Most of us hear the phrase ‘yoga at work’ and likely envision what we probably don’t have: an oasis of a studio-like room down the hall from our desk where a skilled instructor guides folks through a relaxing mid-day class our employer is thrilled to see everyone participate in. Granted, in the age of forward-thinking, wellness-oriented company culture, this scenario is indeed reality for some. And those of us in the yoga world are thrilled to see this trend take flight and sure hope it continues. But, regardless of whether one works at such a place, there is certainly a way for all of us to access the benefits of yoga at work.
Make The Time
Time. It’s what always gets us. We over-thinking humans are fabulous at concocting endless story lines about why we can’t get up from our screen, eat our lunch, or grab a moment to ourselves in the course of a busy day because time, that old bully, just won’t allow it. What we fail to recognize when the nervous system is amped by looming pressures is that we create time by making time. The only way for time to start to feel or unfold differently in our day-to-day lives is for us to treat it differently. As the old Zen proverb tells us: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
So how do we create time for yoga at work? We start small.
Five Minutes for Breath + Body
The following simple technique is accessible to anyone in any workplace. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or if you’ve ever walked into a yoga class before. Try it. You may find that a small, consistent beginning builds upon itself and your ability to make time to practice during the workday magically expands.
- Set a timer on your phone or computer for 5 minutes. Make sure that the alarm sound you choose is gentle!
- Push your chair away from your desk so that you have a bit of space around you. Kick your shoes off and move to the edge of your seat, so that the soles of your feet rest comfortably on the floor, thighs are parallel, and legs relaxed.
- Become aware of your posture and sit with a tall spine, chin lowered slightly toward chest, crown of the head lifted, and shoulders relaxed. Notice the jaw and the belly and do your best to relax them both. Rest your hands on the tops of your legs and close your eyes. Begin to attach a quiet count to your breath, inhaling for a round of 3 or 4 and exhaling for a round of 5 or 6. Repeat 10 times.
- On your next mindful inhalation, bring your arms out sideways and then overhead. Exhale as you bring your hands to your heart center in a prayer position. Coordinate the movements with your breath and, if it’s helpful, continue with an internal count of 3-4 on the inhale and 5-6 on the exhale. Repeat 3 times.
- Return your hands to rest on your legs. On an inhalation, lift your chest and gently arch the back as much as you can from a seated position, draw your shoulders back and lift the chin a little bit. As you exhale, round the back, lower the chin to the chest and draw the navel back toward the spine. Repeat 5 times moving with your breath.
- In a tall seated position, open the legs a bit so that the thighs are no longer parallel and you have some space between them. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, fold forward on to your lap. Allow the arms to drop forward as well. Rest here for 3-5 breaths. When you are ready, slowly unfurl the spine as you make your way back to a tall, seated position.
- With eyes closed, sit comfortably with the gaze focused at the brow center for a brief meditation until your timer sounds.
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Kate Tripp is a yoga teacher, writer, mother, and co-founder of Luma Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio for adults and children in Santa Cruz, CA. She shares her wisdom and experience on the Three Minute Egg blog with weekly, inspirational, yoga-related blog posts. Read Kate's full bio here.