10 Ways to Practice Yoga in the Office

Ok, so your office doesn’t exactly include being able to ‘quit the day job’ and fulfill your lifelong dream of becoming a yoga instructor yet on the list of holiday options. That’s ok. These things take time, (and money!). We all know what it’s like to sit uncomfortably at a desk for hours at a time, secure in the knowledge that next month’s rent will be payable, yet physically itching to drop to downward dog and stretch out that spine on the office rug after hours staring at a screen. As we learn in yoga, finding a middle ground is key, and if you really can’t wait for your 6pm Vinyasa class or escape for a quick lunchtime flow at Yogahub, we’ve compiled a list of 7 subtle yet effective ways to get your yoga on as you tick through your daily tasks.

 

  1. Sit up Straight
    It may sound simple – and it is. Ensuring your spine does not round and become accustomed to curving over your coffee cup and keyboard is vital to maintain a good posture and core. Uncross your legs. Simply adjust your sit bones and belly to an alert and attentive posture, and peel your shoulders back whenever you notice a curvature. Practice balanced and strong breathing, like in Tadasana. This will make sure you maintain focus, and lessen anxiety, allowing you to meet deadlines as required. You’ll also feel and look more confident! Post-it notes can be a helpful reminder to ‘sit up’ whenever your attention wanders to the walls or floor or ceiling…anywhere away from your work!
  2. Side Stretch
    Last I checked it was a perfectly acceptable office activity to have a little stretch now and then – now all you have to do is practice mindful breath awareness as you do it! On a deep inhale, raise both arms above your head. You can remain in a seated position, with your back and shoulders straight. Touch the palms together, and hold for 5 breaths. Alternate between leaning to the left and right to experience a stretch in both sides, holding each side for an equal number of breaths.
  3. Chair Pose
    It’s called ‘Chair Pose’ for a reason! Sitting straight and comfortably with your two hands on your thighs, take several deep breaths. You can even close your eyes if it’s particularly busy today – achieving calm in the chaos of a stressful office environment is no easy feat. Raise hands above head, and using the strength in your legs, lift the sit bones several inches from your seat, maintaining the ‘seated’ posture as you hover for 5 breaths.
  4. Seated Cat-Cow
    While you may lack the floor space and general social confidence to complete a round of cat-cows by the printer machine, simply peeling your shoulders back and down on an inhale, and rounding your spine to suck your bellybutton in the direction of your spine on an exhale several times is a great way to compensate. Make sure you begin sitting up straight and breathe slowly! This pose is great for alignment and re-configuring your entire system after a stressful meeting.
  5. Seated Twist
    What’s that behind you?? To the left? Hmm, not sure. How about to the right? This one is easy to do subtly, but don’t forget to focus on your breath! It’s easy to get carried away in the physicality of yoga, and an environment like an office space makes it extra hard to focus on the interior, most important and beneficial side of the pracitce. Twist from below the waist, letting your head follow your spine and remain on each side for several breaths.
  6. Forward Bend
    Depending on the understanding of your co-workers this pose is more easily accessible for some than others. Of course, you could always just pretend to have something in your shoe! With feet shoulder-width apart from a standing position, slowly bend forwards from the waist on a long exhale. Don’t force your hands to touch the floor, rather let them rest comfortably wherever they reach naturally, and remain here for several breaths. Exit the pose in a similarly controlled and mindful fashion.
  7. Tabletop Shoulder Opener
    Using the actual top of your table or desk, scoot your chair back several inches so that your arms can stretch out straight, palms still on the desk. Drop head down between the arms and hold for several breaths, ensuring the rest of your torso remains in line and legs are uncrossed. If anyone asks, just say you lost something under the desk!
  8. Aeroplane Safety Pose
    I’m not quite sure what the actual name of this pose is, but it looks like the seated forward fold from your chair that’s instructed on aeroplanes to assume should the plane get into any difficulty! Widen legs and drop slowly from the lower back and hips until your torso is resting on your legs, head hanging towards the floor. Several breaths here could serve as your new go-to pose for any panicked or stressful situations!
  9. Pranyama and Meditation
    Remember, ‘to practice yoga’ does not merely mean working through a successful flow of asanas and feeling like you’ve completed a great workout. There is much more to an active and authentic yoga practice than physically challenging yourself to a pose you’ve never done before. In this sense, an office environment can actually be the ideal location to practice breathing and pranyama techniques you’ve learned in class. If nothing else, it is certainly the environment in which they may become necessary at short notice – stressful situations and work-related anxiety hits even the most practiced yogis at times, and it is important to be able to take 5-10 minutes break from work, not necessarily from your desk, but to just breathe. Close your eyes and practice “4-2-6” breathing, or quietly work through a round of Kapal Bahti as your colleagues quabble over who’s going to pick up this week’s lotto numbers.
  10. Practice Gratitude
    This can be as simple as saying ‘thank you’ to the new intern who’s just dropped off your coffee, or more meditative as you calmly remind yourself to appreciate the job you have for the funding it provides you to live, to travel, and to attend yoga classes! Whenever it becomes too much, remind yourself of this, and be thankful for all the little things. Thank your body for being a healthy and functioning vessle by nourishing it at lunchtime, and ensuring your continued growth and focus!

