I started my journey into teaching yoga walking into a Federal office building. It was my first-ever class, apart from the studio where I taught free classes. There I was, a million sequences in my mind, awesome music to coordinate the poses, all ready to wow. I couldn’t wait to exhibit my talent as a yoga teacher.
Guess what … reality struck me as I entered that fitness center. I found myself gazing at a group of seniors. Everyone was over the age of 55, and their bodies reflected their lifestyle of sitting, hunched over at a desk, working at a computer for many years, craving some stretches and relaxation.
I was used to showing a lot of compassion, as I had been trained to teach Alzheimer’s patients at Sunrise Senior Living. I immediately knew exactly what those people needed! No chaturanga dandasana or a million down dogs. Instead, they needed just the pure essence of yoga!
From then on, climbing new office stairs has not scared me, and it has kept me open to helping anyone in need, whether it be for shoulder issues or carpal tunnel complaints.
Even though my first corporate yoga teaching experience was not what I imagined, I was in paradise to kickstart my official career in teaching. I have worked with lots of corporate clients over the years. My “Yoga at Desk” journey has taken me into numerous offices filled with people whose bodies are in desperate need of help. And in my experience, people with a desk job need more love than anyone else!
Here are 10 tips for incorporating Yoga into your 9 to 5 job:
- Be Aware of Your Posture: Firstly, let go of what your colleagues think about you. Instead of seeing yourself with a hunched back and lower back issues, address everything now! If you think that taking a break to walk to the coffee machine, drop by your friend’s desk to say hello, or stroll around the entire office building will help you, you are wrong.
Working at a computer for long periods of time ruins your posture, no matter what! Make sure to check your posture every half hour. Simply check to see where your shoulders are and adjust your seating posture. Set an alarm! The reminder to check your posture may seem like a pain initially, but putting your iPhone to this good use will really pay off a year from now, when your mind has learned to do it on its own!
- Make Yourself Comfortable: The desk chair you were provided with likely is not the best thing for your back. If you can’t complain or change it, take matters into your own hands. Bring a pillow from home for your back, pick up a foot platform, get a wrist rest to use with your mouse. If you get uncomfortable, change the pillow’s position every half hour or stand for 10 minutes instead of sitting constantly.
There are millions of options on the market for comfortable desk chairs. Order your own! And keep the box. Nothing beats an Amazon box that is nearly equal to your height. Simply place your monitor on top and work standing up for a few hours. It’s better to save your legs from cramping and low blood circulation or knee replacement surgery in the long run.
- Yoga at Your Desk: When you have the option of doing yoga at your desk, don’t skip it just because you think your colleagues will make fun of you. Let them! One company at which I taught “Yoga at Desk” had glass cubicles, which apparently created an awkward situation for employees to do a few stretches at their desk.
Let me tell you, when you constantly have to go to chiropractic or physical therapy appointments, that colleague whom you think may make fun of you will not be there to drive you or share the pain you are in. So keep doing those simple stretches in your chair. You may even set the example and get others to do them, too!
- Working Out is not Enough: People who brag by saying things like“I hit the gym everyday, I do yoga and spinning, I only eat a big salad at dinner” may indeed be doing amazing work on taking care of their body, but they also are sitting in one place and nibbling on junk all day long. Our bodies aren’t meant for that.
Yes, stretching and doing yoga at the end of the day is stress relieving and gives you a goodnight’s sleep, but what about the odd positions you keep yourself in all day? Despite all those workouts, why do you end up having acid reflex or hypertension? It’s better to take care of yourself throughout the day. Just stretching every hour or breathing right brings back the focus on yourself.
- Be Responsible about your own Health: Next time there is a health fair at your company, don’t rush to get your blood work done! No one is more responsible for your health than you are. Simple blood work is not proof that you are doing well enough to keep using the same excuses and the same habits you have had for years. You could still have a big belly and achy shoulders!
Just because the reports show you don’t have any major diseases doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take responsibility for all the small things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Trust me, there is no one pill to guarantee leading a healthy life. No matter how much insurance you pay for, you are the one who gets to handle pains and aches. So take charge! Do research on stretches that can help you. Google is just a few clicks away, and most likely you have a printer. Tack up printouts of yoga poses in front of you, and do them as many times a day as you can.
- Check for Common issues: When you enter an office for the first time, make sure to ask your colleagues what aches and pains they have when you introduce yourself. You will thank me later! In my experience of meeting new people in various corporate offices, federal as well as the private sector, each building has unique complaints.
In one building, everyone will have shoulder issues, probably due to poor design of the desks. In another building, many will have lower back issues due to bad chairs. Sometimes it’s just the energy of the building. Older buildings may contain molds. Address issues before they get out of hand. Ultimately, it’s your well-being that counts, not the number of zeroes that is seen on your paycheck.
- Breathe well: Many people start breathing shallowly because of their posture, tension, and stress. Find time to learn a few breathing techniques that will help in conserving energy and also keeping your oxygen levels high.
- Wear comfortable shoes: The corporate world has its own style and fashion, but that should not compromise your comfort. Instead of being in pain and needing a podiatrist later, take breaks by folding your legs up on the chair. This helps blood flow and keeps your knees supple. No one will notice if you are behind a desk!
- Be aware of what goes into your mouth: Yes, it’s hard work and everyone is busy with their own projects, but pack your lunch if you can. Remember: health is wealth. Needing a large soda or coffee at 3 pm is all superficial. Sip on warm healthy herbal tea instead! When reality hits, there is no escape from ill health, which could sneak in without you noticing.
- Let go of politics: In the end, all that matters is who had the most fun in life. Taking on extra projects and reaching another step toward that promotion for extra pay so you can increase your possessions is causing more space and void within you. Energy travels to people, and every thought you create is energy and karma.
Anger, frustration, comparisons, and competition are not included in fun of life! So learn to let go. Imagine how happy you will be when you don’t have to constantly check your capabilities or people-please. Enjoy work to fulfill your inner thirst for knowledge and joy, not just to increase your pay grade and status. Anytime your actions can possibly create instability in your mind or stress for others, that’s considered bad karma. Be aware of all that you say and do!