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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Yoga For Creativity & Connection, and Why I Want to Teach

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The Yogabarn, Ubud, Bali

CONNECTION and communication lie at the heart of all our experiences and have profound influence on the way we live our lives.
Humans are sociable creatures – we THRIVE on interaction with others. Yet because of this we often lose touch and suffer miscommunication with the one most important relationship any of us have – our relationship with ourselves.
By helping others to see this and to subsequently address the way they treat themselves and put it into practice, we contribute to their overall wellbeing and as such (in the long term), to society as a whole. This is why I want to be a yoga teacher.

I love to talk, to explore new ideas and places, and most of all, I love to connect. I see connection and interaction as the single most important means of attaining fulfillment, of enjoyment and progressing forwards, and of existing within our ever-evolving and increasingly isolating society.

I have passion. I have buckets of this undirected enthusiasm, dedication, and drive that is waiting to be deposited somewhere relevant; somewhere it can be made matter. I have so much potential to contribute to something amazing – and I am aware that I have the ability to do so. Yoga has provided me with the tools to believe this, and to direct this energy correctly; to channel it effectively in order for me to succeed in my creative pursuits, thus rendering my ‘passions’ (which have always existed) somehow more relevant. It has allowed me to glean an in-depth understanding into the way my own mind and body works, and instead of frantically trying to escape or change this – to sit with, appreciate, and respect it for what it is; knotty hair and dry skin included. For within the external imperfections there lies a potential that is just waiting to grab the next wave of opportunity when I’m feeling inspired or enthusiastic or energised. It’s always there, just lying low until I tap into it through my yoga practice.

I am also aware that many others like me possess this potential, and seek direction and guidance for which to do so too. This is another reason I wish to teach. The overwhelming tragedy of ideas and inspiration and unrealised potential being wasted on anxiety and circumstantial or locational misery is honestly very saddening to me, and I wish to aid this creativity and potential, however small, however ‘irrelevant’ or trivial it may seem, to come into being. Everything deserves to be given a chance. So do you.

In channeling my creativity through the energy and focus I achieve from practicing yoga, I have been able to increase my dedication, output, and potential for further exploration of these ideas. It’s not all going to come at once, but I’ve come far enough now to notice the difference between what I achieve on a day when I’ve done my yoga practice and a day when I haven’t.

Connection strengthens us all, and when you’ve included and taken into account your own self within that mainframe of responsibilities and polite interaction, the potential created becomes endless.

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The unpictured side of yogaclass in Ubud…shoes everywhere!

A Few Thoughts..

Today I taught children how to lay still.
To focus on their breath.
To listen.
To sit with the twitching toes and knocking knees of mis-directed energy.

While I sat at the head of the class,
Mouth forming words I now possess like my curls;
Naturally, instinctively, intuitively,
Yet my brain wandered ever forwards, escaping the moment I presented to them.
The moment they are always seeking – to be older, to be taller, to grow up,
Came to pass even as they stretched overhead,
Token gigglers in the class silenced by a sudden enjoyment of what IS.

It doesn’t have to be enjoyment.
It doesn’t have to always be great.
Because life is not always great.
But AWARENESS.
With awareness……..

It all becomes relevant.

To create, is not to conjure a thing from nothing.
‘Nothing will come of nothing’ – and nothing ever did.
We can only seek understanding through what is already here.
It is to link, to compare, contrast, and NOTICE the similarities and differences of what is around us. To acknowledge our own ignorance.
To sit.
To listen.
To be.
Within all that is happening around us, as a result of all that was, and to use those experiences, those physical, mental, spiritual, linguistic, tangible and untangible objects to form a new reality
– the reality of which will only ever last a second.

Friday

A middle aged woman shamelessly pouts for a selfie
As she sits alone outside Butler’s;
A fleeting insight into the Dublin of today,
Broken buskers saluting wealthy suits and the hurried.

The invisible homeless.
The ghosts who wander into coffee shops, where they’re sure they lost a euro, while college students scrounge to buy a pint for 6.
A winding path where the people flow like veins
Pulsing through the streets that never change.

It is the people who keep the city.
The people, the flow;
The unreliable bus service disrupting scheduled meals,
Low blood sugars fueling angry drivers, and
A haste to get everywhere before the next shower bursts.

