Research shows yoga and meditation can have a calming effect when you’re on edge.
If you don’t bend, you might snap.
More than 37 million people in America practice yoga — and the benefits are many. Yoga and meditation can help cut down on anxiety and depression, according to a new, three-month study published in the Frontiers of Neuroscience journal.
What’s more, yoga helps lower stress, and has been shown to combat joint, back and other pain, according to MayoClinic — perfect for those who grapple with a stiff neck and beck while sitting in the office.
“There’s a connection between your mind, your body, and your breath,” says Jamie Scher, an adoption attorney who now teaches yoga in Plainview, New York. “Your mind is a powerful tool, so if you connect those three things, it’s very empowering,” the owner of Namaste, The Yoga Spa, adds.
If this sounds like just what you need at work, you’re not alone. More than 70% of American workers feel stressed throughout the week, according to a CNBC report. On a scale of one to five, more than 25% of them ranked their stress levels at a four.
All of this anxiety can contribute to headaches, muscle tension, and irritability, medical experts say.
The good news: Yoga and meditation can do something about it. Just ask Manhattan mom Becky Fawcett, founder and president of Help Us Adopt, who has 15 years of yoga experience under her belt, and incorporates rhythmic breathing into her action-packed workday. “When I get on the bus to work, I put on my sunglasses, close my eyes, and do some breathing,” the mother of two tells Moneyish. “It has a calming effect.”
Here are a few steps we can all take to do the same thing:
1. Take five: “When you’re confronted with a difficult situation, the first thing to do is to take five minutes, and put everything aside,” says New York City yoga instructor Halle Becker, who counts the likes of Oprah Winfrey among her former clients. “I don’t care if you have to sit in the bathroom, get a coffee, shut your door, or put a sign over your cubicle that says: ‘Gone fishing.’ You need five minutes to abide by the breath,” the founder of Homegirl Yoga adds. This method of inhaling slowly is called pranayama breathing in yoga, Scher explains, and it’s typically how yoga classes begin; in the workplace, it can gives you the time you need to assess a stressful situation and manage it calmly and rationally.
2. Pick a mantra: At work, repeating a mantra, like students do in yoga class, can have a focusing effect, says Becker. For Fawcett, it’s: “Slow down.” Yours can be anything you like — choose something that inspires or motivates you — and you can repeat it in your head when you feel frantic, angry, or stressed to generate a steadying sense of concentration.
3. Stretch: Several regular yoga stretches can also help banish the physical pain many workers have from typing and sitting too long. The first is what Scher calls the “arthritis chase-away grip,” and it’s especially beneficial for those of us who type away at our keyboards regularly. “Interlace your ten fingers really tightly, and flex them in front of you in both directions,” Scher advises.
Another move is to cross your legs and wrap one foot around your opposite calf muscle. Hold it for a few moments before repeating it on the other side. Scher calls this the “eagle wrap,” adding, “You’re cutting off blood flow for a few moments and then releasing it, massaging all the joints in your legs.” Other stretches can be as basic as neck rolls, bending from side to side with your hands above your hand, or reaching down to touch your toes.
“We always plug our phones into chargers,” Scher concludes, speaking of the beneficial effects of yoga. “When you practice yoga or meditation, it’s like you’re plugging your body into a charger, too.”
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