Workplace Wellness: Increase Energy and Focus with Simple Yoga and Meditation

By: Renee Manning

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The practices of yoga and meditation have long been championed by medical and holistic communities all over the world as proven methods for improving focus, reducing stress and building strength. You don’t have to go to a yoga class to reap the benefits. By introducing some simple stretches and meditation into your day, you can begin 2018 with an infusion of energy and strength.

Our breath is the most useful tool that we always have at our disposal. Use it when you want to help settle your nerves or quiet your mind; reflections and insights rarely happen when we have a million thoughts zooming around in our heads. Purposeful breathing and counting inhales/exhales will help you and calm the mind.

[Related: Five Ways To Prioritize Sleep And Wake Up A Better Employee]

Add a meditation: When you inhale, think of breathing in fresh energy and optimism. When you exhale, get rid of any self-doubt or negativity.

Even at your desk, the key is sitting up straight to build core strength, improve posture and open air-flow (slumping can cause restrictions in your diaphragm). Without being in “exercise clothes,” simply moving your body throughout the day will energize your thoughts and body.

Try Some Seated Practices

Take off your shoes: in addition to giving your feet a break from those cute but cramped pumps, taking off your shoes is relaxing because it signals to the brain that we are getting out of work mode and into relaxation mode — if only for five minutes. Inhale as you open toes wide, exhale as you plant your feet evenly on the floor. Add some ankle circles to lubricate your joints. Repeat 5–10 times.

Gentle neck stretches: sit up straight in your chair with your feet evenly planted on the floor; don’t let your back touch the chair. Inhale as you gaze up; exhale as you look down, chin to chest; repeat 5–10 times. Next, inhale as you tip your head to the side, right ear toward the right shoulder, exhale as you repeat the same movement to the left.

Stretch your fingers and wrists: inhale and exhale five times as you open your fingers wide and clench them into fists, boosting blood flow. Then make circles with your wrists, fingers relaxed, as you consciously inhale and exhale with each rotation, repeating five times clockwise and five times counterclockwise.

Seated pigeon: wardrobe permitting, give your hips and lower back some love. Raise your right knee up to the chest and give it a hug. Keeping your knee bent, rotate the thigh outward from the hip joint and rest your right ankle on your left thigh, just above the left knee. Keep pressing out through the balls of the right foot to protect the knee. Stay in this position for 10 breaths and then repeat on the left.

Runners and spinners beware: your hips could be especially tight! If the above stretch is too much, keep the left leg straight with the heel on the floor, and rest the right ankle lower down on the left leg, anywhere where you can do without pain.

[Watch: Conscious Confidence: Techniques to Shake Off Anxiety and Stress at Work]

Team Wellness

Incorporating these ideas into your daily routine is one way to boost energy and focus. Consider incorporating them into team meetings, too. According to the CDC, a workplace health program aimed at keeping employees healthy is a key long-term human asset management strategy.

1. Ask for participation, recognizing that it might feel awkward and out of some employee’s comfort zone.

2. Solicit ideas from the team to encourage participation. Someone might have some cool and innovative ideas to bring to the group from various hobbies or sports. This is a great way to learn about coworkers and gain insights into what makes them tick!

3. Keep it fun! Don’t let your wellness goals cause stress. Keep things light and engaging for the team and take cues from the group. If the team isn’t enjoying it, don’t force things: delegate the wellness initiative to another co-worker or team member; try something different; recognize that the purpose is to encourage healthy habits not force an agenda.

Enjoy the practice and excitement of trying something new, and in the spirit of yoga: The divine in me honors the divine in you. Namaste.

Renee Manning is a leadership consultant and certified yoga instructor (RYT 200). She has practiced yoga for 12 years and is fully committed to the benefits of keeping her mind and body as healthy as possible, while appreciating the indulgences and the realities of being a working mom.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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