Another day at work. Those of us who have a full time job will know how little time there is for everything else. Full timers spend at least 1/3 of the day 5 days a week working! This is not to mention the preparation that maybe needed to do before work, then getting there and back and finally recovering from the day before moving on to life’s other tasks. Even if we work from home or our hours are less it still is a dominant part of our life – so much so that it’s important for our mental and physical health that it is a positive experience. There are a number of ways yoga practices can help us through the day with cheerfulness or at the very least with equanimity.
If you are working with your hands and arms, whether seated or standing, you may find tension building in your neck and shoulders. If this is on a daily basis and not addressed, it can build up into a chronic pain. Prevent this by regularly rolling your shoulders and taking a few straight arm stretches like hands clasped behind the back, overhead and to the front.
Long hours of sitting or standing can have repercussions on our back. Even if we are consciously keeping good posture there is still the possibility of the muscles becoming rigid and painful. Simple stretches help to keep the muscles soft, supportive and flexible. The back moves in 6 directions: it bends forward and backwards, it bends to each side and twists in each direction. So to prevent, or ease, back pain we should take our torso into each of these movements, often. There are simple movements found in most yoga poses that can be performed from your chair or while standing. You don’t need to spend more than a minute of so doing them, but it is advisable to do them every half hour or so.
Another really nice way to take weight out of the back while sitting is modified Scales Pose (Tolasana). This simply involves taking the hands to each side of the seat, pressing into them with straight arms so that the body lifts slightly from the chair. If your arms aren’t long enough you might have to modify by placing books under each hand.
If your job requires a lot of standing no doubt your legs will need a rest. If you have somewhere you could put them up for ten minutes during your break it will help to rest them and freshen all the cells, ready for the next bout. This might be a big ask but if you can, lie on the floor and put your legs up the wall or on the seat of a chair. If this is not possible sit in a chair with your legs elevated onto a table or another chair and while standing simply raise up on your toes to activate and strengthen your legs and ankles.
Too much sitting will take its toll on your hip flexors and may draw your back into an unnatural arch. If you job involves a lot of sitting, take frequent breaks for stretching your hips with lunges like a modified Warrior 1. To adapt Warrior 1 to your workplace simply stand with the legs pointing straight ahead and in line with your hips. Take a long stride forward and let the back heel lift, bend the front knee and lower until you feel a stretch at the front of the back hip.
A worse and unfortunately common scenario that makes us struggle to get to the end of the day is stress. So often we have deadlines to meet, difficult people to work with, or difficult, confronting situations. Our day can surround us with tension. The back and neck start tensing up and in a really difficult situation the mind reels so much that we stop thinking logically. Stress is incredibly tiring. It puts us on high alert and we can become, as they say, a bundle of nerves. It not only affects our relationships in the workplace but often leaks out into our away from work life and so often contributes to interpersonal tensions a well as future illnesses.
Confronting situations need to be mentally stepped back from with the power of the breath. Long slow exhales prevent panic. Grounding inward breath holds help to stop the mind from reeling and complete yoga breathing calms the nervous system.
Yoga has such a variety of ways to help us through our workday, but for best results should be complemented with a regular daily practice of at least 20 minutes. This will strengthen, soften and moisten all our muscles and joints to see us through what ever we do in our lives.
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training