Yoga to cure a desk job

Sitting for long hours whilst intensely staring at a computer screen and tapping on a keyboard has created a generation of slumped shoulders, protracted shoulder blades, sore necks, back pain and tight chests.

With most office jobs, sitting on your bum in front of a desk for at least 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week is a pretty normal requirement. But many people don’t realise that their desk job could be causing negative effects on their health and posture. We usually end up hunching our back, rounding our shoulders and pushing our neck forward and downwards, causing a plethora of prolonged issues in the spine.

The spinal column is made up of 33 interlocking bones called vertebrae. The spine has a natural “S” shaped curve, designed to absorb shock and maintain proper balance. The cervical region (neck) and lumbar region (lower back) have a slight concave curve, and the thoracic region (upper back) and sacral region create a gentle convex curve. Muscles support and stabilise the spine, and allow a range of movement. Extensor muscles are attached to the back of the spine, which allow us to stand and lift things. Flexor muscles, which include the abdominal muscles, are attached to the front of the spine to allow us to bend forward and control the curve the lower back.

They way we sit at our desks creates excessive curvature at the top of the spinal column, particularly in the thoracic region, causing a hunchback-like posture. Hunching causes the back muscles to overstretch, which weakens the muscles in the cervical and thoracic regions and shortens the muscles in the front of the rib cage. This in turn leads to compression on the heart, lungs and diaphragm, decreasing the efficiency of the respiratory system. To look closer at our screens or down at our keyboards the neck is pushed forward and tilted down which causes over-stretching in the cervical region, causing soreness and pain in the neck.

The outlook for us desk jockeys isn’t hopeless, however. By regularly practicing yoga asanas that focus on opening the chest and shoulders, as well as arching the back and lengthening the spine, strengthening the back muscles and correcting spinal alignment will help to counter-act the effects of bad posture.

These are a few simple asana sequences and postures that will help improve posture and relieve pain in the back, shoulders and neck:

1. Uttanasana / Standing forward fold
Helps to lengthen and straighten alignment of the spine.

2. Salabhasana / Locust
This mini backbend helps to counter-act the hunched curvature in the spine by strengthening and shortening the muscles in the back, and opens the chest and shoulders.

3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana / Bridge
Helps to lengthen the muscles in chest, neck and spine and strengthen the lower back.

4. Plank
Strengthens abdominal muscles, which counter-balances the stress on the spine and allows better alignment.

5. Surya Namaskar A / Sun Salutation A
This classic sequence will help improve range of mobility, strength and alignment throughout the spinal column due to range of different movements in the various asanas.


– Alex Ottignon