The infectious desire to travel,
As tourists stare in awe at doors you’ve never noticed before,
Experiencing your city as a pin on a map
-Where you’ve never pinned it at all.

Rooftops between the canal and the river;
A refuge from the Georgian mansions that remain
Stubborn in their depth, reluctant to relate to the redbrick-terraced hipsters
That craftily have cycled their way to the forefront of the ‘culture’.

 You jaywalk; a term on erasmus from America as we try it out across O’Connell bridge,
The space between the Heineken building and the island in the middle a no-man’s land as you feel you’re
Traversing the centre of Ireland.

 The centre of my world;
For up until today it is all I have known.
A metal spike with no function seeing all
While you see yourself in it’s base, longing in vain to catch a glimpse from the top,
To be privy to a view it has been constructed to prevent.

 All too soon I will be gone;
Shunning the gloom of Winter in Dublin,
Missing only the familiar; I will acclimatize again.
To write, to learn, to build understanding –
To glean from another city the self this one has given me.

I Saw A Selection Box in Tesco Today

We’re in the late afternoon of the year,
Rush hour is greying,
The sun’s rays paling like the ever more frequent stray hairs my Mum used to Have me remove;
An insult to some,
But in this season they give way to truer hues.

Even if the frost comes early;
Ski-socks over leggings and my grandmother’s knitting needles working overtime.

Even if the locks become locked in place,
Intermittent as they are in silent segregation of the canal;
Slippery gateways to the other side.

Even if the cold bites hard,
Eating away at the flesh of a forgotten glove;
A harsh reminder that our bodies are not in fact made of steel.

Even if the streets hum with the deafness and subtlety of
The beginnings of a bushfire,
Black ice creeping it’s lethal way under the wheels of shivering passengers.

Even with this, I know for sure;

It won’t be as cold as it was last Winter.

I Didn’t Get A Picture of the Sea Today…

I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
The late Autumn afternoon sun
Glistening on the ridges of the jetstream

 Reluctant to commit any more lines to memory,
Just in case they’d escape me at the source of a pen.

 I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
You’ll just have to take my word,
That the child who’s footprints I followed

Around the rocks as they chased a small dog
Saw the sun higher in the sky than I ever remember it.

 I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
The tenants of thoughts in my head
Refusing to set a timer on the tide of nature’s madness

Finding balance in knowing herself,
Listening to her own ebb and flow and accepting depletion.

 I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
My strength now contesting that of it’s depth,
A lesson in the way things are and haven’t always been

Meeting the lack of sense with a stubborn persistence
That takes sailors and travellers alike from A to Z.

 I didn’t take a picture of the sea today,
For I have taken enough in my time,
Used and abused the kindest of hands and offers of affection

 My duty now being to give and provide;
Return what’s been lost and salvage what never was let be.

I Want To Write

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I want to write, but ideally I don’t want to present you with repeated and recycled bullshit that I’ve seen online, and endless lists of things people don’t really care about purely to get ‘views’.
I want to write, but not be the kind of writer that is rude and/or judgemental of people who really don’t deserve it, again, purely to get attention or views online and in print.
I want to write, and not have to care about how well a piece of work is received or spread, because spending the entire creative process of writing it worrying how people are going to percieve and view it defeats the entire purpose of expressing my thoughts in the first place. The second I let a thought concerning other people’s opinions of my work enter my head, it no longer belongs to me. It has been tainted.
I want to write because I feel it is my way of communicating with the world, of putting some sort of solidity on the blinks and glances of thoughts that flit through my brain on a daily basis as I move from place to place, and possibly to make some sense of the more ambiguous ones; to really break them down in order to be able to put them all together again.

I want to write because I want to understand. I want to learn from what I see around me, I want to be able to structure some solid opinions and views on the world that are just not possible for me to clarify without writing them down.
I want to write to be able to support myself and feel a sense of fulfillment; to ensure I am able to travel around and see all there is to see, learn what there is to learn, and write about it while I go.
I want to write because I want to travel, and I feel that pictures can only capture the brink of what it really is to experience a new culture; a new country; a new climate or timezone.
I want to write because writing for me feels as natural as breathing, and having nothing and nowhere to write about is as suffocating as sitting at an office desk where the windows don’t open and the heating is stuck on high in the middle of Summer.

