The origins of yoga date back thousands of years, and are said to have appeared on cave paintings drawn by the Ancient Egyptians before being immortalised in writing in The Vedas (ancient Sanskirt manuscripts) in India. The word ‘Yoga’, originally comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yoke’, meaning ‘to unite’ or ‘to join together’. Through yoga we are trying to achieve a union of your conscious mind with your physical body; traditionally not the most flexible body with the most likes on social media! The Western interpretation of yoga is as a largely physical practise, however it is not limited to this, but also involves meditation (Dhyana), living by harmonious moral codes (Yama) and breath control (Pranayama) among others.
Do not let these archaic Sanskrit words put you off the practise, but rather remind you how fruitful yoga has been over thousands of years to help individuals find a oneness within themselves. Breath control or Pranayama is a prime example of some simple yoga techniques you can learn to improve your wellbeing while working. Perhaps you have a very tight deadline, or a particularly difficult client to deal with. Physiologically your stress responses may increase your heart rate, causing strain on your respiratory system, and release cortisol into your body, inflaming and tightening joints already underworked from sitting at your desk or in meetings all day. Being able to slow your breathing down is vital, to not only protect yourself from potential hypertension, but also allowing you to think clearly and make the right decisions for your business. A really simple example of this in the natural world, is how a rabbits’ heart rate is approximately 120-150 bpm, whereas a tortoises’ resting heart is 25 bpm. A tortoise lives on average 90 years longer than a rabbit. Learning some exercises to control your breath and reduce your heart rate will therefore help you manage stress better in your workplace, and ultimately of course, live longer!
Cortisol release causing joint pain and tension is also an unwanted side effect of work stress and perhaps a sedentary, desk-based lifestyle. Through the physical practise of yoga exercises, the body is heated and lubricated using a combination of fast and slow flowing movements and resting postures in order to release tension and improve flexibility. It is one of the biggest yoga myths that you must have prior sporting experience or a high level of flexibility in order to partake in a physical yoga class. You are not performing on a stage, but rather within the confines of your yoga mat, whether that be in your living room, at the park, or in a studio with 30 people. There is no one else but yourself who can mediate between your modern monkey brain and physical body, so dedicating even just one hour a week will be beneficial to give yourself a way to start respecting your body and releasing stresses from your mind. A great yoga class will always include a combination of exercises to work both of these, usually including ‘Savasana’ pose at the end. After physical exertion you are required to lie still on your back for around ten minutes in Savasana and focus your attention on relaxing your body without any external stimuli.
There are of course numerous additional benefits to having a regular physical yoga practise, such as an increase of muscle mass and aerobic abilities, helping your self-confidence and daily energy levels. The ability to focus your mind on the task at hand, be that your yoga class, an important assignment, or a large business contract, will certainly increase and encourage productivity in the workplace.
Yoga comes in many different forms, so it is important to try out a host of different classes and different teachers until you find the one you are most comfortable with. The benefits of control, strength and awareness are just the beginning of possibilities if you can find even one hour per week to dedicate to your one and only physical body. Next time you feel yourself getting stressed due to colleagues or your workload, use the practise of yoga to remind yourself:
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” (Deepak Chopra)