How Meditation Benefits the Working Brain

The workplace is more stressful than ever. With modern technology, employees rarely have a time in their day when they are completely removed from work responsibilities. A competitive job market encourages employees to work harder and longer, take on larger workloads than ever before. These added workplace pressures lead to stress and anxiety that affect how individuals make decisions and perform tasks both in and out of the office.

 

Many companies, both large and small, have been working hard to implement in-office programs that help employees to deal with stress, anxiety and workplace pressures. In addition to cultivating positive work environments, many employers have experience huge workplace improvements thanks to meditation programs. Some offices offer meditation spaces while others offer guided sessions that help introduce mindful practices into employees lives during the workday. The most common practice in the workplace is Mindfulness Meditation, which is a practice that brings the mind’s focus to the body and the breathing in order to help improve concentration and promote open awareness of thoughts and feelings. But the effects extend beyond the moment of practice and into all decisions made throughout the day from what to eat, how to perform tasks at work and how to spend free time.

 

So how exactly does Mindfulness Meditation affect the working brain and workplace performance? When we take time during the workday to stop working and focus on the present, it helps to create a stronger control of the mind’s function and productivity. By controlling senses and breathing, it’s easier to let go of thoughts and feelings of the past and future and train the brain to focus on what is happening in the present moment. By giving the brain a single-task workout, we learn how to stay focused on one task at a time instead of multi-tasking and attempting to complete 10 assignments at once. Training the mind to focus is undoubtedly beneficial to productivity when studies show that the average attention span is now 8 seconds thanks to the fast moving, technology obsessed society we live in. So not only does employee performance improve, but studies have shown that a regular meditation practice reduces stress and anxiety in the brain.

 

Aside from reduced stress and improved productivity, there are many other benefits that come from a corporate meditation program. A regular meditation practice helps to open creative doorways in the brain. With increased focus, problem-solving skills get more creative and new ideas enter the mind more freely. Many people believe that Steve Jobs was so successful in coming up with new and innovative ideas for Apple thanks to a regular meditation practice. As someone who maintained a regular meditation practice and was one of the first corporate leaders to implement in-office mindfulness programs, it’s no doubt that some of Apple’s success is due to his disciplined mental focus and control. 

 

Meditation benefits have also been proven to help resolve workplace conflicts. Mindfulness practices equip employees with better conflict management and interpersonal skills that make resolving issues easier for employees and managers alike. How does this work? Brain scans of meditators versus non-meditators shows that mindfulness meditation helps to trigger the relaxation response, the opposite of fight or flight. The relaxation response can be accessed during times of conflict or stress in order to solve rationally instead of reacting emotionally with the fight or flight response. Employees with meditation practices are aware of their immediate reactions and can more easily step away from a situation in order to make the best decision about how to solve an issue. By improving emotional intelligence and promoting the importance of listening to co-workers and peers, a mindfulness meditation practice can decrease the number of conflicts that arise in the workplace. 

 

Lastly, one of the greatest benefits of a workplace meditation program is the improved overall happiness of employees. With “employee happiness” being one of the biggest buzz works of 2016, it’s important to explore different ways to promote happiness that aren’t related to office kegerators or the mysterious unlimited vacation day policy. A regular meditation practice helps to improve overall happiness, self-awareness and patience. Big corporations like AOL and McKinsey & Co. have experienced increased sales performance, proving that what’s good for the mind and spirit is good for the company’s bottom line. In addition to sales departments benefitting from meditation programs, employees in customer-facing roles who meditate are more inclined to take a timeout when dealing with a difficult or frustrating situation. This is the relaxation versus fight or flight response in action!

 

With proven success in the workplace and studies that show how meditation changes how the brain processes information to better manage stress and anxiety, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are jumping on the workplace meditation trend. Whether that’s a space for mindful activities or guided meditation sessions, companies that offer these programs in-office experience improved productivity, higher attendance and increased employee happiness. It’s no surprise that workplaces looking to reduce stress and improve the lives of their employees are including mindfulness meditation to their wellness offerings. After all, a happy and calm employee is your best employee!

 

 

Interested in setting up a guided Mindfulness Meditation session in your office? Work From Om offers in-office meditation and yoga sessions for workplaces in New York City. 