I want to be a writer, and I’m not going to pretend I haven’t bought into the current trends of trying to write ‘hilarious’ reviews with catchy or crude headlines, or pieces that will go viral online and receive a high readership – because I have. I’ve tried to write things people will find entertaining, interesting, insightful even. And sometimes I’ve succeeded. But where my heart truly lies, and it’s taken me a while to figure this out – is in movement, travel, and observing the world around me as I go. Staying still prevents the flow of words that comes like a torrent of ideas, emotions, and possibilities whenever I step foot into the world outside my door, whether it’s on board a plane, boat, train, bus; anything.
I want to write, and I will always continue to write and recount life experiences I have around the world, regardless if I ever eventually make it to Bali, Tokyo, or the Amazon. Anywhere will do. I just need to be moving. I need to be in motion for the channels of inspiration and structure to work together and allow me to produce something that makes sense.
I want to write, but I also want to travel, and the World is my destination.

Home Is Where the Art Is

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Time has temporarily come to a standstill. The heavy, consistent and reliable beat of activity, functioning, and output which I have been keeping for the past few weeks has ceased to be so persistant; yet I know it to be only a brief lull. I have returned home to the house in which I spent my childhood, teenage years, and adult life up until now, after living away and working for a short while. While gone, I couldn’t have even considered returning to the stifling atmosphere of being back here, so freeing and liberating was the work, not to mention creatively stimulating and socially consistent, the last thing I wanted was to be forced to spend any amount of time here among my old clothes, things and rooms which I know inside out and back to front – where is the imagination here? Where is the newness? Where is the potential for progression and growth?

I have been so preoccupied with moving forward, with moving on and nourishing change and growth that I have almost lost the importance of that which is at the core of it. Instead of rejoicing at the prospect of relaxing and being at ease with things being exactly as and where I left them, both in my room and in my parents’ lives, I had become anxious with anticpation of how stagnant it all can feel, and wary that I would be ‘sucked into’ it again.

That is how it has felt before, in times when I have been progressing and growing steadily by myself in situations outside of my home life – it has seemed almost counterproductive to return to this state of apparent sameness, the begrudgingly slow process of progression being stifled just yards after it has finally made some noticeable headway, and anxiety at it’s proximity overwhelming any sense of productivity.

This time however, the lull has been noted, and my awareness of the temporality of all things has been strengthened. The beating of the creative drum had a good run this time – things were written, recorded, conducted in ways and on levels of success I never believed myself capable of. But just as seemingly endless and frustratingly peaceful as this visit home has been, the persistance of such a contrasting level of frenzied output can only be maintained for a certain amount of time, and will only be possible once again if I take this time now to recooperate, recharge the mental and physical batteries with good nutrition, a decent amount of sleep, and a couple of hundred words written to aim to keep the nudging elbows of anxiety at my lack of creative output bubbling under the surface away.

Because I have realised now that creativity has to come from somewhere. It may not be a gift or a trait that can be readily bestowed upon someone, or found in any single library, concert venue, practice room, or gallery; but through correct environmental factors and an unknown period of time, I believe it can be coaxed into existance in certain individuals, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. My home and life experiences up until now have clearly provided the seeds and tools necessary to glean new understandings and to present unique manifestations, angles, and viewpoints of our environment and lives, something which can be achieved by something so small as this paragraph of words on your screen. This, really, when it all comes down to it, is the essence of creativity as a concept in itself. I have used the environment and experiences I have been afforded to the best of my advantage, and for now, for this present moment in time, this is the best I can present you with – a few hundred words typed hastily in the middle of a bedroom strewn with half-unpacked washing. In my work up until recently, I utilised the bustling, chaotic atmosphere around me to coax new ideas from my core and take bold risks that may or may not have resulted in disaster – the nature of such an environment, however, allowed for these risks, as even if they had failed, the movement forwards is swift, and does not take long for the failures to be learned from and forgotten. For now, for the time being, this is what I have to show – a short piece of chaotic, excitable and progressive thought captured within a room full of old teddies, in a house that has been the same colour since I was first brought into it 23 years ago.