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Stressed Out at the Office? 5 Practices You Can Do at Work for Instant Calm

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The best part? Nobody even needs to know you’re doing them.

Try these practices to help with stress at work.

When we’re feeling stressed, many of us turn to yoga. Yet we often forget that yoga doesn’t necessarily require a sticky mat or a softly-lit studio. Yoga, and its infinite practices, are available to us anywhere, anytime. Even at work.

Years ago, I had a boss who was a worrywart. She micromanaged, fretted, and hovered. Her nervous energy wove its tentacles into me, gripping my neck and shoulders, imprisoning my breath in my upper chest, and taking up residence in my low back.

Those days, I lived for my lunchtime yoga class—one hour when I could leave distractions at the door and slip into the still, clear lake of my inner sanctuary. I’d glide out of that class every day relaxed and restored, until my boss would unleash her panic and I was back to square one. That is, until one day when I realized that inner sanctuary my yoga class inspired was actually with me. Always. Instead of counting on yoga classes to sustain me, I began to subtly weave yoga into my workday. When I noticed my stress levels rising, I’d take a moment to simply breathe—and found I was able to feel instantly centered and calm, often without even leaving my desk.

See also The Stress-Busting Yoga Sequence to Conquer Tension

5 Practices to Do At Your Desk

We all face work-related stress. And, we all have an inner sanctuary. You may not be able to close a door, roll out a mat, and curl up in Balasana (Child’s Pose), but there are ways to experience yoga—discreetly—at your workplace.

Here are five practices to cultivate calm when you’re feeling overwhelmed on the job:

Chair Vinyasa

When we’re stressed, we hold it in our bodies. Gentle movement unwinds this physical discomfort, encouraging relaxation. A modified version of Cat-Cow can be done right at your desk to dissolve tension.

How-to: Shift to the front edge of your chair, feeling your body weight on your sit bones. Slip off your shoes if possible, to feel the soles of your feet on the ground, and rest your palms on your thighs. On an inhalation, reach your tailbone toward the back of your chair, lengthen your spine into a backbend, and lift your gaze upward. On an exhalation, round your tailbone toward the front of your chair, curve your spine forward, and lower your gaze. Let the rocking motion soothe you for several rounds.

You can stretch your body at your desk to dissolve tension.

Subtle Pranayama

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a slow, deep, conscious breath. Dirga Pranayama (Three-Part Breath) is a simple yet potent practice to shift yourself out of a state of stress. This breathing technique can be used as needed—at your desk or in a meeting—to call in tranquility.

How-to: Feel your breath softly move in through your nose, filling your belly, ribcage, and chest. Exhale slowly through your nose, feeling your breath leave your belly, ribcage, and chest. Imagine emptying your breath completely. At the end of your exhale, pause and sink into the stillness of that moment. Feel the natural initiation of your next inhalation into your belly, ribcage, and chest. Repeat several times.

See also Yoga for Inner Peace: A Stress-Relieving Sequence + Daily Practice Challenge

Silent Mantra

Repeating a mantra—a sound, word, or phrase—can regulate breathing patterns and quiet an overactive mind. Perhaps your office isn’t the best environment to chant Om out loud, but you can still experience the benefits of a silent mantra.

How-to: Practice a few rounds of Three-Part Breath, letting your breath move in and out of your belly, ribcage, and chest. Then, invite the following mantra to join your breath. On an inhalation, think “breath in,” and on an exhalation, think “let go.” Silently repeat “breath in” on your inhalations and “let go” on your exhalations, allowing the words to ride the length of your inhale and exhale. Practice for several rounds.

Mindful Mudra

Mudras are hand gestures used to guide energy in the body. Dhyana Mudra (Meditation Seal) supports a calming energy. When you’re under pressure, lay your awareness on your hands. Softly bring them into this mudra to feel inner peace.

How-to: Sitting in a comfortable position, shape your hands to form a bowl in your lap with your palms facing upward. Rest your right hand on top of your left and allow the tips of your thumbs to touch. Notice how your body, mind, and energy feel, and enjoy this experience for any length of time.

Walking Meditation

Meditation is a practice of paying attention. Walking meditation involves paying attention to actions that you normally do automatically. When you consciously turn and return your attention to walking, you cultivate presence and drop into your calm center.

How-to: While you’re walking down the hall in your office building, notice one foot lifting, moving forward, and meeting the ground, heel first. Notice your body’s weight shifting onto your forward leg as your back heel lifts and your toes remain touching the ground. You might notice a coworker saying hello; perhaps make eye contact and smile. Then, return your attention to your feet moving, your weight shifting. Practice while walking to the bathroom or your favorite lunch spot.

See also Inside the ASMR Meditation People Are Calling a Brain Orgasm

About the Author
Megan DeRosa, MA, C-IAYT, RYT 500 is a Colorado-based yoga therapist. Learn more at meganderosa.com.



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Ariana Grande's Former Violist is a Total Yogi Badass

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From Coachella to standard summer vacays, this musician uses yoga to stay rooted, balanced, and calm on the road.

Late last July, a small group of yoga practitioners roamed the bustling hallways of Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center looking for a vacant room adequate for a quick asana practice. It was Friday after lunch, and the indoor arena was swarming with crew members feverishly unpacking, assembling, and rigging lighting and sound equipment for the night’s show. In a few hours, nearly 20,000 more people would flood the venue. But for the moment, these musicians just needed to find some peace and quiet.