5 Companies Crushing The Wellness Game

workplace wellness

Thanks to a growing yoga industry, holistic health obsessions and hundreds of trending articles circulating the internet about living your healthiest life in mind and body, “wellness” is one of the biggest buzzwords of 2016. But meditation advocates and organic farmers aren’t the only ones jumping on the wellness train; companies have begun to mix up their health program offerings to stay up to date on these changes.

So why do companies have a vested interest in workplace wellness? The obvious answer is that they care if their employees are healthy. The other reasons are based on facts proven by successful wellness programs. Companies that have more robust wellness offerings experience lower employee absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs. By offering yoga or group fitness classes, you will not only see an improvement in overall employee health but increased engagement and productivity during work hours.

Obviously some companies have caught on sooner than others. Some organizations are knocking the wellness game out of the park with unique and plentiful offerings to keep employees fit, healthy and productive at work. Check out these five companies who are ahead of the workplace wellness game:

  • Greatist — This wellness publication sure knows how to practice what they preach by treating their employees right. From monthly team sweats to weekly yoga and a fitness stipend, every Greatist employee is sure to keep their body healthy and happy. That way, they know how to write about wellness and set an example for the rest of the world.
  • FitBit — By creating custom programs for tons of other organizations, FitBit has figured out how competitions and gamification can improve employee overall health and ultimately lower company health costs. It’s no surprise that this 9 year old fitness company has fitness and wellness incentives for their employees. Their “Workout Wednesdays” give employees the chance to participate in various workouts throughout the day and you guessed it, they also have step challenges running throughout the year with seriously awesome rewards for winners.
  • Google — No one’s surprised to see this tech giant here. Google is known for being an amazing employer and offering the most sought after employee perks. They surely encompass wellness initiatives such as on-campus fitness classes and gyms, massage stipends and most importantly, free and healthy food options all day every day!
  • General Electric — This age-old corporation might be older than your grandma, but they sure know how to stay up to date with wellness offerings. Besides offering a stellar health coach program and employee and family health counseling, they use social media to create a buzz around their #GetFit competition which has reached over 25 million participants per year.
  • Sprinklr — This NYC-based startup offers a top notch insurance options in addition to gym membership discounts. But why stop there? Sprinklr also offers in-office yoga with a Work From Om teacher on a regular basis. Plus, who wouldn’t want to join a company who calls their employees “Sprinklrites?”

Why Sweatworking Is Replacing Networking

The new age of networking is here and it's covered in a thin layer of sweat.

 

Sick of having to choose between after work networking events and your evening workout? Fret no more fitness-focused professionals, because the age of sweatworking is here and it’s awesome! Meeting new people, forming new connections and keeping your body fit and healthy has never been easier to do all at once. Sweatworking is a term being used to describe networking events that include group workouts, team building exercises and healthy snacks or drinks. Whether your team is sweating through a cardio session or breathing together in a yoga class, sweatworking is beginning to replace traditional networking events.

 

Thanks to the sweatworking trend, gyms and fitness studios are seeing increased bookings. Many gyms, such as Equinox, have even begun to create classes specifically tailored to companies hosting sweatworking events. Some programs include challenges that employees can participate in over time while others are team building exercises built into a fitness class. Work From Om® is bringing mindful sweatworking programs directly to the office by offering on-site yoga and meditation sessions that help companies create more productive employees through breath awareness and mindful movement.

 

So, why sweatworking? What sort of benefits do these programs offer that traditional networking events fall short on? Some companies have begun using Sweatworking as a recruiting tool. When you put potential employees through a rigorous workout or team building exercise, their efforts can often reflect work ethic, willpower and determination. For current employees, sweatworking is a great way to build employees up by putting them through challenging experiences together and getting through it as a group. When you experience this sort of heightened excitement and satisfaction, you’re more likely to form closer and more positive relationships with those you experience it with. And let’s face it, it’s hard to deny the endorphins you get after an intense workout!

 

Most importantly, any healthy or mindful activities in the office are great for overall company health. When you encourage employees to stay active, they tend to lead healthier lifestyles. When you offer a group cardio or yoga class instead of drinking and eating events, employees begin to see positive results in their physical appearance, self confidence and general well being. Ultimately, this can lower healthcare costs for a company and create a more positive work environment with healthy, empowered employees. A happy workplace is filled with employees eager to sweat together at work events rather than nursing a hangover from the networking drink-up.

