Five Yoga-Inspired Stretches for Desk Dwellers to do Right NOW!

Looking for a relief from your 9-5? Try these moves to stretch out every part of your body that tenses up during the work day.

You roll out of bed in the morning, chug a cup of coffee, make your way to work, sit down at your desk and lock in for an 8+ hour work day. Sound familiar? We’ve been there. When you have so much to get done in a day, it’s easy to get lost in the motions. Your needs become an afterthought because you already have so much on your plate.

But the fact of the matter is this, and it’s simple: you will feel better, and therefore perform better, if you prioritize your own well-being.

Sitting at a desk all day means our muscles are essentially deactivated, which can wreak havoc on your hips, back, shoulders and neck, weakening them over time. We know that moving your body is essential to living a healthier life, but who’s got the time when you have to respond to that email, sit through that meeting, hit that deadline, etc.?

YOU have got the time! Yep, it’s true. We’ve put together this list of accessible stretches that you can do WHILE you respond to emails and DURING your team meetings.

Let’s start from the ground and work our way up.

Seated Pigeon

The hips are the biggest joint in the body. While sedentary, the hips are forced into one position, and one position only. This can affect not just the hips but also your low back and your legs. It’s important to keep the hips loose to stimulate blood flow through these areas.

You may even practice this stretch without knowing, but it’s important to do it on both sides of your body. Cross your ankle over the opposite knee, so your legs will make somewhat of a “4” shape. Keep your elevated foot flexed (this will protect the knee), and feel for reaching the elevated knee out to the side, and externally rotating the elevated thigh. You can even do this manually, by using your fingertips to rotate the thigh outwards. Take a deep inhale, and on your exhale, slowly lean forward with a straight spine. Take another deep inhale, and fold forward again on your exhale. Find your max, and hold for at least three deep breaths.

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Seated Twist

The spine is what holds it all together - it keeps you upright, and protects all of the functions of the body. Twisting is not only good for spinal health, but it also benefits your hips, shoulders and all surrounding muscles and tissue. If you can keep your spine from getting stiff, then you too will be more mobile.

Sitting with feet firmly planted and back straight, bring the back of one hand to the outside of the opposite knee. Take an inhale to lift the crown of your head up a little higher, and an exhale to twist to the right or left, towards the hand you brought across your body. It’s important to keep the hips square as you twist from the upper body, the shoulders. Inhale again, and as you exhale, feel for moving back the shoulder you are twisting towards. Hold for at least three deep breaths.

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Eagle Arms

It’s easy to overlook how tight your shoulders get from sitting hunched over at a desk all day. In fact, over time, the shoulders can round more and more forward simply from not noticing something like our posture! Use this pose to stretch the tops of the shoulders and increase mobility in the shoulders.

Bring your arms up overhead, and then bend at the elbows so your arms make a “goal post” or “cactus” shape. Cross one elbow under the other, so that the backs of your forearms and backs of the hands touch. Stay here, or double bind and bring the palms together, fingers face straight up. Wherever you are, inhale to squeeze the elbows together and exhale to push them forward, away from you. Hold for at least three deep breaths.

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Neck Stretch

We hold short-term stress in our necks and shoulders. So when you feel the pressure of that deadline, your shoulders can bunch up and tense up the muscles in your neck.

Relieve that in as little as a minute, by extending one arm at a downward-diagonal angle, pointing fingers to the spot where the wall meets the floor. Bring the opposite hand to the top of the head, take a deep inhale, and exhale to slowly lower the opposite ear down to the shoulder, so you are lengthening the side of the neck that your arm is extending from. Take at least three deep breaths.

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Pericardium Stretch

The secret weapon! The pericardium lining goes through the front of your chest, so this stretch can literally stretch your chest and your heart. In moments of stress and anxiety, it increases blood flow and oxygen to the heart and can help you calm down.

