Pilates instructor shares five everyday exercises to improve posture and relieve upper body tension

Man doing the cobra pose on an exercise mat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re a full-time desk dweller who spends their days hunched over a laptop then an achy back and hips is something you’re probably all too familiar with. However, bad posture doesn’t just lead to aches and pains, it can also affect your breathing, create poor balance, and increase the likelihood of injuries when working out.  But these five stretches from Kristina Rudzinskaya, a certified Pilates instructor and CEO of Etalon, will relieve tight and tensed muscles, elevating your posture.

Good posture isn't just important for our physical wellbeing but can also impact our mental wellbeing too. One study assigned 74 participants to sit in either an upright seated posture or a slumped seated posture to assess their emotional response to a psychological stress task. Those who sat with an upright posture reported having increased self-esteem, positive mood and less fear in comparison to those who sat with a slumped seated posture. Kristina says this is because: "When you hold yourself upright with an open chest and a lifted spine, you're not just standing taller physically; you're also sending signals to your brain that you're more confident." 

Kristina's stretch routine

You won't need any home gym equipment for these five stretches, just a mat or something soft beneath you, like a towel. If you're also interested in more posture-improving exercises, save this 8-move Pilates workout for afterward, or this gentle three-move glute workout.

1. Child's pose

Woman doing the childs pose stretch

(Image credit: Etalon/Kristina Rudziskaya)

Why: “This simple but effective pose stretches and lengthens your spine, glutes, and hamstrings,” says Kristina. “Additionally, it helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and feeling of tranquillity, which makes it a perfect position to meditate. “

  • Relax in this pose for up to 5 minutes while continuing to breathe deeply.

2. Forward fold

Woman doing the forward fold stretch

(Image credit: Etalon/Kristina Rudziskaya)

Why: "This standing stretch helps release tension in your spine muscles, hamstrings, and glutes, while also stretching your hips and legs, but it also contributes to the entire back side opening up, lengthening," says Kristina.

  • Remain in this pose for up to 1 minute

3. High plank

Woman doing a high plank

(Image credit: Etalon/Kristina Rudziskaya)

Why: "The high plank is excellent for strengthening your shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings, but it also works as a great relief to the pain and stiffness within the body," explains Kristina. "As a bonus, you’ll get balance and strength in your core and back, which are crucial to good posture."

  • Hold this position for up to 1 minute at a time

4. Cobra Pose: back extension

Woman doing the cobra pose stretch

(Image credit: Etalon/Kristina Rudziskaya)
  • Repeat three to five times, adding more as your lower back gets stronger

Why: "The cobra pose strengthens the back muscles by extending your spine muscles, including your lower back ones. Besides that, it is very relaxing!" says Kristina.

5. Chest opener

Woman doing the chest opener stretch

(Image credit: Etalon/Kristina Rudziskaya)

Why: "An open chest is crucial for good posture and this exercise will definitely help you stand up straighter, opening and stretching the chest," says Kristina. "It's also a lifesaver for those slouching over laptops for the most of the day."

  • Hold this pose for 5 breaths. Release and relax for a few breaths. Repeat this 10 times.
Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.