Toes can be tucked or untucked.) 
  2. Position knees and ankles parallel to each other, hip-width apart.
  3. Form an L-shape with your index fingers and thumbs.


Yoga to counter sitting on the couch cat cow 2

  1. Inhale as you arch your spine, pulling your chest forward and lifting your tailbone toward the ceiling. 
  2. Lengthen the front side of your torso, and maintain length in your mid- and upper spine. 


  1. Exhale as you round your spine, pulling your forehead toward your hips.
  2. Press down through your hands to lift the upper back toward the ceiling. 
  3. Tuck your chin to your chest. 
  4. This is one rep. Continue to alternate slowly from Cat to Cow, inhaling as you move into the full extension of Cow, and exhaling as you move into the full flexion of Cat. 
  5. Lengthen each breath as much as possible.

Exercise 4: Child’s pose

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch child's pose

This is an all-purpose pose to relax your body and release tension in your spine, back, and hips. It’s especially great for relieving tension in your spine and hips from long periods of sitting.

  1. Start on all fours with shoulders over hands and hips over knees. Widen knees slightly wider than hip-width apart, and touch big toes together.
  2. Shift your hips back toward heels as far as you comfortably can. Keep torso as long as possible. 
  3. Keeping hips pushed back, walk your arms forward on the floor to stretch your back, and place hands shoulder-width apart. 
  4. Lightly squeeze arms and shoulders toward one another, and firmly press hands into floor. 
  5. Tighten lower abs, and draw ribs in. 
  6. Hold the posture, inhaling to expand your chest and fill lungs, and exhaling to tighten abs and draw ribs in.

Exercise 5: Low Lunge Side Bend

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch low lunge sidebend

This posture is essential for strengthening the lower body and remobilizing the spine.  It’s also great for relieving tension in your spine and hips. Start with a shallow bend, and focus on feeling the stretch in the correct areas.

  1. Position knees and ankles parallel to each other, hip-width apart.
  2. Step your right foot up between your hands, bending your right knee to 90 degrees with the knee above the ankle. 
  3. Let hips sink slightly forward. 
  4. Press down through the right foot to shift weight into your right hip.
  5. Tuck your back toes, engage both thighs, and lift your arms overhead, palms facing each other. 
  6. Position torso directly over hips. 
  7. With the the right leg planted, rest your right hand on your right thigh.
  8. Extend your left arm up and lean into a side bend. 
  9. Lightly squeeze inner thighs toward each other.
  10. Continue to press down through the right foot. Engage your core and draw ribs in to prevent chest from splaying open. 
  11. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lift your ribs away from hips, and exhaling as you deepen the hip stretch and side stretch.
  12. Repeat on the other side.

Exercise 6: Sphinx

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch sphinx

This is a great pose to strengthen the back while stretching the abs, making it the perfect exercise to counter a rounded spinal position, especially from sitting on the couch. 
Lie on your stomach, and place your forearms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart with palms facing down and elbows under your shoulders. 

  1. Spread fingers wide, and press forearms, palms, and fingers firmly but lightly into the floor. 
  2. One at a time, stretch your legs back as far as possible, pointing your toes.
  3. Engage your thighs, and rotate legs inward. Squeeze your big toes, ankles, knees, and hips toward each other. 
  4. Press the tops of feet firmly into floor.
  5. Use your forearms to pull your body forward and lengthen the torso, then press into your arms to lift your chest away from the floor. 
  6. Engage your thighs and core to protect the spine.
  7. Press the crown of your head upward. Squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other. 
  8. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lift slightly higher, and exhaling as you maintain height.

Exercise 7: Pigeon

Yoga to counter sitting on the couch pigeon

Pigeon stretches your glutes, releases lower back tension, and improves hip mobility. This stretch is one of the most important you can do for your back and your hips, helping your back feel great throughout the day.

  1. Start on all fours with shoulders over your wrists and knees under your hips. Untuck your feet.
  2. Slide your left knee up to your left hand, and bring the left foot across your body to rest between your right hand and right knee. 
  3. Turn the left hip outward so the inner thigh faces up, and outer thigh faces down.
  4. Extend toes of right foot back as far as possible, releasing hips toward the floor as you do so. 
  5. Rest hands a few inches in front of the bent leg, using your upper body to help square the hips straight forward. 
  6. Hold the posture, inhaling as you lengthen the chest forward, and exhaling as you sink the hips closer to the floor. 
  7. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications: If the stretch is too intense or hips aren’t level, place a block under your front thigh, near the groin.

How To Prevent The Pain From Starting

Being inactive for long periods of time is a sure way to start developing pain and tension throughout your body, so even if you’re stuck at home or just having a really intense lazy day, you should still get up from time to time and move. Regular movement works to prevent pain and tension from developing in the first place. 

Even going on a short walk is a proven way to prevent and relieve back pain. However, if you are committed to staying indoors, then even doing a yoga pose or two to get you off the couch can greatly improve your spinal health to prevent and reduce pain.

Ultimately, when you’re not feeling so lazy, you want to do mobility and strengthening work found in a good yoga routine. Even doing a few postures for a few minutes per day can greatly improve your body’s overall feel for the better.

But the bottom line is that you need to move and stretch to counter sitting on the couch for long periods of time. If these poses helped you relieve some pain and tension from being a couch potato, leave a comment below!

Additional Resources

If you’re struggling to even get off the couch, I have some quick poses videos you can do on the couch that’ll help you relieve back pain and stretch your hips. Check them out!


About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.

Dean Pohlman is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor and the founder of Man Flow Yoga. Dean is widely considered to be an authority on Yoga for Men. He has worked with physical therapists to create yoga programs for back health and spinal recovery. His workouts and programs have been used by professional and collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, and personal trainers; and have been recommended by physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals.

Dean is a successfully published author through DK Publishing (Yoga Fitness for Men), selling 35,000 copies worldwide in English, French, and German; in addition to being a co-producer of the Body by Yoga DVD Series, which has sold over 40,000 copies on Amazon since its release in 2016.

Man Flow Yoga has been featured in Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Mens’ Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many more major news media outlets.

Dean And Dog

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