With a straight spine and feet planted, extend arms out to the side, parallel to the floor. Strongly flex fingertips up to the ceiling and spread them wide. From there, take a deep breath into your chest, and a strong exhale, imagining the exhale going out both sides of your chest, out of both palms. Hold the arms and hands in place as if you are keeping two walls from caving in on you. Take at least three deep breaths.

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You can do these stretches at any point during the day, for as long as you’d like. Just do them! And then take some time to notice how you feel before, during and after the work day. Let us know what you think about these in the comments, on Instagram or Facebook.






Don't Just Spend Your Time - Honor It! How to Make the Most of Your Most Valuable Resource

In our last post, we discussed how to stay mindful in an age of distraction. It’s easy to get lost in the motions of life, between our daily obligations, staying current with news and social media, needing time to socialize and more.

One way to stop the motions is to adopt practices that honor your time, not ones that just pass the time. Life is not meant to just pass us by, but that often happens without us even realizing it.

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From the moment we wake up, we begin to anticipate what’s coming up that day. Once we begin to push through our day, we are trying to get to dinner plans that night. Once that is over, we head home, and numb our minds with television and technology. We fall asleep, wake up, and do it all over again. We are always living for the next moment, always hoping for something that hasn’t happened yet.

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now. Your life is only ever now.” - Eckhart Tolle

How can we slow things down? How can we maximize our time so we can get the most out of our lives in every moment?

Accept Where You Are Right Now
We can become consumed in the thoughts of, “When I do this, or accomplish that, then I will be happy.” When we get that promotion, move to this city, find a partner, lose ten pounds, is when we feel our life can truly begin! But life is happening right now, and when our minds are focused on what we need in the future, we miss out on what can be done in the present.

... but know it’s not forever, and don’t settle
Where we are right now is not necessarily where we will be in six months, two weeks, or even an hour. The only constant is change. If we do want that promotion or that healthy lifestyle, we need to start with what we have. You receive a promotion for working hard and working effectively, so, start doing that right now. You can live a healthy lifestyle by nourishing your body and your mind, so, start doing that right now. When we think about big and lofty goals, we tend to overcomplicate the present. Just begin.

Stop Doing Things You Hate
There is a lot of power in saying no. If you don’t want to go to that birthday party, take on a new project, or collaborate with a colleague, I’ll tell you a little secret - you don’t have to! It’s natural to want to be polite and please everyone, but being a people pleaser in the moment can lead to suffering later on.

Allow yourself to politely decline any offers that won’t contribute to your overall well-being, and use that time instead to focus on yourself. Make productive, positive habits that will really pay off in the long run. Take the time to get organized and set intentions. The possibilities are endless, and the power to choose is YOURS!

Connect By Disconnecting.
At Work From Om®, we believe in the the value of connecting to what matters, and disconnecting when needed. We have endless options to occupy our brains -- social media, a 24/7 news cycle, “Netflix and chill” -- you get it. But when we emphasize taking the time to connect, we don’t mean by commenting on your acquaintance from high school’s engagement announcement. We mean in the present moment, with the people and places right in front of you. Put your phone away during a family meal, turn off the television on a weekend afternoon, or designate certain hours for social media and checking emails. Disconnect from the world inside developing technology and connect to the world all around you.

Meditate and Move.
It’s also important to take the time to connect to the world within you. Meditating is a vital practice that can help you cultivate a sense of stillness and ease in your everyday life. Sit and focus on your breath for just one minute every day, eventually moving up to five minutes, ten minutes, and so on. As you continue to practice and build your meditation muscles, you’ll see you can act more mindfully as you live each day.

So, we sit still for the well-being of our minds, but we move for our bodies. We know that regular exercise can aid in increased energy levels and weight loss, but it can also reduce your risk of disease by stimulating blood flow, and strengthen your organs like the heart and lungs. Regular movement is just as important for a healthy body as it is for a healthy mind. So instead of sitting idle, mindlessly watching television to pass the time, get out there and move!

If you'd like to learn more ways to honor your time in every moment, let's work together. Check out our Intro to Mindfulness and Breathing Meditation workshop, and get in touch!

 

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

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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?”

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.