Yoga for the Office Worker

It’s two days before the end of my yoga teacher training course at Yoga Vidya Gurukul in Nashik, India. During this period I have been so blessed with new knowledge and insights that I want to bring home to my yoga classes. One constant in my mind throughout this month of training was people whose bodies struggle with long hours of sitting at the desk.

When we had a short individual presentation session about any topic of personal interest, I spoke about this short little article that I wrote – Yoga for the Modern Day Office Worker. To my surprise (maybe not yours!), many of my course mates got interested and wanted to take a look at what I have written. They gave one simple reason – because working in an office sitting and hunching over computers is the story of their lives and they feel the effects that it has on their minds and bodies.

I’ve never thought of putting this up here, but these people inspired me.

In this article, we are interested in common physical and mental issues faced by the otherwise healthy individual and how these can be reversed/prevented.

PRECAUTION: If you do have any existing issues (e.g.: severe back/spinal issues, heart problems, blood pressure issues, pregnancy etc.) please consult your doctor before practising.

The incidences of lifestyle related ailments such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, and diabetes are increasing drastically virtually everywhere in the world. Because of the effects yoga practices have on the body and mind, regular and consistent yoga practice can aid in minimizing lifestyle related ailments, helping individuals prevent other serious physical, mental, financial and social burden.

Office workers typically presents one or more of the following postural traits:

  • Forward head
  • Kyphosis
  • Protracted shoulders
  • Elevated shoulders
  • Anterior/posterior pelvic tilt

These postural traits disturb the skeletal and muscular systems’ natural positions and tend to be the results of sitting on chairs and using electronic devices for extended periods. Common complaints resulting from these are headaches, neck and shoulder stiffness/pain, low back pain, insomnia and digestive problems.

Psychological issues that office workers tend to face are:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anger

Hatha yoga consists of the following contents:

  • Shatkarmas: 6 cleansing techniques
  • Asanas: postures
  • Pranayamas: control of vital energy
  • Mudras: psychic gestures
  • Bandhas: energy locks

We will be focusing on Shatkarmas, Asanas and Pranayamas as they offer massive positive effects, and are the most accessible to the masses. Practitioners should further explore mudras and bandhas when they are ready.

How to Use the Following Content

This is not a how-to-do-kriyasa, asanas and pranayama post. The intention of this post is to offer you a bunch of practices that you can do to target specific areas in your body. If you are unsure of how a certain asana looks like, simply do a quick google image search and you will see how the final posture looks like.

  1. Follow recommended frequency of shatkarmas (cleansing techniques) according to what is listed.
  2. Everyday, choose one or two asanas (postures) from each category (e.g. backbends, twists, inversions etc.) to practice. You don’t have to do all categories every single day – just remember to mix things up so that your body is balanced
  3. Sequence asanas as such: warm up (sun saluations), supine (lying on back), prone (lying on belly), sitting, inversion, standing, relaxation
  4. Practice pranayama after asana


Jalan neti –  for relieving stress, anxiety, depression, anger, any imbalanced emotions

This cleansing technique also helps to open the nasal passage, prevents colds and sinus problems. Headaches caused by blockages in the nasal passage can be relieved too.

Learn how to practice jalan neti here.

Practice once every two weeks.

Kapalbhati – for energizing

This is a convenient cleansing technique that can be used anywhere – at home, work or even in the car. It removes excess carbon dioxide and purifies the respiratory system. It also helps to improve digestion, remove lethargy and promote clarity of mind but should be avoided if one has anger issues.

Learn how to practice Kapalbhati here.

Practice everyday, work up to five rounds of 1 minute, 120 strokes per minute.


Asanas should be practiced to counter the aforementioned postural imbalances, and to increase strength and flexibility, providing more stability to the spine. It is important to breathe normally and try to relax into the postures. Should pain be experienced, the practitioner should come out of the posture. As a guideline, each posture should be held at 70% of one’s maximum effort and preferably for an extended duration to reap maximum benefits.

Backbends are important as hunching and forward bends are very prevalent during the day. Backbends help to relieve backaches and are great to counter forward neck, protracted shoulders, elevated shoulders, kyphosis and they also help to lengthen the psoas (hip flexor) muscles. Beckbends are energizing and are especially therapeutic for people with depression.

Poses to explore:

Bitilasana (cow pose)
Bhujangasana and variations (cobra pose)
Shalabhasana variations (locust pose)
Setu Bandhasana (bridge pose)
Dhanurasana/Chakrasana (wheel pose)
Matsyasana – should also be done after Sarvangasana/Halasana as a counter pose (fish pose)
Ushtrasana (camel pose)

Forward bends are important to stretch the hamstrings, which tend to be shortened from long duration of sitting. Lengthened hamstrings, psoas muscles and low back muscles will help to bring the pelvis closer to its ideal position. Forward bends also create a compression in the abdominal region, stimulating the digestive organs. The forward bending action provides a sense of calmness, reducing negative emotions. It is important to avoid hunching the thoracic region, which further causes the front body to collapse.

