*Office Yoga* – *A Corporate Stress Relief Management Programme*
by LivinHamony (Yogi George Stanboulieh)
The current depressed worldwide economic climate means that many of us are toiling harder than ever before at our offices and workplaces. Increased workloads and longer hours can result in stress levels rising, something that can have a deleterious effect on health and wellbeing if not effectively countered. Typical pressures that result in stress include looming deadlines, difficulties with work colleagues and demanding bosses – all of which can lead to physical tension building up in our bodies. This natural state results from our bodies’ sympathetic nervous system’s ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism; a primitive reaction that gears us up to deal with is perceived to be a potentially threatening predicament. Our evolution as human beings has developed such an important system to ensure self preservation, either by physical confrontation to eliminate the threat or survival by fleeing it. However, the non-life threatening stresses encountered in the modern day working environment means that such energetic reactions are inappropriate, so there is no release for the built-up tension. The stress remains bottled up as we sit at our desks with little opportunity for movement, leading to physical and mental health problems in the future.
The fight or flight response mechanism affects many systems in our body, with breathing becoming shorter, sharper and shallower. Chemicals and stress hormones are pumped into the bloodstream, as are glucose and cholesterol. Heart rate and blood pressure are both raised, with muscles becoming tense. The inability to utilise these responses means that our bodies stay in a constant state of tension, which can negatively impact on our health. Persistent shallow breathing, for example, has been found to cause fatigue, emotional tension and unclear and vague thinking. It can lead to specific health issues, such as panic attacks, indigestion and impaired blood circulation. The stress hormones raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels and the mobilising of glucose increases blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes.
Fortunately, however, there is an answer and you do not have to accept this stress as being an inevitable feature of modern working life. There are a number of exercises that can effectively alleviate this negative tension, with one particularly effective programme being focused on breathing. Improving the rate, depth and quality of breathing can increase energy levels, calm nerves, clear minds, enhance health and even eliminate pain. Using breathing to manage stress levels is quick, extremely efficient and the most potent of all the stress management techniques – in fact, there are studies that present convincing evidence that the most significant factor in peak health and long life is how well you breathe. What is especially good about the steps outlined below is that they require no equipment other than a chair, so they are the perfect activity to be performed in an office or workplace environment:
1. Position yourself into a chair that allows you to maintain a straight back posture. The chair should also allow you to plant both feet stably on the ground with your body, hips and legs at right angles.
2. Move your abdomen in and out as you breathe. This allows your diaphragm to move freely. This method regulates and extends your breathing and facilitates deep inhalation, instead of shallow, ineffective chest respirations.
3. Inhale and exhale from the nose while paying attention to ensuring that your throat is open. This is called Ocean Breathing.
4. Maintain the focus throughout that you are shifting from unconscious breathing to conscious deep breathing:
*Releasing stress from the shoulders and neck:*
1. Inhale and raise your shoulders upwards. On exhalation, lower your shoulders while performing the circle rotation backwards 3 times.
2. Inhale again, raising your shoulders up as before. Exhale and lower your shoulders, this time performing the circle rotation forwards 3 times.
3. Inhale while turning your head to the right, then exhale while turning your head to the left. Perform this alternating activity 3 times each.
4. Inhale while moving your head backwards, then exhale while moving your head downwards.
*Arm and shoulder exercises:*
1. Extend your arms out straight in front of you and lock the palms of your hands together.
2. Inhale and pull your hands toward your chest, keeping the palms of your hands interlocked. Exhale and as you do so, twist your palms face outward while extending your arms forward. Repeat this activity 3 times.
3. Repeat the inhalation activity pulling your hands toward the chest, but this time, while exhaling, twist and extend your hands upwards and over your head, remaining in this position for some time, continuing to inhale and exhaling.
4. Unlock your palms and extend your hands backward behind you, then interlock them again and continue breathing. This position is particularly helpful for maintaining the correct alignment of the spine and shoulders, helping to prevent us from developing a potential hunchback in the future.
The above programme can be summed up in our organisation’s motto; Breathe, Stretch and Relax:
*BREATHE:* Conscious, regulated deep breathing balances emotional and mental energy.
*STRETCH:* Releases stress and toxins from the body, improves muscle and joint health, increases flexibility.