 

There are many other adaptations to help you maintain your practice and focus in the office, especially with the emergence of Chair Yoga in recent years and the variety of simple stretches and twists that can be practiced from a seated position. Though they may not provide a full body stretch and sense of invigoration that a full practice will, they at least will help you get through the day in the office without tensing up too much and will definitely help maintain your flexibility and strength.

Alternatively there are also now many yoga studios and independent teachers offering corporate yoga classes to groups of workers in offices in their area- why not suggest it to your colleagues and organise your favourite yoga teacher to come to you?

How Yoga Can Enhance Creativity and Productivity, in Business or Otherwise

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ – the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl’ – Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s often been observed that a regular yoga practice can help promote a more productive and efficient work ethic, allowing practitioners to excel in their various specialised fields and carry out work with a clearer, more focused mind. It’s a mark of a good business man or woman to possess a natural spark or flare for creativity, allowing them to stay on top of trends and aware of competition, and it is this spark which must be nurtured by a consistent base and supply of healthy energy to succeed. In this case, we’ll consider that nurturing care and careful maintenance in terms of a yoga practice, and the spark a focused idea or task which requires certain circumstances to come to light.

When this focus and clarity is added to an already creative and highly-active mind its potential becomes magnified, as the existing creative energy can be harnessed correctly and more efficiently directed solely towards creative output, whereas before it may have been scattered elsewhere. The ‘monkey mind’ of overactive imagination and the ‘creative’ individual is successfully directed to a single task or idea at a time, instead of flitting momentarily from one to another and ultimately failing to produce anything worthwhile. This way, a smaller number of tasks or ideas get realised to their full potential, instead of a handful of incomplete or unfinished ‘maybe’ or ‘what if’ ideas being dropped half-heartedly along the way. Patanjali describes this focus in the Yoga Sutra as nirodha, a particular state of mental activity and function, characterized by consistent directed attention, and ceasing to identify with negative or damaging practices.

Yoga helps us to sit with our thoughts and ideas, focusing upon them as they come and go. We learn resilience, we learn persistence, and we learn how to recognise thoughts for the truth and potential they contain. It is this belief in our own potential and capacity to carry out tasks and fulfill ideas which allows them to come to fruition, and through a strong physical and mental core built up through our yoga practice, we have a stable foundation upon which to build them.

