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.
Stress Management Talk & Guided Meditation
Did you know that the average person has 25,000-50,000 thoughts per day?! We didn’t either, until Urban Monk Pandit Dasa dropped some serious knowledge about how our minds work and what effect that has on our mental and physical well-being. If you live in New York, your brain is probably cluttered at the high-end of that 50K mark, if not above it. So how does one manage all of that stress on the mind?
According to the American Psychology Association, smoking, drinking, comfort eating and inactivity are the most popular tactics that people use to deal with stress. We don’t have to tell you that these very temporary fixes are unhealthy, but did you know that there are direct links between physical health and stress? (e.g., stress can cause tense shoulders, headaches, digestion problems, etc.) Instead, consider these stress-management solutions that Pandit presents in his Stress Management seminars:
Yoga and Exercise: We all know the benefits associated with regular exercise and physical activity, but as busy New Yorkers, we also may find ourselves reprioritizing and pushing exercise aside to handle all of the other tasks at hand. Truthfully, it’s when you think that you have no free time to exercise that your body probably needs it most. Too few of us indulge in positive solutions to our mental stress like exercise or yoga, and instead we seek quick fixes (smoking, drinking, comfort eating, etc.). Unfortunately, these quick fixes to relieve mental stress can cause unnecessary physical stress to our body, and one of the most effective ways of relieving this can be regular physical activity.
A Good Night’s Rest: It’s 12 am and you’re still sitting by your desk crunching numbers, typing reports, watching Netflix (by the way - binging on late night TV can be as much of an addiction as anything else!), etc. You wake up the next morning and you feel horrible, you have a short-fuse around your colleagues and you don’t know why the day feels so threatening. The most likely culprit is lack of sleep - so stop crunching numbers and start counting sheep! There will always be the occasional quick-turnaround deadlines that might prevent a perfect night’s rest every so often, but try to be conscious of it when it happens and put yourself to bed earlier the next night to catch up. Pandit suggests that before going to bed, put your smart devices in another room and become totally disconnected so that the little red dot does not distract us from a good night’s rest. (Yes, this may mean going back to a traditional alarm clock or finding another way to wake yourself in the morning!)
- Personal Hobbies: If you’re anything like us, you probably over-book yourself. You make commitments for work, family, friends. You make commitments for events that sometimes you’d rather skip out on altogether (but we you’ll still go to your coworker’s birthday party anyway because you’re a good friend). In the midst of all these commitments we tend to forget about the commitment to ourselves and our own well being. So take the time to do the things that you love and that make you feel good. Carving out a little time for this on a recurring basis can do wonders for the level of contentment you feel in your own life, which will pervade other aspects of your day-to-day existence as well as your relationships.
- A Healthy Diet: Pandit pointed out that certain foods and beverages are not only unhealthy for our bodies, but contribute to stress on our minds by way of their very effects on our bodies. For example, research suggests that red meat can cause colorectal cancer and other health problems (doesn’t that sound stressful?!), while people with diets rich in plant foods are at a lower risk of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. And we know this is a tough one to swallow, but a Duke Medicine study concluded that “caffeine taken in the morning has effects on the body that can persist until bedtime and amplifies stress consistently throughout the day.”
If all of this sleep, diet, exercise, and extracurricular activity sounds like too much to take on - well, don’t stress (see what we did there?)! Pandit encourages starting small and slow. Take baby steps and celebrate every tiny victory along the way.
After the Stress Management discussion, Pandit guided the room into a meditation focused on awareness of the breath and the conscious relaxation of the body and mind. It’s a rare treat to see a room full of busy professionals seated comfortably, eyes closed, in mental and physical stillness, all coming together to a place of mental sharpness and cool calmness that resets the energy in the room from just-off-the-subway frantic to almost ethereal. This just scratches the surface of what meditation can do, as Pandit so artfully demonstrated.
Mindful Movement Yoga Exercises & Demos for Office Stress Relief and Overall Workplace Wellness
The second part of the workshop was led by none other than our amazing co-founder Ashley!
Ashley took advantage of the room full of awareness that Pandit helped attendees cultivate through his guided meditation, and brought our professional OMies right into a standing 15-minute yoga asana sequence. Once everyone was sufficiently stretched out, team Work From Om switched gears and led demonstrations (with the help of a very open-minded attendee in the audience) of several yoga poses that can be done deskside to help relieve stress, combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and promote overall physical and mental wellness.
Try these 3 simple poses from our workshop!
Standing Pigeon Pose: This pose is a great hip opener and helps reduce lower back pain and stiffness. To give it a try, first stand up and bring either your left or right knee toward your chest. Go ahead, give it a quick hug into your body if you’d like! Next, place your shin onto the desk or chair (if the chair height is high enough), parallel to the edge. Take a gentle forward bend with your waist over your leg, keeping the spine as long as possible while you lower down. To avoid any stress on the knee, make sure to flex the foot of the lifted leg. Repeat on the other side!
Chin Tuck: This simple pose aims to fight back against the detested text neck! If you own a smartphone or work at a computer, chances are that you’re likely spending a few hours per day with your head down typing away on your laptop or phone. This can create serious problems with the curvature of the cervical (neck) spine over time and with repetition, as well as the more immediate side effects of shoulder and neck soreness and the dreaded headache or migraine. This chin tuck exercise can help relieve all the added weight we bear on our necks by glaring down at our screens for hours per day. To perform the tuck, keep your chin aligned parallel to the floor with your head in neutral position (center of the ears over center of the shoulders), and gently begin to pull your chin in and glide your head back in space. Yes, you may experience a temporary double chin sensation, but a brief double chin is better than long-term damage to your neck spine! Make sure that as you push your chin back you are not pushing it down toward your chest. Hold for 3 - 5 seconds and repeat!
Standing Chair Twist: This pose increases the flexibility of the spine and back, along with stretching the shoulders. It’s excellent for relieving stiffness of the neck, shoulders and upper back, while also bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to your abdominal organs and aiding in digestion. To perform the pose, start by standing and facing your chair from the side, with the backrest of your chair to the right of you. Place your right foot onto the chair creating close to a 90 degree angle at the knee. As you inhale root the left foot firmly down into the floor and engage your abdomen by firming the belly button in and up. As you exhale twist toward the right side and place your right hand on your hip and left hand on the back of the chair.Take your next inhale to lengthen the spine (lifting from the crown of the head) and as you exhale twist deeper! Don’t forget to switch sides!
You must be thinking, “All this information! Bet it was a long night!” The truth is that the night was not nearly long enough. We so enjoyed getting to meet and talk with like-minded corporate professionals that we could have stayed and chatted for hours more. We're already planning the next one! All suggestions are welcome - what do you guys want to see at our next event? Drop us a line and let us know!