5 Reasons to do Yoga if you have a Desk Job

Pete Hunt
Female in yoga backbend

Did you know more Australians now do yoga than play soccer, cricket, tennis or golf? According to 2016 Roy Morgan Research, this is the case, with the number of us incorporating yoga practice into our daily lives increasing significantly since 2008.

This uptake of yoga is great news for office workers, in particular, with studies naming the extended periods sitting, constrained postures, repetitive movements and chronic stress associated with office life as risk factors for everything from hypertension and musculoskeletal disorders to depression and chronic disease.

The impact of performing yoga asanas on the human body is expansive, and the benefits of the ancient practice are well documented. So, breathe in, breathe out and read on. Here are five of the most compelling reasons to do yoga if you have a desk job.

1. It Can Reduce Back Pain

Back pain is the single leading cause of disability that prevents many people from engaging in work as well as other everyday activities throughout the world (Hartvigsen J et al. 2018), and chronic back pain is a common complaint among office workers. Remaining in the same position over a prolonged period results in shortened hip flexors and tight hamstrings that can affect the position of your pelvis.

Correct skeletal alignment is dependent on muscle tone and elasticity, and when muscle tension becomes unbalanced, the joints are compromised. Biomechanically speaking, the misalignment of one joint forces other parts of the body to compensate to achieve balance.

Thankfully, regular yoga practice helps to relieve pain and/or prevent back pain from developing, in part by helping practitioners engage and strengthen their core muscles. Often under-utilised, these muscles play a crucial role in providing stability in the abdominal and lumbar (lower) back region and helping the spine become properly aligned.

Yoga practitioners experience significant increases in strength, muscle endurance and flexibility, which helps to reduce or prevent back pain. In addition to the musculoskeletal benefits, regular yoga practice also promotes the release of natural painkillers in the form of endorphins.

2. And Reduce Stress

Long hours and the sedentary nature of modern office jobs not only affect physical wellbeing negatively, but also cause chronic stress for many employees. Under stress, our bodies go through a series of biochemical and involuntary hormonal changes. The sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) sends messages to muscles, organs and glands that help the body to react, and this automatic stress response puts our bodies in alarm mode.

In the short term, all these effects are adaptive and help a person prepare for responding to the stressor. However, chronic stress weakens our immune system and is linked to many serious diseases such as heart disease, neurological disorders and stomach ulcers—to name but a few.

The practice of yoga is extremely effective in producing the “relaxation response” by stimulating parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-digest system) and in counteracting the negative effects of the “stress response” on the immune system. There is growing evidence to suggest that yoga works to enhance stress-coping mechanisms.

3. Yoga May Help Prevent Disease

Yoga is also a great tool for the prevention of disease and injures. There is a growing body of research to support the efficacy of yoga programs on preventing diseases. Increasing muscle flexibility and blood volume through the heart, reducing blood pressure, achieving balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems and promoting effective breathing are a few ways yoga may may assist in the prevention of disease.

For example, some pranayama (breathing) practices in yoga activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps restore the heart, its rhythms and functions. This results in lower blood pressure, a slower heart rate, and improved circulation. The cleansing action of yoga poses helps reduce plaque, cholesterol and the general toxic load on the heart, which further enhances cardiovascular function. The regular practice of asanas (poses), therefore, results in an improved blood and nerve supply to the systems, which in time will get them functioning at peak efficiency.

4. And Regulate hormones

Constant stress can also lead to serious changes in hormonal systems that are involved in management of reproduction, metabolism and immunity. In addition, long-term stress results in dysfunction of the hormonal regulators and hormonal imbalance that cause serious diseases such as diabetes, or thyroid problems.

The hormones control the entire human organism. A balanced secretion of all of these hormones is essential when it comes to the proper growth and functioning of the various parts of the body. Yoga practice directly affects the endocrine (hormone producing) system, which contributes to a healthier physical body and mind and can even slow down the ageing process.

Certain poses increase blood flow and stimulate the pineal gland directly and increase the melatonin level, which helps prevent illness, retard premature ageing, induce more restful sleep, boost the immune system and promote healing. A great example is the Halasana (Plough) pose. The increased compression of the pose helps to nourish the thyroid gland properly, helping to support the metabolism.

5. Yoga Improves the Digestive System

While spending most of your time at a desk affects your general health negatively, the digestive system is one of the most affected systems in our body, especially if you are a sedentary worker. Furthermore, with 60% percent of the immune system located in our intestinal tract, if the digestive system is out of balance, the immune system will not be functioning at its best. Different pranayama practices and yoga asanas have a huge impact on our digestive system and, therefore, our immunity.

For example, when Parivrtta Utkatasana (revolved chair pose) is practised (especially after Surya Namaskar sun salutation series), it increases the digestive fire (agni), and engages the movement of abdominal muscles. This yoga pose is also good for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (but not during the acute phase).

Salabhasana (locust pose), on the other hand, is a great pose to stimulate the digestive system as it provides stronger peristalsis movement for digestive processes. Or in other words, if you are much less active in your workplace, yoga helps to speed up your digestion due to improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding abdominal muscles.

A Final Word on Yoga…A well-sequenced yoga practice is a powerful tool for body, mind and the soul, as the Sanskrit meaning of the word reveals the name, “Union”. It is used for diminishing stress and induces peace of mind and relaxation to the body as well as to the physical human structure. The practice of yoga completely rebalances the body and mind and helps combat the pressures of today’s modern living and its impact on our health and wellbeing.

See you on the mat! Berna Gungoren Can

(Please call us on 9650 2220 to discuss our corporate yoga classes.)

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