The practice of yoga, mindfulness and meditation practices have been easily incorporated into corporate office lunch hours and afternoons where the traditional lunch break has been replaced by attendance of a sponsored 30-60 minute movement or breathwork class.
Why do yoga midday throughout the work day?
Productivity and efficiency are mindblowingly increased at least fivefold when the mind is given a break to decompress, reset, and return back to a basal state of rest. Whether physical movement and lengthening is involved, or simply removing the body from behind the desk and computer, the practice can do wonders physically, creatively, and psychologically.
The North American viewpoint on doing more while increasing the amount of work hours in a day/night is doing hefty damage and strain on our muscles - the muscles of locomotion and weightbearing - the hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings, and the muscles of articulation - within the shoulders, wrists and fingers are all suffering from tensity, gripping and lacking sufficient oxygen and blood flow, thus resulting in cramping, development of repetitive strain injuries, and poor postural compensation patterns. Not to mention, poor posture in the neck can also lead to eyestrain and lowered coordination and motor skills.
Basically, we are becoming more rigid, more tight, more limited in our full potential range of motion, and constantly experiencing fatigue and headaches as we drag our work hours into the evenings.
I used to spend my work days constantly hunched over a computer seated at a chair positioned too high, facing a screen far too bright and large for optimal, ergonomic suitability. On top of that, I carry a heavy shoulder bag, with a dSLR camera, laptop, and packed lunch that I move with to and from on public transit. I don't stand alone, when I say the compensation in my hips to stabilize the uneven weight-bearing in my shoulders has become very apparent when I notice one glute tensing up passively, or one hip being restricted in rotation.
We sit for far too long tightening our hip flexors, strain our eyes on overstimulating items, hunch up our shoulders, compress our spines, etc. etc. the list goes on and on - to believe we can accomplish more in a workday or work week. Meanwhile we are simultaneously destroying our tissues and our muscle's full potential for keeping us upright and contained.
How to start mindfulness?
- Schedule 10 minute breaks away from the desk
- Either take a slow-paced walk or take a meditative seat close to natural lighting or going outdoors
- Turn off all notifications (emails, mobile calls, texts)
- Keeping the spine long, stacking the shoulders over the hips, reach the top of the head up and close the eyes or keep a soft gaze along the bridge of your nose
- Resting your hands either in your lap or down by your sides, soften around the chest
- Take 10 deep inhales and exhales through the nose, expanding fully on the inhale, softening fully on the exhale.
Write it down
As you arrive to your desk first thing in the morning, stop to write down thoughts, appreciations, quotes, mantras. Before going through your daily, weekly, and monthly agenda of all the prioritized and endless lists of tasks, goals, and performance reviews, take a separate sheet of paper or journal out. This takes 2-5 minutes.
- Set an intention - whether as simple as "Staying Positive" or "Do one thing that makes me happy today"
- State 5 things that you are grateful for outside of work
- Assess your general mood, energy level, and happiness that day
- Write down a positive quote for inspiration
Tips to stay focused & enhance mindfulness:
- Avoid multi-tasking (i.e. close multiple browser tabs, focus only on one application/task at time)
- Remove jarring post-it notes from the walls that will not get attended to. Less stimulation equals more focus to detail.
- Slow everything down (breathing, typing, scheduling) to focus more attention on detail and efficiency
- Take frequent rest breaks, stay hydrated, find periods to go outdoors and view natural sunlight
- Read 'The art of slowing the f*ck down and doing less'
Conference calls and group meetings can leave an individual either feeling overstimulated, stressed, or distracted from the rest of the day's tasks.
Instead of rushing into a meeting with a caffeinated beverage and an overload of information, try planning your arrival extra early to get settled, organized, and take a few deep breaths before starting. Ask the permission of whomever is conducting the meeting to guide a short, seated or standing meditation for 2-5 minutes. The group can collectively take 10 deep breaths together, use visualization techniques to calm the mind and set a focus on positivity or something to uplift productivity. If you can spend over 10 hours at the office and 10 minutes to run and grab your cup of java, you can definitely spend no more than 5 minutes to decompress and unwind before registering your attention to a group meeting.
Stretch it out/ Move when you can:
By mid-afternoon, instead of grabbing for that second or third caffeinated beverage, look towards accessible movement exercises.
Mobilize the wrists:
To avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and clenching of fists which lead to tight forearms and hunched shoulders, start with this basic stretch that you can perform just about anywhere you have a flat surface.
- Start with your palms flat on the ground at shoulder distance, knees under your hips. Spread the fingers wide.
- Walk the finger tips to face back towards your knees. Your thumbs will point towards the Left and Right sides.
- Roll the shoulders down and away from your ears, as you send the weight back sending your hips over your heels.
- Pick up the palms a few inches, keeping the fingers grounded into the mat.
- Reach the wrists back, feeling the stretch through the fingers, wrists, and lower forearms.
- Returning the palms down, fingers facing forward, thumbs toward centre.
- Flip onto the tops of the hands, wrists face forward, thumbs toward centre, fingers spread wide.
- Gently curl the fingers and thumbs into a fist-like shape.
- Gently release fingers back down.
- Repeat a few times curling and releasing, while breathing.
Both of these stretches can be completed within 5 minutes and can be incorporated throughout the work day.
Whenever you can, take advantage of the yoga or movement class that takes place just steps away from your desk!