The idea that yoga is helpful to reduce stress, is crystal clear. You may know this from your own experience, feeling more balanced, peaceful yet energized, after your practice. This is supported by a large body of research showing that regular yoga practice is associated with a lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol variability – all signs of a healthy stress regulation system.
However, on the most busy and stressful days at work, you may struggle to find time for your yoga practice. And especially when working from home these days, finding some balance in your lifestyle is very important to stay healthy. How do you manage to do some yoga when you need it most?
The golden rule here is: look at the broader perspective. Yoga is more than just the sequence you do on your mat; it is a complete lifestyle and a matter of mindset. It is about taking care of your body, breath and mind. Here’s some ideas on how to practice yoga OFF the mat during a busy day at work (or your home office).
Five points of yoga
Let me explain yoga practice off the mat a little bit further. It is best explained by the five points of yoga:
- Sufficient physical exercise
- Healthy and nutritious diet
- Proper and conscious breathing
- Positive and mindful thinking
- Regular rest and relaxation
These five points of yoga open the door to a huge range of possibilities to incorporate yoga into your busy schedule. Breathing and thinking are things we continuously do – with a little awareness, you can make a shift from automatic patterns to a conscious way of acting during your daily hassles. Eating is something we also do several times every day, so there you go: all you have to do is make sure you have nutritious meals with you and mindfully enjoy your lunch break. Moving and resting may be points you have to plan more consciously. With the following tips, you will see this doesn’t have to be complicated either!
Firstly, for sufficient exercise, you go for a walk with colleagues during your lunch or team meetings. Why discuss everything behind your desk, sitting on a chair? Multitasking is not necessarily my highest recommendation, but walking and talking at the same time is an exception to the rule.
You could also regularly do some stretches, shake your arms and legs, do some neck and shoulder rolls and circle your spine. Gentle movement only takes a minute! And don’t forget to be aware of your posture – sit or stand with your feet stable on the floor, spine straight, shoulders relaxed. You could set a reminder on your phone or computer every hour to do these mobilizations or a posture check.
That could at the same time be a small break – an important and effective way to incorporate regular rest and relaxation into your schedule! Resting doesn’t necessarily mean a 15-minute savasana. But working doesn’t mean 8 hours or more of continuous activity – that is simply impossible for human beings. We need to keep our concentration span and energy levels in mind.
Although complete relaxation is definitely the most effective way of relieving stress and renewing energy, if you are not on the mat, you can also allow yourself to leave your workplace for a minute, make a cup of tea, breathe in some fresh air, or socialize with a colleague. Whatever works for you.
Here also lies a bridge to positive thinking: think in terms of possibilities, instead of limitations. When you are focused on the negative, more negative associations will come up, whereas positive thoughts trigger more positive thoughts. That’s just how our memory works – if you know this, you can direct your attention towards the positive consciously and then notice how it becomes easier to maintain a positive mindset over time.
On a busy day, you may sometimes (or frequently) become frustrated about the amount of work ahead of you, the endless stream of tasks landing on your workload. The same applies here: focus on the positive side, on the successes. Make a list of your tasks and set some priorities. Throughout the day, check the tasks that you have finished. This makes you feel effective and ready for the next task, which is much more productive than worrying about all the things you haven’t done yet or cannot finish today. It’s the famous Buddhist saying that applies here: “do not dwell in the past, neither live in the future, but focus on the present moment.”
To help yourself focus on the present moment, you could use your breath. As I said earlier, you always have your breath with you, you are breathing continuously. However, if you want to do this in a yogic way, you have to breathe with awareness. Checking the quality of your breath by observing where it is flowing – high in your chest, or lower in your belly – helps you to become aware of your stress level. The higher and faster, the more stress in your body. If you notice a stressful breath, take a few easy and deep breaths to let go of tension. This immediately helps you to balance the state of your body and mind.
As you can see, the five points of yoga are intertwined into a healthy lifestyle. The breath helps to think positively, thinking positively helps you to see possibilities, seeing possibilities helps you to maintain your balance even on a challenging day. All of this is called yoga! I hope you are inspired to integrate yoga into your daily schedule. Take it off the mat and flow through life!
If you do want to practice some yoga on the mat during your workday, I am teaching a FREE Home Office Yoga class each Monday at 12.30 CET. If this is not the right moment for you, you can also check out some of my online yoga videos and practice any time it suits you.