Poses to explore:

Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
Prasarita Padottanasana (wide legged forward bend)
Veerabhadrasana (gracious warrior)
Ardha Padma Bandhasana variations, sitting or standing – also a hip and shoulder opener (half lotus bound forward bend)
Parsvottanasana (pyramid pose)

Side Bends and twists are hardly required during the day hence should be practiced to keep the spine supple.

Side bends help to create space around the respiratory system, strengthen the intercostal muscles and thus help the body to be more efficient in energy consumption. This will reduce lethargy and increase work efficiency during the day.

Poses to explore:

Ardha Chandrasana – there are many poses that people call ardha chandrasana, but I mean this:


Trikonasana (triangle pose)
Parighasana (gate pose)
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (revolved head to knee pose)
Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose)

Twists help to strengthen the oblique muscles, reduce fat in the abdomen, stimulate the digestive system and are also very beneficial to people who suffer from chronic backache and stiffness in the back.

Poses to explore:

Kati Chakrasana (standing twist)
Ardha Matsyendrasana variations (half lord of the fishes pose)
Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle pose)
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle pose)

Inversions not only slow the ageing process and improve blood circulation, but are also especially beneficial to people who experience headaches as blood supply to the brain is increased. Inversions also help to improve concentration, thus enabling one to be free from negative thoughts and emotions.

Poses to explore:

Sarvangasana variations (shoulder stand)
Halasana (plough pose)
Shirshasana (headstand)
Uttanpadasana (legs raising pose)
Prasarita Padottanasana (wide legged forward bend) – also stretches hamstrings, can be used as an alternative for Shirshasana
Adho Muka Svanasana (downward facing dog)

Balancing poses improve concentration, strengthen the legs/arms and neuromuscular system which improves body coordination, which is important in preventing falls as one ages.

Poses to explore:

Arm Balances
Mayurasana (peacock pose)
Bakasana/Kakasana (crow/crane pose)
Bhramacharyasana variations – also a hip opener
Tolasana (scale pose)

Standing Balances
Padangusthasana (big toe balancing pose)
Garudasana (eagle pose)
Vrikshasana variations (tree pose)
Virabhadrana I – also a backbend which stretches hips and hamstrings (warrior 1)
Virabhadrasana III (warrior 3)

Hips opening are important to help relieve tension from the hip flexors, the knees, and especially the lower back. Traditionally, hip openers were used to prepare the body to sit relaxed for the practice of pranayama, chanting and meditation.

Poses to explore:

Aakarna Dhanurasana (arched bow pose)
Padmasana (lotus pose)
Saithalyasana (animal relaxation pose)
Sukhasana (easy pose)
Baddha Hasta Gomukasana – also opens shoulders (bound cow-face pose)
Eka Pada Hastasana – also a twist (hand to leg pose)
Malasana (garland pose)

Core strengthening asanas help to tone muscles around the torso area, helping to support the spine, taking load off the lower back. The core muscles are not only the rectus abdominis (aka six pack muscles), but also consists of the obliques (sides) and back muscles. In fact, the deeper core muscles: transversus abdominis, multifidus and pelvic floor muscles are the most crucial in supporting the lumbar spine. Thus, it is important to strengthen the muscles around the entire torso region, not only the front. To strengthen the deeper muscles, it is also more efficient to do static core exercises/asanas.

Poses to explore:

Navasana (boat pose)
Plank pose
Dolphin plank pose

Vasisthasana (side plank)

Shalabhasana variations (locust pose)
Purvottanasana (upward plank pose)
Reverse table top pose

Relaxation asanas are extremely important to help relax the body after physical/mental exertion. It is thus crucial to conclude our asana practice with a relaxation posture and very deliberately send our awareness to each body part, scan for tension, breathe and let the tension go.

Poses to explore:

Shavasana (corpse pose)
Balasana (child’s pose)
Matsya Kreedasana (flapping fish pose)
Makarasana (crocodile pose)

Here are some other asanas/movements recommended for various physical issues that officer workers might encounter:

Pawanmuktasana (gas releasing pose) – relieves constipation and gas from large intestine
Neck Movements – relieves tension from neck
Adho Muka Svanasana (downward facing dog at the wall) – stretches shoulders, hamstrings, calves and realigns spine



I use the term “pranayama” very loosely here, just to mean “breathing exercises”. No kumbhaka (breath retention) is recommended here, unless the practitioner is ready for it.

The practice of pranayama relaxes the body, helps the mind to focus, improve the body’s systems’ efficiency and helps to clear emotional clutter.

Recommended pranayama:

Cooling: for summer, stress, anxiety

Abdominal breathing
Deep breathing with 1:2 ratio
Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing)
Bhramari (humming bee breath)

Heating: for winter, cold offices, depression, lethargy

Fast breathing
Surya Bhedan – not to be done when one is experiencing anger/frustration or heat in body

Practitioners should first try to discipline themselves to practice from all the above categories on most days of the week, slowly working up to a daily and longer practice. For a more holistic lifestyle and maximum benefit, one should also take his diet and schedule into consideration.