The Yoga of Productivity

Usually, when we think of productivity, images of well-ordered e-mail inboxes and color-coded folders come to mind. However, as youve probably experienced firsthand, these things alone arent enough to ensure that well work efficiently. If our attention is scattered, or our heart isnt in what were doing, getting things done will be a struggle, no matter how organized our work environment is.

How do we develop a focused, motivated mindset? Ive found the ancient practice of hatha yoga — the stretches and breathing we simply call “yoga” in the West — very helpful. This may sound odd at first, but it makes sense if we look at the reasons why hatha yoga was created. Its designed to put spiritual seekers in a serene, focused state to help them concentrate as they meditate. Similarly, when we use it in our work, it helps focus our attention on our tasks.

Although we tend to see yoga as a complicated bunch of poses that require a mat and a lot of flexibility, there are simple forms of breathing and movement we can do while were seated, with little exertion. We can do these practices in real time, as we work, whenever we feel ourselves losing momentum.

In my experience, different yogic techniques are appropriate for different situations we face at work. Ill describe some of these exercises, and the situations theyre useful for.

1. Breathe Into Your Heart.

When were feeling unmotivated, its helpful to reconnect with our desire to contribute to and serve others. A great yogic exercise for doing this involves breathing into the energetic center in our bodies called the heart chakra, which is located in the heart area.

According to yoga, energy flows more freely through the heart chakra when we breathe into it and limber up the muscles around it. When this happens, we deeply feel our sense of compassion toward others, and regain our desire to give to the world through our work.

To breathe into the heart chakra, clasp your hands behind your back at the level of your heart, and stretch out your arms. Then, breathe deeply so that nourishing oxygen fills your upper chest area. Feel the warmth and openness in your heart area, and notice any tension melting away.

Depending on the chair youre sitting in, you may be able to do this while seated. But even if you need to stand, this technique isnt time-consuming, and you probably wont be busy with it for more than a minute before you can sit back down and return to your work.

2. Breathe Into Your Spine.

When were feeling anxious at work — perhaps because were in a stressful environment, or theres a looming deadline — breathing into the root chakra can help restore our composure. The root chakra is at the base of the spine, and when energy is moving through it we feel a sense of groundedness and stability.

To breathe into the root chakra, put your attention on the base of your spine, where the spine meets the pelvis. If focusing on that area is difficult, place your hand on your lower back and concentrate on the sensation of pressure there. With your attention on the base of your spine, take a few deep breaths.

When you do this, youll likely feel a deep-seated sense of solidity, as if you were a sturdy oak tree with roots growing deeply into the ground, and that paralyzing worry will begin fading away.

3. Stretch Your Shoulders.

Many of us spend our days at work sitting in front of a computer with a hunched posture, and this causes tension to build up in the neck and shoulders. When that tightness gets uncomfortable enough, it can disrupt our focus. Heres a great way to release some of this tension — again, without leaving your chair.

The pose Ill describe is called “eagle arms.” To do this, hold your arms out in front of you, parallel to your body. Then, cross your right arm in front of your left, and clasp your hands together in front of your face so that your arms intertwine. Holding this posture, breathe deeply a few times into your shoulders. Then, repeat the exercise with your left arm crossed in front of your right.

I think youll find this an easy way to let go of the tightness in your shoulders and return your attention to your work.

About The Author

Chris Edgar is the author of Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work, which uses insights from mindfulness practice and psychology to help readers develop focus and motivation in what they do. You can find out more about the book and Chris’s work at