3 ways yoga can support you at work
Work stress begone! By integrating yoga into our day at work (or anywhere) we can learn to navigate with greater ease some of the things that may otherwise cause us upset. By Laura Collins
Reading time: 4 minutes
Our working culture is demanding, we are encouraged to strive for success, to reach the top of the ladder, to exude success. It’s exhausting. The pressure that we put on ourselves to succeed, the constant battle between who we are and who we think we should be, is a recipe for burnout.
Yoga has tools to help. Our yoga practice can have tangible benefits outside of the studio; it can bring much to our working lives too. Here are three ways we can take what we learn on the mat with us to the office.
- Give yourself time to prepare
This is your permission, should you need it, to block out half an hour of your day to get prepared. Put it in your calendar and switch on any ‘do not disturbs’ available to you. The first section of any yoga practice is to warm up the body, readying for what is to come. It is so important as to be essential. If we skip it, we risk injury. It isn’t selfish to take yourself offline daily to review your to-do lists, plans and priorities. The office won’t come to a grinding halt because you aren’t available for 30 minutes. It sounds so simple, and it really is, yet so many of us are frantically trying to get on top everything, to get through it all, that we risk exhaustion. Make your preparation scared, protect it. You need to warm up to be effective.
- Letting go of perfection
Here’s a truth: you won’t ever be perfect. We know this to be rationally true yet if our performance is anything less than polished, we can spiral. Our mistakes go round and round in our head, exhausting ourselves with constant re-imaginings of the event: “If only I had done this, if only I had said that”.
Take time to remember your first experiences with yoga. Were you so nervous to go to your first class that you kept putting it off? Was there a posture that you struggled with physically or mentally? How do you feel about it now? Has time and practice brought any changes?
Likely there has been some level of transformation. The changes may be obvious, or it might be less tangible. Perhaps you judge yourself less, or you can be present for longer, or you practice more regularly. However big or small it might be, you are not now where you were then.
What if we approached our work life as a practice? Every challenging task is an opportunity to practice something new. If it doesn’t quite go to plan, it isn’t a failure, it’s practice.
“What if we approached our work life as a practice? Every challenging task is an opportunity to practice something new. If it doesn’t quite go to plan, it isn’t a failure, it’s practice.”
- Moments of stress A little stress can be good, it can motivate us to see something through, but there must be time afterwards to rest and reflect. Every yoga class ends in Savasana, a moment of rest and absorption. Times of stress are times to focus on the basics such as daily movement and eating well, yet it is also the time when it is the hardest to do.
For moments when our brain is desperately telling us we can’t do it, when we are just about to get up and do that scary thing, remember the breath. Anxious bodies don’t breathe well, breaths become shorter, shallower, reconfirming to the brain that there is danger ahead.
Take a few moments to practice a calming breathing technique such as box breath:
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
Colleagues won’t notice you are doing it, but your brain will and your body will. It will bring you back to the moment, calmer, a place where thoughts can gather more easily.
Making time to prepare leads to better outcomes both in yoga and at work.
Laura Collins is an experienced project manager and trained yoga teacher and has given multiple talks and presentations about how yoga can provide tangible benefits to people at work.