Stressed out at work? Use yoga techniques to calm your nerves, ease your muscles and prepare you to tackle the day ahead.
“So often we are on a treadmill, living these hectic, technology-driven, lives. Trying to be Super men and women 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Celia Hirsch, a yoga instructor for 17 years. “In my opinion, yoga helps to address the excess of our culture. Yoga has long been known as a Stress Manager for many reasons. The comprehensive nature of yoga practice teaches you how to join the external body with the internal mind resulting in a freer, lighter spirit.”
In your office, you can even do variations of yoga exercises.
Start with breathing exercise. “Breathe in for a count of 3 and breathe out for a count of 4, 5, or 6. Repeat 10 times,” says Sara DiVello, a registered yoga teacher, certified with the Yoga Alliance.
“If you are free to do exercise without attracting too much attention stay seated in your chair but move to the edge with your feet parallel and hips distance apart. Take your right hand onto the back of the chair and twist slowly to the right without changing the weight on your feet or shifting your buttocks on the chair,” explains Hirsch. “If you are comfortable and feel like you can go further bring your left hand next to the right on the back of the chair and twist without lifting or using your shoulders in any way. Repeat on the left side.”
Get out of your chair from time to time and try a few yoga moves. Do a standing yoga exercise. “Sitting for long periods of time can add to any work-related stress. If standing in your workspace is possible you can use any waist- height surface to stretch out those lower back and hamstring muscles. Place your hands on the surface and walk back as far as you need in order to fold from your waist at a 90-degree angle,” instructs Hirsch. “Take at least five deep breathes lengthening while exhaling. If you want to do more, try folding completely in half by dropping your hands and head toward the floor, you can fold your arms, hold onto your elbows and take five breaths imagining your tailbone going up and your head going down, again lengthening while exhaling.”
Stress tends to gather in the shoulder/neck area, so pay attention to that area when doing your yoga exercises. Try a Modified Eagle Pose, says DiVello. “Bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for the shoulders/upper back, stay here. If you need more of a stretch, drop the left elbow below the right and between the forearms, pressing the back of the palms together,” DiVello explains. “The key to releasing the upper back muscles is to keep the elbows lifted--equal height to the shoulders--and the shoulders as relaxed and low as possible. Take a few deep breaths and switch sides.”
When you get home, use yoga stretches to de-stress from a hard day at work. “Lie down on the floor with your head supported, arms out to the side shoulder height, bring both knees to your chest without lifting your tailbone off the floor. Roll your knees over to the right and look to the left without lifting your left shoulder off the floor. Take a few breaths and work your knees as close to the floor as possible for a kidney twist. Repeat on the left side,” suggests Hirsch.
Try one other at home: “On your hands and knees, position your knees underneath your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders with your spine parallel to the floor. While exhaling round your back by tucking your buttocks under and dropping your head down then while inhaling do the opposite, arch your back with your tailbone going up and your head looking up. Repeat five times coordinating with the breath,” says Hirsch. “Then finish by sitting back on your heels in a fetal position with your arms by your sides.”
Many Americans practice yoga. According to the latest "Yoga in America" study, released by Yoga Journal, Americans spend $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media (DVDs, videos, books and magazines). This is an increase of 87 percent compared to the previous study in 2004. The study also found that 6.9 percent of U.S. adults, or 15.8 million people, practice yoga.
If you want to continue on a yoga path to help your mind and body deal with stress, check out a local class.