How to Take a Yoga Break at Work
If you work a 9 to 5 job, it can be challenging to find the time and the motivation to attend yoga classes regularly. You’re at work during most class times, and in the evenings, you’re probably drained, hungry and ready to relax.
But you know you need yoga to soothe your aches and pains, relieve stress, and improve your health. So what can you do?
I recommend taking “Yoga Breaks,” a few minutes of breathing and movement several times a day to balance your body, clear your mind, and boost your energy. It’s not the same as a 90-minute class, but it will give you access to the benefits of yoga. And remember, a little yoga is always better than none.
The hardest part will be getting started and making it part of your work flow. At first, you might resist taking even this small amount of time for yourself away from a project, but these mini yoga sessions will improve your performance, productivity, and focus, so you’ll get a real return on the time you invest in this practice.
Here are 5 Ways to take a Yoga Break in Your Workplace:
1. Give yourself a “Yoga Treat."
Set goals or objectives and then reward yourself with a “yoga treat.” For example: answer emails that will take about an hour and then do a few shoulder openers. Or after sitting at a meeting, do standing pigeon to open your hips and hamstrings.
Give yourself a “Yoga Treat” several times over the course of your workday, and you’ll feel better in your body, have better posture, and think clearer.
2. Try an Anti-Sitting Asana.
Most office environments have chairs that are un-friendly to your lower back, hips, and hamstrings. When you start to notice discomfort in your hips or low back, take a Yoga Break to do some hip and hamstring openers.
These “anti-sitting asana” combat the imbalances that come from sitting too long. In particular, I recommend side-angle pose, wide legged forward fold, and standing pigeon. These are relatively easy in work attire and will stretch and open the muscles that are compromised while sitting.
3. Counterbalance the “Computer Crawl.”
Ever find yourself looking like you’re going to crawl into your computer? Your shoulders hunch forward, your neck is stretched out like your head is being sucked into the computer?
When you find yourself doing the computer crawl, STOP!
Instead, try a shoulder opener to come back into balance and better posture. My favorite is to interlace your fingers behind your head, where your skull meets your neck, and move your head back while lifting up with your hands. In this yoga therapy posture, your chin stays parallel to the floor, while your skull moves back over your shoulders.
It’s a powerful practice to relieve tension in your neck and counterbalance the computer crawl posture.
4. Take a Walking Meditation Break.
Take 10-20 minutes on your lunch break or whenever you're feeling that mid-day slump to do a walking meditation. You can do this while walking to grab lunch or simply by taking a quick stroll in a nearby park or even around the office.
Wherever you go, walk and breathe mindfully. Inhale and exhale deliberately, consistently, and evenly in through your nose and out through your nose. This practice will energize your body and help you be more focused in the latter part of your day.
5. Take Time Out for a Brain Boost.
After a certain amount of time at the computer, you can start to feel uninspired, blocked, mentally foggy, or unproductive. When this happens, give yourself a “Brain Boost” with a gentle inversion.
Technically an inversion is any posture in which your head is beneath your heart, so you can receive inversion benefits from postures like uttansana (standing forward fold), not just from full inversions like shoulderstand or headstand.
Inversions stimulate your brain and ventilate your lungs, pumping more oxygen into your blood for increased energy and alertness. For your “brain boost” at the office, I recommend uttansana.
You can do this at a wall or in the middle of the room. Engage your leg muscles and fold forward so your head is below your heart. Once in the position, you can place your hands on the floor, place your hands on opposite elbows or clasp your hands behind your back for a shoulder-opener.
If you feel any tension or pulling in your low back, bend your knees. Remain in this posture for 5-12 breaths. When you get back to work, you’ll be more mentally clear and energized.
A few words on breathing:
All of the suggested postures and practices include slow, deep, deliberate breath in through your nose and out through your nose.
Your breath is part of what makes the yoga postures more than simple stretching. Your breath will also oxygenate your blood so you feel energized and clarify your mind, so you feel refreshed and focused.
The most important aspect of these suggested Yoga Breaks is your self-awareness. Recognize when you’re developing physical pain, discomfort, mental fatigue or loss of productivity and take action!
Get out of the chair, take your hand off the mouse and give yourself some yoga love! You’ll be glad you did, and once you’re in the habit, you’ll crave these yoga breaks.
There are amazing statistics on how yoga positively influences the workplace, and industry leaders like Apple, Google, Nike, and many others now include yoga for their employees. These companies have realized that their employees have increased job satisfaction and productivity, take fewer sick days, and provide better customer service when practicing yoga.
The good news is: you don’t need to wait for your company to follow these major corporations. Make time for your own Yoga Breaks and you’ll notice significant shifts in your body, mind, energy, enthusiasm, and productivity, too.