Not at a company that offers yoga classes or team workouts in the office? Work From Om® has teamed up with The Projective Space on the Lower East Side to bring yoga and networking events to NYC professionals every Tuesday evening. Start with an hour of vinyasa followed by complimentary drinks and networking in the downtown co-working space. Check out the Event Calendar for details on this weekly sweatworking event! 

 

Work From Om® Teams Up With Projective Space LES for Sunet Yoga + Open Bar Sweatworking

Big news! We've teamed up with Projective Space, an incredible membership community for growing startups, entrepreneurs and creative professionals, to provide ongoing sweatworking opportunities at their amazing Lower East Side space. We're calling it OMWork at Projective and you're invited!

Click here to grab your ticket for sunset yoga + open bar networking on July 19th at 6:30pm.

Join us for sunset yoga followed by a specialty cocktail open bar for an uplifting workout and social hour with some of the New York's brightest innovators. Grab a ticket for this week's OMWork at Projective event via Eventbrite and make sure to follow Projective Space and Work From Om® to stay up to date on future yoga and meditation events.  

Some highlights from the last one to get you in the spirit:

An hour of live DJ yoga began the evening as a full house of guests moved together on their mats at Projective Space on the Lower East Side. Following class, the group turned up the tempo and the energy with an open bar and networking happy hour. The “OMWork Gin-Coco”, featuring Tanqueray gin and Zico coconut water was poured all evening as the group drank, danced and made new connections.

 

 

Follow Work From Om® on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on all of our events!

 

 

This Is Your Brain and Body on Yoga and Meditation: 4 Powerful Scientific Findings

By Sarah Vaynerman
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post

The many benefits of yoga, a 5,000-year-old discipline, are finally getting support from modern science.

If you've ever taken a vinyasa class or spent time meditating, you may be familiar with the even-keeled buzz often referred to in the yoga world as "yoga bliss" or "yoga high." As it turns out, several recent studies support that this feeling of mind-body nirvana is not just a fleeting sentiment, but rather an indication of some very real physical responses that could lead to better health, reduced stress and increased productivity.

Yoga gets on your nerves, in the best way

The human body is an incredible, interconnected web of life, but one key player doesn't get nearly enough credit. Many people are entirely unaware of the vagus nerve, which extends from the base of the brain and branches out through the neck, chest and abdomen. It is essentially the command center for regulating the homeostasis of many vital organ systems including the heart, lungs and digestive tract. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine presented evidence that yoga helps to regulate vagal tone, or the homeostasis of these systems, by stimulating and increasing the activity of stress-blocking neurotransmitters.

Mindfulness meditation can literally change your brain

A team of Harvard researchers compared MRIs of meditators to non-meditators before and after an eight-week course in mindfulness-based stress reduction, where participants practiced meditation on average for 27 minutes a day. Meditators showed a significant increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory, and a decrease in gray matter in the amygdala, which is associated with anxiety and stress. The non-meditating control group showed none of these changes in brain structure.

A few deep breaths really do go a long way.

 A study published in 2013 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that participants showed a significant reduction in blood pressure following 10 minutes of alternate nostril breathing and 10 minutes of breath awareness compared to a control group. The study concluded that alternate nostril breathing is associated with improved focus and attention while keeping anxiety levels low. This is significant because tasks requiring focus and attention are usually associated with stimulating the nervous system -- a response that can be dangerous for those with conditions such as hypertension and high stress levels.

Not all exercise is created equal

Think yoga is just one way to get the benefits of any aerobic workout? Think again. A University of Illinois study concluded that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga improved participants' ability to maintain focus and take in, retain and use new information significantly more so than after 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. In fact, participants showed no significant improvements on working memory and inhibitory control scores after activities like jogging, while reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks following yoga increased.

How To Slow Down Time: Meditation And The Theory Of Relativity

By Sarah Vaynerman
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post

If asked what meaningful accomplishment one could achieve in just 10 minutes, most of us would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Ten minutes is nothing! But ask the average person to sit quietly and focus only on mindful breathing meditation for those same ten minutes and be prepared to be met with an incredulous scowl and an unwillingness to participate. Ten minutes, in the latter scenario, may as well be a lifetime. It's all relative.

Meditation can be scary. In an age where the demand for our attention is greater than ever - Psychology Today estimates that the average person has 25,000-50,000 thoughts per day -- the idea of sitting alone with one's thoughts can be understandably daunting. We're used to being at the beck and call of our smartphones, each notification supplying a very real hit of dopamine that validates our desire to be needed, liked, or even just noticed by the outside world. What most people fail to realize is that we've created a vicious cycle of false and unsustainable gratification.

