10 Benefits of Practicing Yoga at Work
March 2, 2017
We recently had our first GeekHive yoga class. I’m a certified yoga instructor and was asked if I would teach a class after work. Of course, I said yes! I want everyone to experience the benefits of yoga.
We had a mix of people try it out, runners, newbies, and yoga enthusiasts. My goal as the teacher was to find poses that everyone, at all levels would be able to do, and that counteract sitting at a desk all day. My intention was to make sure that attendees would feel the benefits of stretching out and lengthening all of the areas of their body that get constricted by sitting at a desk most of the day doing computer work. I also wanted to introduce simple shoulder and wrist stretches they could do at a wall or their desk anytime. I share 3 of these poses with you below.
We took time during the class to go through the mechanics of the poses so that everyone was doing things properly and the effects would benefit instead of hurt them. Always work with a certified instructor, especially in the beginning as you learn the poses, so you can practice safely.
How Workplace Yoga Differs from Studio Classes
There are many types of yoga, and each offers unique benefits. For this class, I took a Hatha Yoga approach. Because we sit all day and type away at a computer, the main areas we focused on stretching were the hips, hamstrings, psoas, shoulders and wrists. One of the attendees, Cory said it wasn’t the normal warrior flow sequence he was expecting, BUT, that next day, he told me he was sore (in a good way) all over from the stretching. He works out all the time and still managed to use muscles he doesn’t normally engage while stretching out muscles that were overtaxed from hockey and his kickboxing classes. It’s possible to get a great workout without doing “traditional” vinyasa flow.
We had a blast during the class. We focused and worked our way through the practice, but it was much more playful and filled with laughter than a traditional class. George, one of the participants said he really liked how we didn’t take it too seriously and he could laugh and ask questions. He wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that in a normal class where he didn’t know the instructor. That’s one of the many benefits of doing workplace yoga where you all know each other and can keep the groups small-ish to offer individual attention.
After the class, I received a request for small yoga breaks before morning stand up meetings from Tim who knows the myriad of benefits yoga can bring because his sister owns an amazing yoga studio in our area. 5 minutes of yoga before a stand up equals focused quality attention during the meeting. Taking the time to breathe and stretch can literally recalibrate everything.
So, what are the benefits of practicing yoga in the workplace?
10 Benefits of Yoga in the Workplace
- Reduce Stress: It’s no secret that work can be stressful, and yoga is the perfect antidote. Stress alone leads to changes in mood, poor performance, and anxiety. Looking for ways to reduce employee stress so they can be more productive, have more positive interactions with coworkers, and stay focused pays off for organizations.
- Increase Focus: By combining movement and breath, your yoga practice does not allow for a wandering mind. By being present “in the moment” you’ll learn to control your mind so you can focus on the task at hand. A vitally useful skill to have in a fast-paced workplace where multitasking is a way of life.
- Boost Immunity: Yoga activates your immune system, gets your blood flowing and stimulates your lymphatic system. Yoga also supports healthy bones through weight-bearing exercises. That’s a lot of health benefits that lead to less sick days and higher performance amongst employees.
- Improve Posture: Sitting all day wreaks havoc on your posture and the natural curves of the spine slowly start to reverse as you hunch over your computer desk (lucky for us we all have standing desks). A huge benefit of yoga is finding the natural curves of the spine by lengthening the sides of the waist, tilting the pelvis and broadening the back body. Yoga also stretches major muscles groups and increases joint mobility to prevent joint aches and stiffness.
- Increase Confidence: When you are confident in your body, it bleeds over to other areas of your life. Yoga increases body confidence by showing you just how strong and nimble you can be. The poses are designed to increase flexibility while building muscle strength and oftentimes cardiovascular health. Small changes lead to major results and soon your confidence in your body’s ability is skyrocketing.
- Boost Morale: Who doesn’t love having fun activities offered at work? Getting to try a yoga class for free, while bonding with your co-workers is a benefit that far exceeds the hour spent in the room together.
- Improve Digestion: Stress and anxiety, sitting all day and not moving around enough, mindlessly eating at your desk or on the fly, all cause digestive distress but many yoga postures aid in digestion. Stress reduction can decrease acidity, heartburn, and indigestion. Deep leg folds and twists can turn on your digestive fire, aid in detoxification, and wring out any toxins stored in the intestines. Once your digestion is back on track, you’ll be able to tune into those gut feelings in your second brain (the gut) to help aid you in making important decisions at work and in life.
- Increase Energy: Exercise has been proven to increase your energy. It’s easy to become sedentary when trying to balance out the demands of work and family life but it’s actually counter-productive. The less active you are, the quicker you fatigue and the less energy you’ll have to tackle everything. Taking the time to focus on yourself, even for a short period of time, is just the boost you need to tackle the rest of your day with vigor.
- Improve Breathing: Yoga supports you to bring awareness to your breathing. When you are not breathing fully, and shortening your breath, it depletes your energy and can make you feel light-headed and sluggish because your vital organs (think brain) are not getting the oxygen they need. Yoga teaches you how to breathe deeply and use your breath to relax or energize your system, as needed.
- Increase Flexibility: By increasing flexibility in your body, you also learn how to increase flexibility in other key areas of your life. Suddenly the things that you were feeling rigid about, are not as important anymore. Learning how to go with the flow helps to decrease stress and anxiety and helps you roll with the punches in an ever-changing work environment.
Learn about even more benefits of workplace yoga in this Gaia post.
What are three poses you can do right now, at your desk, to increase your energy and keep your body in alignment?
Check them out below:
3 Yoga Poses to try at your Desk
- Walk over to the nearest wall.
- With our outer hip facing the wall, place your palm on the wall, arm fully extended, and walk your hand back 1-2 handprints.
- Take your opposite hand to your extended shoulder and move your shoulder up and back to plug your shoulder into your back.
- Slide your hand down to your ribs (closest to the wall) and lift your ribs up and towards the center of your body, turning your body open towards the center of the room at a diagonal, toes shift to a diagonal.
- Make sure your entire palm is on the wall and, if possible, walk your hand back a little more on the wall to increase the stretch.
- Switch sides and repeat.
- Sit in your chair, with your feet hips-width distance apart and your legs at 90 degrees.
- Press your hands into your thighs, lengthen through the sides of the waist and shift forward to come to sit at the front of your sitting bones.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Fold your torso over your legs, hollowing your belly and bringing your chest to the front of your shin, arms hanging forward over your legs.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
- Look forward, heavy your tailbone to come to sit upright.
- Release your right foot down to the floor.
- Switch sides and repeat.
- Interlace your fingers and flip your palms down and away from you, extending your arms out long in front of you, shoulder height.
- Round your back and move your chin towards your chest.
- Hold for 5 breathes then bring your arms up overhead, reaching your interlaced palms up toward the ceiling.
- Look up towards your hands and lengthen through the sides of your waist knitting your front ribs in.
- Hold for 5 breathes then bring your interlaced fingers under your chin, palms facing up.
- Draw your elbows down and towards each other to increase your forearm and wrist stretch. Hold for 5 breaths.
- Release and change the interlacing, repeat.
- Release and shake out your hands and wrists.
Incorporating yoga poses into your day will boost your energy, increase your ability to focus, and keep your body strong and flexible. Try working just 5 minutes of yoga into your work day and see if you notice the difference for yourself!
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