THE BEST WAY TO COMBAT WORKPLACE STRESS? GET YOUR OM ON.
As we enter into the late fall and with the holidays quickly approaching, extra stress has the tendency to build up in our bodies from end-of-year work projects, family commitments and other anxiety-inducing challenges. Tighter hips and shoulders, shallow breaths and cloudiness of thoughts are all symptoms of the extra stress the time before the holidays can bring.
The poses below are meant to be simple enough for anyone to do anywhere, with or without a yoga mat—jump out of your desk chair and do these at work! Research shows that using a portion of your workday to devote to physical activity leads to higher productivity, more work capacity and a strengthened immune system to prevent sick days. When we take some time to stretch, breathe and be active, it is easier to handle stressful situations at work.
Use these poses to take a few minutes for yourself, become present, and reduce your overall stress level.
Every moment of every day we are breathing. Why not use your breath as a tool? Surprisingly, the most important part of yoga isn’t the poses, or asanas, but the breath. In order to gain the most out of the poses, it is important to learn how to harness the breath by developing your breathing technique.
Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a supportive chair with your feet flat on the floor. If you are on the floor, place a folded towel or yoga block underneath your hips to help you sit more comfortably. Sit up with a straight spine, chin slightly tucked and eyes softly focused on a point ahead or even closed. Place your palms on your thighs face up if you are looking to find more energy or face down if you are looking to feel more grounded. Inhale slowly through your nose to a count of five. Let the breath move deep into your lungs. Hold at the top for a count of two, and then exhale slowly through your nose to a count of five.
If you want to add one more layer, slightly constrict the back of your throat. Each inhale and exhale will create an oceanic sound and rhythm. Repeat this technique for 10 to 20 cycles. Try to continue this type of breathing as you try on the following poses.
Rest on your shins with the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Bring your knees out wide and big toes to touch behind you. Fold over your legs as you reach out in front of you while releasing the head and neck. Press the ground away with your palms as you relax your shoulders down your back. Let your stomach relax completely into the space between your thighs. You might feel an opening through your back and hips. Use the breathing technique and stay here for 10 to 15 breath cycles.
Stand with your feet hip-width distance or wider apart. Bend at your waist like you will be doing a forward fold, but bend your knees so much that your belly rests on your thighs. This takes the stretch out of your hamstrings completely and allows the space between your vertebrae to expand in order to find release in the back and neck. Either let your hands fall to the ground or hold on to opposite elbow creases.
Next comes the best part—very slowly sway side to side. Relax your neck by shaking it “yes” and “no.” Stay here and sway or find stillness for five to 10 breaths. When you are ready to come out, keep your knees bent and slowly roll up to standing one vertebrae at a time with a slow deep inhale.
CORPSE POSE (SAVASANA)
In the spirit of the recent Halloween celebrations, the common name for Savasana is Corpse Pose. This is the awesome part at the end of any yoga class where you earn some hard-earned rest (and possible nap) on the floor. It is commonly thought to be the easiest of poses, but ask any yogi and it’s actually considered one of the most challenging postures. This challenge arises from the ability to clear your mind of thoughts and preventing focus on any one thing.
Lie on your back. Spread your legs and arms away from your midline until they rest in a comfortable position. Tuck your shoulder blades slightly down your back so that your shoulders slide away from your ears. Relax the muscles in your face and release your tongue from the roof of your mouth.
Breathe here for 20 to 30 cycles of breathe or set a timer for two to five minutes if you might actually keep track of your breathing. The whole point is to not focus on anything. Thoughts may slowly creep into your head, just acknowledge them and let them continue to wander. Being able to let go of any focus, even if only for a few minutes, allows you to clear your head and emerge from Savasana refreshed and renewed!
* * *
You can really do these poses next to your desk. Take a break every so often to do all three poses in a sequence, do just one or simply sit in a comfortable position and use the breathing technique. All will reduce your current stress level to a more favorable one and give you a clear head to face pressures, challenges and solve any problem that may come your way!