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Several asanas and inversions, such as Sirsasana (headstand) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), are believed to enhance creativity and promote a healthy, productive brain, as they reverse the blood flow, relieve anxiety and present us physically with new perspectives. This activity can be beneficial in shaking up the often static office scenario we have become accustomed to in today’s working world, and allowing a new outlook to be explored in relation to pending issues. In this way, productivity and creativity in business can be approached differently, posing potential for further exploration and unique endeavours. In Cambodia last year I met a successful corporate business owner just after she had completed a yoga teacher training, and her initial response to my queries of whether she was going to leave that world behind completely was one of refreshing balance and reality – she told me she’d continue to manage her business and workforce, whilst teaching part-time, using her yoga practice to compliment her successful business and office routine. With its leader more balanced, centered, and productive, the entire business thrived and received inspiration and support stemming from this one woman’s own strength. It really does start that deep.

Justin Micheal Williams, musician, yoga instructor, and co-founder of The Business of Yoga has outlined how Sirsasana often helps him escape from creative ruts or blocks, allowing him to see things from a new perspective and return to his current task or creative endeavour with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Justin is just one of the millions of other artists and creative entrepreneurs who use yoga as a means of maintaining this temper-mental and unreliable creative energy, though many may not quite understand just how or why it has this effect. Sadie Nardini is another established yoga teacher, wellness coach and musician who has successfully recognised this energy and harnessed it to help achieve her creative goals. Having suffered severe illnesses in her youth, Sadie has described how she had a unique insight into the damaging effects of suffering from a severe lack of any kind of energy entirely. In her recovery and discovery of yoga, this energy returned with a new vitality. In learning to harness it, she has since established herself as a successful yoga teacher, wellness coach, and recently written, recorded and released a solo album, ‘Salt & Bone”.

As a creative individual myself, I have found since beginning and maintaining a regular yoga practice that my writing, musical, and other creative endeavours have succeeded altogether more thoroughly than they ever have before. And it’s not just the creative; all aspects of my life requiring an attention span lasting longer than a cup of coffee have improved. I have a newfound awareness and appreciation for my energy, and have learnt how to successfully delegate it to things, thoughts, activities and practices that will positively benefit me and my talents. Combined with a healthy, yogic diet and a particular emphasis on ensuring I get enough sleep every night, my energy and productivity has never been stronger. Mental, physical, spiritual…I now fully understand how intricately it is all intertwined!
In taming my own ‘monkey mind’ through my yoga practice, I have learned valuable crowd control. The ‘crowd’ in this sense being my thoughts; the anxieties that trample over one another on a daily basis if left unmonitored and uncared for. Although I’m not (yet!) a business owner, founder of a groundbreaking new company, or even secure in a well-paid office job, learning to delegate my energy to completely and fully realise creative endeavours has provided me with a similar sensation of fulfillment and satisfaction as I imagine those who have succeeded in other fields achieve. Creativity, productivity, and persistence are key to realising any business venture and maintenance, and they just happen to be some of the countless benefits a regular yoga practice can help you achieve.

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Accessing Your Own Inner ‘Network’ – Self- Communication and the Benefits of Listening to Your Own Desires To Achieve Success

  Accessing Your Own Inner ‘Network

I’ve recently put very promising steps into place in order for me to successfully be able to work on my own terms, doing the things I not only excel at, but feel most passionately about. I’m not quite there yet, but the seeds have been planted (and deposits paid!) which will hopefully blossom into something extremely fulfilling and enjoyable – and after all, isn’t that the most we can hope to achieve from our ‘work’? I place ‘work’ in inverted commas here as I’m a firm believer in the whole ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’, cliché. I’ll explain why shortly.

‘Success’ is another relative term. To achieve ‘success’, you first have to establish what your own understanding or expectation of ‘success’ is. In doing so, you may realise that you’re setting unfair expectations and deadlines for yourself without even realising it (warning sign number one!), and as such creating a mis-communication between your real passion and the human vessel through which it is trying to be expressed- that’s you, body!