Next time you sit down to meditate, think of it this way: You're giving yourself the gift of time and attention, indeed a commodity that becomes scarcer every day. Sure, meditation can make 60 seconds feel like an hour, but as human beings we have the power to choose whether that seemingly endless minute is ridden with debilitating anxiety or a blissful calm. We all have a choice, in any moment, to tune into our best self.

Try it right now by following these instructions: Close your eyes and take a deep breath for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of eight. As you inhale, really feel the cool air flowing in through your nose. Visualize the flow of oxygen through your respiratory system, traveling to all of the nooks and crannies of your body. As you exhale, imagine all of the stress you've been holding float away with your out-breath. Repeat five times. You've just activated your parasympathetic nervous system (ie your relaxation response) and all it took was one minute.

Congratulations! You just meditated. Didn't it feel nice?

I have great news for you -- that gift of serenity that you just gave yourself is available in infinite abundance and is instantly accessible anytime, anywhere. And if that minute of calm felt like much longer, you've just made the theory of relativity work in your favor, effectively enabling yourself to slow down your own perception of time and experience it at its best. In other words, you're learning how to manipulate the very concept of time (#mindblown) using breath-based meditation.

So next time you're feeling one of the many natural but unpleasant emotions that human beings face every day, just close your eyes, focus on your breath and give yourself a minute of relaxation that feels like an hour.

 

Stress Management Techniques & Meditation with NYC's "Urban Monk", Yoga for the Office With Certified Corporate Yoga Teachers!

Stress Management Techniques & Meditation with NYC's "Urban Monk", Yoga for the Office With Certified Corporate Yoga Teachers!

Picture this: it’s Monday evening and you’re in a packed room filled with NYC’s busiest professionals - in quiet meditation. Sounds impossible, right? Wrong! Nothing is impossible. Indeed, this was exactly the scene we set at last week’s Stress Management, Yoga and Meditation Workshop at OFFSITE, our preferred venue partner for corporate events.

On May 4th we held our first open-to-the-public event with Pandit Dasa, Work From Om® Urban Monk-in-Residence who spent more than fifteen years as an East Village monk, studying and applying wellness and meditation techniques and helping countless New Yorkers cope with stress. In this two-part event, attendees were engaged in Pandit’s Stress Management Talk & Guided Meditation, followed by a Mindful Movement asana sequence and demos led by our co-founder and certified yoga teacher Ashley Mancuso.

Here’s a summary of the takeaways for those of you who weren’t able to make it (don’t worry - more events are on the horizon!), and a refresher for those of you who were.

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4 Yoga Props You Can Keep Under Your Desk and Use at the Office (NYC, we're talkin' to you!)

4 Yoga Props You Can Keep Under Your Desk and Use at the Office (NYC, we're talkin' to you!)

No time for yoga? Nonsense! That excuse is as tired as your lower back after a day of crunching numbers at the office. In fact, you may be surprised at how much mind-body work you can fit in between your emails, calls, meetings, and coffee runs. Every moment offers an opportunity to check in with the body and the breath, and with these handy props it’s never been easier to make yourself at om right at the office.

Check out the 4 yoga props that you can keep under your desk - without losing precious legroom!

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Stress Management and Running From Tigers

Stress Management and Running From Tigers

Office-dwellers of New York City, I have a some questions for you. Just to humor me, please read them over and make a mental selection of your answers. Here we go:

  • What is more frightening: running from a tiger or making a presentation in front of co-workers / clients?

  • What is more intimidating: battling a predator for food or clamoring against another commuter for the last seat on a rush-hour subway car?

  • What requires more focus: escaping a fire or escaping a last-minute Friday 5pm assignment?

The choices seem obvious, right? Well... not quite, at least from a physical standpoint. Believe it or not, since all of these scenarios are stress-worthy by today’s standards, you’re likely to experience a pounding heart, sweaty brow, hands that get cold and clammy, and tense muscles as much from fighting for that rush-hour subway seat as you are from running from a tiger (albeit maybe not to the exact same intensity).

