Finding Your Calm In the Workplace

Posted by: Barbara Heagele
Date: May 17, 2016

Do you often leave work feeling exhausted? We’ve all been there. Busy professionals have a lot on their plate and finding time to focus on “you” doesn’t always fit in. But what if you could take a few minutes each day to get physically fit, gain more energy, and feel less stressed? I have been practicing yoga for a few years and wanted to share my journey to gaining strength and resiliency in and out of the office.

People may be familiar with commonly referenced benefits of yoga, such as toning, flexibility, and improved balance, but there are more. Reducing stress and anxiety, creating inner peace, and improving breathing patterns are all benefits of yoga.

There is a perception that practicing yoga means you have to be super flexible. The truth is you can customize your yoga practice to suit your needs at any given time. It can be as advanced or as slow-moving as you like. I am not ashamed to admit that I cannot support all of my body weight on my forearms or master a headstand!

I started attending yoga classes with different intentions. I wanted to learn how to silence the negative commotion in my mind, take time to stretch my muscles and joints, and gain strength, both physically and mentally. While this continues to be a work in progress, I have learned different coping mechanisms that I now use at the office and at home every day, such as:

Remember to Breathe
High stress levels can force us to take shorter breaths throughout the day, which then turns into a habit. Over time, less air and oxygen can add tension in the body. Deep breaths ensure the body gets adequate oxygen, not only to function better, but to heal. This breathing practice, known as pranayama, helps you slow down and is something I look forward to when I go to yoga class.

You can make pranayama a special time for yourself to simply be present and forget about answering emails or getting to a meeting. If you feel like your day is overwhelming, remember to stop and breathe – even at work.

Stretch Breaks
We often don’t realize how stiff we are until we take the time stretch. If you sit for extended periods of time at work, it’s important to get up and stretch! All you need is a small space, perhaps an empty office or conference room, where you can take a few minutes to practice. Here are three simple stretches and or poses for small places:

  1. Child’s pose or balasana. This is a great pose for relaxing the mind and is one of my favorites. Resting the third eye (the area on your forehead between the eyebrows) on the mat has a calming effect on the brain. It also elongates the back and opens the hips, which is very good for those who sit at a desk for long periods of time. http://kimfischyoga.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/20100215-0010.jpg
  2. Mountain pose or tadasana. Standing tall with both of your feet on the ground can have a stabilizing effect of the mind and body, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of stress. Mountain pose creates a sense of being grounded. It also reminds us to breathe deep and relax areas where tension tends to accumulate, especially the neck and shoulders.
    http://www.northshore.org/globalassets/campaigns/mycommunity/yoga/mountain-pose.jpg
  3. Easy sit pose or sukasana. This super easy pose is sitting with your legs crossed, a perfect pose for a quick, or not so quick, meditation. Benefits of this pose include opening the back, releasing tension and bringing a state of balance back to a busy mind. Even just a simple 2-minute meditation can have lasting benefits.
    http://dawnmauricio.com/uploads/2015/09/Dawn_Mauricio_Yoga_Meditation_sukhasana1.JPG

Dealing with Stress
Utilizing the practice of yoga outside of the studio or off the mat was one of my main goals of a regular practice. It requires reminding ourselves how we feel on the mat and incorporating those same simple techniques off our mat. The old adage: “Take 10 deep breaths or count back from 10 when stressed,” is a perfect example.

Breathing is one of the most accessible and beneficial yoga tools at our disposal whenever we need it. We just need to remember to breathe longer and deeper not just when stressed, but also as a start or finish to our day. If we give our bodies and brains tools to decompress even when not under stress, the likelihood of getting stressed may decrease.

Overall Self-Confidence and Gratitude
An exercise I learned on my yoga mat, which I am now implementing in my daily routine, is a gratitude practice. Each morning, think of one thing you’re grateful for and look at life with a positive attitude. Even searching for lessons learned from stressful events can have a profound effect on our state of happiness.

Also, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. Trying to live according to others is a sure way of diminishing happiness and not feeling fulfilled. Know who you are and reduce influences that don’t support your goals and dreams.

Encourage Yoga in the Workplace
Stress in the workplace today is a major concern. Anything that can be introduced to alleviate stress is a potential benefit for both employers and employees. Those who are less stressed can be more productive and not as likely to need time off due to illness. Also, less stressful employees tend to have happier home lives, and this usually leads to increased productivity.

  • Encourage and support your colleagues to take 5-minute breaks throughout the day. It only takes a few minutes to stretch and take some deep breaths.
  • Designate an empty office or space as a “Quiet Zone” so that employees have a place to go to practice yoga stretches or meditation.
  • Offer yoga classes or demonstrations to the staff. Yoga exercises are simple and can be modified for different skill levels and abilities.

To learn more about best practices to improve the health and wellness of employees in your office, please contact us.

The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.