Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Effect of an office worksite-based yoga program on heart rate variability: A randomized controlled trial

Birinder S Cheema1*, Paul W Marshall1, Dennis Chang12, Ben Colagiuri3 and Bianca Machliss4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown, Australia

2 Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown, Australia

3 School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

4 Yoga Synergy, Sydney, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:578  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-578

Published: 20 July 2011



Chronic work-related stress is a significant and independent risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and associated mortality, particularly when compounded by a sedentary work environment. Heart rate variability (HRV) provides an estimate of parasympathetic and sympathetic autonomic control, and can serve as a marker of physiological stress. Hatha yoga is a physically demanding practice that can help to reduce stress; however, time constraints incurred by work and family life may limit participation. The purpose of the present study is to determine if a 10-week, worksite-based yoga program delivered during lunch hour can improve resting HRV and related physical and psychological parameters in sedentary office workers.

Methods and design

This is a parallel-arm RCT that will compare the outcomes of participants assigned to the experimental treatment group (yoga) to those assigned to a no-treatment control group. Participants randomized to the experimental condition will engage in a 10-week yoga program delivered at their place of work. The yoga sessions will be group-based, prescribed three times per week during lunch hour, and will be led by an experienced yoga instructor. The program will involve teaching beginner students safely and progressively over 10 weeks a yoga sequence that incorporates asanas (poses and postures), vinyasa (exercises), pranayama (breathing control) and meditation. The primary outcome of this study is the high frequency (HF) spectral power component of HRV (measured in absolute units; i.e. ms2), a measure of parasympathetic autonomic control. Secondary outcomes include additional frequency and time domains of HRV, and measures of physical functioning and psychological health status. Measures will be collected prior to and following the intervention period, and at 6 months follow-up to determine the effect of intervention withdrawal.


This study will determine the effect of worksite-based yoga practice on HRV and physical and psychological health status. The findings may assist in implementing practical interventions, such as yoga, into the workplace to mitigate stress, enhance health status and reduce the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Trial Registration


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exercise; training; insulin resistance; diabetes; obesity; cytokines