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.






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?”

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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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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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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