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Tiny victories and the power of experiencing achievement - in life, at work and on your yoga mat

Tiny victories and the power of experiencing achievement - in life, at work and on your yoga mat

You’re here! Congratulations! Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. If you’re thinking, “Uh, thanks, Sarah, but I haven’t really done anything deserving of self-celebration,” I would beg to differ. You could be watching a cat video. You could be scrutinizing your ex’s new haircut on Facebook. Instead, you’re walking the path of happy, healthy, high-functioning human beings and making the choice to indulge in content that could actually improve your day-to-day life. Well done! I’m not patronizing you here - the power of tiny victories is real and well-documented (though not discussed or promoted nearly enough in a society that puts tremendous value on large leaps and big wins) and applies at both the personal and organization levels.

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Work From Om Welcomes an Urban Monk!

Work From Om Welcomes an Urban Monk!

It’s not every day that you have the pleasure of sitting down with a true monastic (over some delicious, home-prepared vegan treats), to discuss shared beliefs and ways to bring those beliefs into the mainstream of New York City office-dwellers. But that’s precisely what we have had the fortune of doing in the last few weeks with the newest member of team Work From Om®, Gadadhara Pandit Dasa. It is with full hearts and overflowing excitement that we welcome Pandit’s expertise in the fields of meditation, stress management and conscious leadership. We are honored to have Pandit on board as we rollout premium Work From Om® Mindful Business Workshops in the lineup of our current offerings.

Pandit spent 15 years as a practicing monk and maintains 20 years of experience with the science of meditation. He has gone on to lead workshops at Google, Bank of America, Intel and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. He has also led lectures at esteemed institutes of higher learning such as Harvard University, Columbia University, Duke University, Princeton University, University of Southern California and Illinois State University.

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Sit smarter with these yoga-inspired tips for office workers and business travlers

Sit smarter with these yoga-inspired tips for office workers and business travlers

This last week has been a blur of airports and cities, cars, buses, metros, etc. Not to be misunderstood, I do sincerely love to travel, but there is no denying that it can be an incredibly grueling, exhausting process on both the physical and mental bodies. The hours spent sitting on planes, trains and in cars alone are enough to cause some damage that even the busiest tourist or traveling business person cannot simply walk off.

You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking, or you may have taken notice of the recent surge in demand for standing desks in progressive offices across the country, but the unfortunate truth is that many of us do not yet have access to these desks, or spend much of our work lives traveling, and cannot avoid the act of sitting entirely.

With this unavoidable health risk facing us as we work and travel, how can we limit the repercussions of a highly sedentary lifestyle? I’ve copied some of the best nuggets of advice that I’ve collected in the following infographic, explained in more detail below it.

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Committing to Happiness with an Attitude of Gratitude

Committing to Happiness with an Attitude of Gratitude

t’s 6pm on a bitter cold Friday night in the middle of a New York City winter. Under any other circumstances, I might not abandon the comfort of my apartment and the warming aura of my space heater, but this Friday night is different. I am scrambling with excitement to catch the next 6 train departing Grand Central, headed to an event at the 92nd Street Y called “Crazy Sexy Miracles” hosted by Gabrielle Bernstein and Kris Carr.

Fast forward one long, reflective week and a half later: I’m still stuck on one phrase that Gabrielle mentioned toward the end of her lecture. She remarked, quite simply, that choosing to commit to joy drastically increases your chance of success. Looking at it now, typed out in plain text, the statement doesn't appear too radical. But in practice, how many of us consciously choose to commit to joy? How many of us wake up every day with the intention to behave in a way that elevates our level of happiness?

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Work From Om - A Word From Our Founders

Work From Om - A Word From Our Founders

It’s official: yoga has reached the tipping point. Long viewed as a light form of exercise for new age hippies, the mainstream has come to embrace the teachings of the 5,000 year-old practice as a powerful tool for self-improvement, overall health and general well-being. Unlike many health and fitness fads that have come and gone over the years, however, it’s not just fitness enthusiasts, celebrities and media personalities that are getting on board the zen train. The corporate world has taken notice of the positive effects that yoga, meditation and a mindful approach to business have proven to have on employees and, in turn, the bottom line.

Study after study has found that these practices reduce stress, improve focus, build camaraderie and contribute to a higher functioning workplace, and our New York City startup is aiming to lead the revolution. Allow us to introduce ourselves: we go by Work From Om, but our goals and intentions are set by myself, Ashley Mancuso, and co-founder Sarah Vaynerman. We’re two certified and passionate yoga teachers here to serve the souls of professionals working in one of America’s most stressed-out cities by providing yoga, meditation and mindfulness training for the workplace.

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