It’s been a crazy day at work today. There are customer issues to deal with, employee management concerns to figure out, and you just realized there was an error in a recent order that was placed. You’re feeling frazzled, and all you really want is to center yourself and find some calm, but your next yoga class isn’t until the weekend, and you’re not sure you’ll make it that long.
You may not be able to use yoga to destress at work, especially if you don’t have the space for a mat or time for the practice, but there are many things you can take from yoga to center yourself in the workplace.
1. Focus on Your Breathing
One way to use yoga to destress at work is by being mindful of your breathing.
“By controlling your breathing to get calm, you start to adjust your nervous system,” says Melody Lima, an E-RYT 500 level yoga teacher. “The stress of day-to-day living and working activates our sympathetic nervous system to protect, survive, and prepare for intense physical activity, like running to safety. By controlling our breathing, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, also known as rest and digest. Our heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases and our entire body relaxes and calms down. Easy gentle breathing stimulates this process and helps to reduce our stress level.”
Travis Baird, founder of Mindful Productive, agrees: “Even in the heat of an argument, you can come back to center by feeling the air move past your nostrils with one slow inhale and one slow exhale. Then, intentionally bring your focus back to the discussion at hand.”
Check out these 3 breathing techniques by Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Caren Baginski:
2. Practice Mindfulness
Meditation, the practice of concentration and mental relaxation, is an integral part of the yoga experience, and one way to use yoga to destress at work. If meditation comes easily to you — great! Take a few moments out of your day to meditate. However, if you find it anxiety-provoking because you don’t know how to quiet your thoughts, practice being mindful instead.
Baird says, “Since mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness in the present moment, you can practice it when you’re opening the building for the day, checking emails, or cleaning your workstation. Normally, we do these activities without any awareness, and as a result, we become disconnected from our routine activities. By practicing mindfulness for just a few moments, you can anchor yourself back in the present moment and enjoy a deeper connection with your lived experience.”
Our inner monologue can be loud, especially if we haven’t mastered calming the “monkey mind” (as many yogis would call our thought processes). However, the patterns or topics we think about can tell us a lot about how we are feeling, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we should pay more attention to what our thoughts are telling us, so we can move through them to calmer or happier experiences.
Baird explains how to accomplish this: “First, observe your thoughts for a moment instead of ignoring them. Second, name the experience that you’re having. Do you feel anxious or worried? Is there a tightness in your shoulders or a pit in your stomach? Then, the third step is to choose where to place your focus.When I use this ‘notice, name, choose’ process, I often find myself choosing to focus on one tiny positive and productive step that I can take to reduce the pressure of stress. Or, if I realize that I need to step away from my computer for a few minutes, I’ll take a brief walk outside and choose to focus on my senses as I walk.”
Lean about Monkey Mind so you can understand how to calm it!
4. Move Your Body
You may not be able to break out your yoga mat and move through a sequence in the middle of a busy workday, but stretching or moving your body can be restorative. There are many ways to accomplish this, whether you sit at a desk or are on your feet all day. Lima suggests, “If you sit a lot at your job, stand up. Reach your arms up overhead, and then to your sides, and finally, fold forward to touch your toes. Be kind and gentle by bending your knees and soften other joints like shoulders and hips. This helps to melt away the stiffness, as opposed to adding more stress to joints.”
Check out this short sequence of stretches you can do at your desk!