Ever wondered how to take that yoga high with you off the mat? Curious how to be more flexible, strong and calm in the other 23 hours of your day? Everyone knows that yoga feels great. What you might not know is that yoga can help you unleash your brightest potential at work. That’s right – one of the best places to put your yoga practice to use is where you spend the most amount of time: your job.
What makes the workplace the perfect petri dish for a yoga practice? For starters, the yoga sutras (a classical yoga text from over 2000 years ago) offer much wisdom to the working yogi. In addition, many of those poses from class can be modified for your desk to build energy, focus and calm. Lastly, we take ~20,000 breaths a day – use your breath as fuel to thrive, not just survive.
Even if you can’t put your foot behind your head or have never even tried yoga, these 10 tools will bring yoga bliss into your business life:
1) Got Stress? Working late? Computer issues? These are all fuel for the fire of tapas to teach us stamina and discipline. Convert your stress into success by letting it transform into excitement and redirection.
“Tapas (discipline, fire) is Accepting Pain as Help for Purification” (sutra 2.1)
2) Unhappy customers? Tense team meetings? Unlock any personnel or client situations with these 4 keys for dealing with others:
- Be friendly to the happy
- Be compassionate to the suffering
- Be joyful for the good (aka those you might envy)
- Be even-keeled to those who frustrate you
“The 4 Keys for Dealing with Others: Friendliness, Compassion, Joy & Evenness” (sutra 1.33)
3) Sore lower back? Create more length in your lower back by bringing one knee at a time into your chest, keeping your other foot on the floor as you sit up tall. Hold the back of your thigh if you can’t hold your knee. This is a seated version of eka pada apanasana, or knees to chest, which we normally do on our backs on the mat. Bonus benefit: this also helps with digestion.
4) Feeling scattered? Get focused for a big task and get your mind back to work with balancing poses. Stand up tall, lift your right foot off the floor and circle your ankle. Press evenly through your standing foot, use your core (pull your navel in toward your spine) and firm the hip of your standing leg in. Or, simply stand on your tip toes. Find one point to focus on – when we have to balance it’s hard to think about anything else! Keeping your eyes on one point also helps build focus.
5) Competing priorities/constraints? Find Win-Win Solutions. In work and in life it seems there is never enough time, money or energy. Yet there is infinite possibility in what we do with these resources. Take time to find win-win solutions by changing your perspective. In the yoga sutras they call this Pratipaksha Bhavanam.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of” (sutra 2.33)
6) Need more power? Twist! These poses work our core, which is also related to our 3rd energy center or chakra, the seat of our personal power. Before your next meeting with your boss or a big negotiation, do a few simple seated twists. Afterwards, stand up tall and reach your arms out and up and stand with your feet 3 feet apart. Take up space and take a few big inhales through your nose and out through your mouth.
7) Fatigued eyes? See the big picture and give your eyes a break with a little eye yoga. Rub your palms together and cup them over your eyes any time you’ve been staring at a screen too long. Strengthen your eyes by looking up, right, down & left with your hands over your eyes.
8) Tired? Deep breathing, or what I like to call 2 part breath, can refresh and recharge you. Place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen. Notice if your hands move at all when you inhale. Slowly deepen and lengthen your breath so both hands move slightly with the lifting of your chest and expansion of your abdomen. Keep your shoulders, neck and face relaxed.
9) Disconnected from your team? Work remotely? Try this loving-kindness or metta meditation, which creates calm and feelings of compassion and connection with others.
10) Anxiety? Apathy? Stick with it! This little nugget from the Yoga Sutras keeps me going on my toughest days:
“Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness” (sutra 1.14)
*all sutras from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Learn more tools like these on June 7th at the “Energize Your Life, Empower Your Career” workshop with Jessica Schmidt at YogaWorks SouthBay. Register Here Now.
Not in Los Angeles? Check out our upcoming ebook Vitality @ Work: 25 Tools for Peak Performance, available on Amazon & Kindle starting this Father’s Day, June 14th.
Jessica Schmidt is a 500 hour YogaWorks certified instructor and teaches at YogaWorks SouthBay. She is the founder of Executive Sutra: Yoga Wisdom for Leaders, a premier executive and employee wellness organization. Jessica combines her management experience at Fortune 500 companies with her Harvard MBA and her love of yoga to transform our workplaces through workshops and 1:1 coaching. It is her passion to raise the vibration of our business community and help everyone to reach their highest potential.