If stress is taking its toll, find out how yoga could help
Apple does it. Google does it. Even Yahoo and Nike do it. We’re not saying if all the cool kids do it, you should too – but if corporate giants like these are encouraging their employees to do yoga in the workplace, then maybe they’re on to something.
The office can be a stressful place with the pressure of deadlines and targets, client complaints and constant emails and phone calls.
Aside from affecting productivity and happiness, stress can have a huge impact on your health. And when it begins to cause you physical pain, change your personality or affect your relationships, then it’s time to take action.
For yoga instructor Sasha Quince, this is an all-too-familiar situation.
Working at a local radio station in her mid-20s, Sasha was under immense pressure.
“I was the only one managing the office and everything was picking up in Abu Dhabi. The stress was to the point that it was affecting my body; I had extreme neck and shoulder pain. I didn’t know how to breathe properly because I was so tight all the time. I was reactive to people.
“I was stuck in a self-absorbed bubble; I wasn’t present with any of my surroundings, I was just focused on what I needed to do, unaware of the needs of people around me.
“I was operating on auto pilot. It was to the point that I didn’t feel that I was really living, not because I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing but because there was so much to do and I didn’t know how to manage that.”
After losing her sister, who herself had noticed Sasha’s disconnection with her family and friends, Sasha realised something had to change. Through meditation and yoga, she found a new path in life and now she’s eager to help others in the corporate world discover how yoga can help in the workplace, and everyday life.
“A lot of people are struggling with spinal pain, instability, weakness in the core, but also mentally they’re drained. My best advice is to be consistent: just do small things, small amounts of breathing or small amounts of time spent focusing on one item like mindfulness.”
In stark contrast to how many people perceive yoga, Sasha stresses that it’s not about being flexible, standing on your head, or chanting.
“Yoga is an everyday practice; it’s how you choose to communicate, how you choose to release your stress whether through breathing, mindfulness, meditation, a physical movement, or just simply being at your desk, stretching your arms out
and taking a deep breath – that’s yoga.
“It means ‘union’, so it’s about connecting breath with mind or body. It’s about how you incorporate this on an everyday basis, whether it’s expressing what you’re thankful for about your job that day, or taking five breaths because you’re feeling really overwhelmed.”
Unwind at work
Here are three simple yoga exercises you can do when you’re feeling really stressed, or at regular intervals during the day…
Use your diaphragm:
Most of the time we’re breathing into our chest and we’re not accessing our full breathing muscle, which goes all the way down to our belly. When we do that we’re building stress and anxiety in the body. It’s almost like when you keep putting something in, but you’re never taking anything out, it’s going to eventually boil up and explode. For us, that’s hazardous to our health.
Sit up tall; take a deep breath into your nose and take that breath down into your chest, ribs and belly, and breathe out through your mouth. Do these four or five times.
Sit up, close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Take yourself to a beach. You notice the colour of the waves, you feel really comfortable where you’re seated on the cool sand. You start to see the colours as they draw inwards and outwards; you notice the texture and the vastness around you, so much space all the way out to sea and beyond. Then you begin to hear the waves coming forth as you breathe in and retreat as you breathe out. As the waves come in and you breathe in, this signifies the frustration washing away from your body. As you breathe out, you feel peace and calm.
This is mindfulness, to be able to visualise or calm yourself to increase your focus, boost creativity and elevate concentration.
Stretch at your desk:
Sit back against your chair. Stretch your arms out to the sides, lean forward pulling your belly in as you open your chest. Take a deep breath in and out. Keep your belly in to support your spine. This opens your tight chest muscles as we’re constantly hunched forward.
For more of Sasha’s stretches, search for Sasha Quince on YouTube. To find out about Sasha’s corporate wellness programmes, visit: letsgoyogame.com