Humans thrive on communication – on our daily interactions with one another. Before the days when ‘networking’ meant socialising merely for potential business or financial progression, we interacted on a more natural, humane basis, and really enjoyed having company and experiencing connection for the simple knowledge and reassurance it gave us that we weren’t alone in the world.
I despise the term ‘networking’, yet I understand why in today’s world it has unfortunately become a necessity. Even online – our interactions are now preceded with a weighty amount of agenda, pre-considered opinions and over-thought out potential scenarios – and that’s just by hitting ‘add friend’. Given the rapid-expansion of online social networks and their use and benefit for business growth, it is understandable that the trends and ‘most useful’ or most dependable means of communication are now continuously changing. Last year the most popular messaging app was Viber. Now it’s Whatsapp. Next year it will be something else, and I can’t remember the last time I sent an actual text message!

While keeping in touch with those on the outside and far away has become easier and more accessible than ever before, we unfortunately seem to have lost the altogether more important and pressing ability to get in contact with ourselves. It is so easy to get swept away in the wishes and passions of others, purely because it seems like the right thing to do or the most ‘socially acceptable’ course of action.
Whenever I find myself getting confused about my own actions or wishes, my current endeavours or simply my own reasoning for doing things, I can’t help but look at myself (as ‘Linked In’ conveniently provides as an option *rolls eyes*) through the eyes of my fellow social media users.

Would I add myself as a friend? Why? What could I possibly hope to gain from it?

Writing ‘About Me’ sections and ‘Bios’ defining myself in 150 characters or less has really forced me to sit back and reconsider my entire position in this world, and more often than not has left me anxious and concerned about my qualifications (or lack thereof) to work in the chosen fields I am placing myself within. Anyone can define themselves as a ‘writer’, a ‘musician’, an ‘accountant’, a ‘digital marketing strategist’, …the list goes on. I’ve written bios and personal statements for friends defining the areas they have chosen to dabble in, achievements they are proud of, and hopes for the future. While I’ll admit to feeling a sense of satisfaction on successfully condensing my life’s achievements and current existence into two or three carefully constructed lines of words, I’ve also questioned the very action of defining myself in such a way. It seems so limiting, so final. I’ve also worried about things I’ve posted online, purely for their permanency and irreversible presence.

The reality of it is that in today’s business and networking world, people are embarking on career changes and dipping their toes in the appealing paddling pools of new jobs and ventures becoming available like I change my mind about what socks to wear on a daily basis. The difference between those who succeed and appear content about their choice of lifestyle and those who choose to stay stuck in a rut they don’t enjoy, is that they don’t worry too much about it. They just go with it. They try it. If it works – brilliant. If it doesn’t – at least they tried. The next step might be more straightforward. If not that one, then maybe the next, and so forth….
I’ve lost count of the amount of times my parents have expressed concern or confusion over the fact that I don’t currently have a 9-5 job, and moreso the reality that a little part of me vomits a bit in my mouth whenever the thought of it surfaces. It’s simply not a bracket I see myself fitting anymore, the stifling prospect of any contract longer than a year enough to make me run a mile in the opposite direction, (or at least book a flight!).

In choosing to have a little faith in myself and my own talents, capabilities and potential instead of denying myself the possibility of happiness and creative fulfillment I have come to associate with most reliable and contracted incomes, the reality that is my life right now, has already taken a turn for the better. Even before I’ve achieved anything in the rough blueprint I’ve laid out for myself. I’m not saying this will be the case for everyone, but for me, it’s an unfortunate (or fortunate, whatever way you look at it!) truth.
I’ve muddled my way through several jobs and possibilities, considered certain routes and potential roads to take, all with the wrong outlook. Where before I looked externally to what people would think if I did this or what it would look like if I did that as a means of judging whether or not to proceed, I have now learnt to communicate with my own desires, and with the way my thoughts and talents work. I now have the tools to connect to my own inner network, and a better knowledge of the frequency it functions best at. Self-communication and understanding is the key to this.

There’s no guarantee I’ll succeed, but then again, there’s no guarantee that I’ll fail either. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll tweak it until it does. Like a recipe you can’t quite get right – it might not end up exactly as you had expected in the first place, but if it still tastes great and nourishes you in all the right ways, then what’s not to love?