By 8 p.m., this group of women—Kiara Ana Perico, Desiree Hazley, and Leah Metzler, known to fans as the Wicked Strings—would swap their mats for musical instruments and take the stage as accompaniment for rock band Panic! at the Disco. For the past seven months, the three classically-trained musicians have been accompanying Panic!, led by frontman Brendon Urie, across the country (58 cities with a quick midway stint in the U.K. and Australia) on the Pray For The Wicked tour. But between all-night bus rides, triple-stacked bunk beds, constant time-zone shifts, endless soundchecks, and hectic behind-the-scenes races to hit their stage marks, Kiara Ana Perico, the group’s co-founder and resident violist, has taken it upon herself to guide her tour mates in mindful movement—even when that means taking up residence for an hour in the box of an empty 16-wheeler.

On this particular July day in Philadelphia, the trio had been looking for a room to practice yoga in when they passed by a loading dock populated by a bunch of empty trucks. Along with a crew member and a tour friend, Kala MacDonald (wife of Panic!’s road manager, Zack Hall), the Wicked Strings piled into the back of a big rig and rolled out their mats. Perico lit a candle and some Palo Santo and invited the others to join her on their backs. She moved the group through supine leg stretches, Cat-Cows, hip openers, forward folds, and balancing poses, culminating in a juicy semi-trailer Savasana—the final bit of uninterrupted tranquility before an explosive two-hour stage performance.

See also This is the Reason I Take the Subway 45 Minutes Uptown to Work Out—Even Though There’s a Gym On My Block

Kiara Ana Perico teaches yoga to her bandmates while touring with big acts such as Panic! at the Disco and Ariana Grande.

Truck yoga—troga, as Perico’s dubbed it—has become somewhat of a tour staple. Having spent the past five years criss-crossing the globe as a violist for major acts including Adele, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, David Foster, and now Panic!, the RYT-200 teacher and longtime student is accustomed to keeping an adaptable practice. “It’s a daily adventure and exercise in flexibility—pun intended,” she says. On this tour alone, she’s practiced asana on stairway landings, in the lounge of the tour bus, in her dressing room, in hallways, and hotel rooms.

See also  How Rosie Acosta Says Yoga Transformed Her Life

“It’s inspiring to see how disciplined Kiara is while we’re on the road,” says tourmate, Wicked Strings cellist Leah Metzler. “She’s definitely been a positive influence in my life here: Touring can be exhausting, and it would be much easier to mentally check out and watch Netflix, but she knows how much better we’ll feel after doing yoga.” Desiree Hazley, the Wicked Strings’ violinist, also credits yoga flows with improving mental and physical health through the hectic tour commitments: “When we practice, you can feel an uplifting shift toward calm and focus before our shows.”

Research suggests that for touring musicians, yoga is more than just a welcome moment of tranquility. Performers like Perico are at risk for a number of psychological and physical problems such as anxiety and performance-related musculoskeletal issues. String players specifically have been shown to develop work-related orthopedic disorders such as overuse syndrome and compressive neuropathy (think carpal tunnel syndrome) due to the necessary imbalance in posture.

To that effect, Kristen Queen, Interim Director of the School of Music at Texas Christian University and RYT-200 instructor looks to resources like Mia Olson’s Musician’s Yoga: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Inspiration to guide her Yoga for Musicians college course, a twice-weekly class that integrates breath and alignment to reduce stress on muscles and joints and help students bring awareness to form and function. “Practicing yoga bolsters balance within the body, supports full range of motion in the joints, strengthens the core to support the lower back, and generally helps us be mindful of our bodies when approaching our instruments,” she says.

“Many musicians play asymmetrical instruments, and their bodies adapt to that load in positive and negative ways,” says Seattle-based movement educator and professional classical musician, Kayleigh Miller. “Asana can reveal problems with asymmetry and provide tools to strengthen and mobilize imbalanced areas while enhancing awareness and understanding of the body. Most classical musicians deal with rigorous rehearsal, audition, and performance schedules, and down-regulating the nervous system through breath and mindful movements is essential for maintaining focus and clarity under pressure.”

The Wicked Strings on tour with Panic! at the Disco.

See also  14 Must-Pack Items for Your Summer Yoga Festival

I met Perico at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center arena one uncharacteristically bright and crisp February day, where the Panic! troupe had just rolled in after an all-night drive from an Austin show. It was the second leg of Panic!’s U.S. tour, and temperatures had dipped significantly since the tour kicked off, to say the least. In fact, New Orleans was one of the first cities Perico had seen in the past six weeks that hadn’t been rocked by a frigid “snowpocalypse.” But as a world-traveled performer, Perico is resilient—even in extreme conditions—and unwaveringly committed to her yoga practice.

With post-show bedtimes well after midnight, Perico typically salutes the sun around noon. She does a few morning stretches in her top bunk on the third level of the tour bus, hops down, and if her nine bus mates have already left for the venue, she sets up her mat in “the living room”—a deceptively spacious-sounding term for the compact front of the bus that can be extended by a few feet when parked. Since sleeping in the bunk can be especially crampy for her sides and lower back, side extensions, hip flexor stretches, and lower back massages are a must, she says.

The day we meet in New Orleans, Perico tells me she only had time for a 30-minute flow before greeting me at the venue. We stop for a snack on the bus and then head backstage. “Welcome to the venue!” she says, gesturing toward the mounting commotion as nearly a hundred crew members scurry about, incepting an arena-sized spectacle out of thin air. We head straight to her dressing room, and as Perico repacks her suitcase, I wonder how bandmates Hazley and Metzler will possibly fit into the tiny room with us when they return from souvenir shopping.

Finding zen backstage with Panic! frontman Brandon Urie and the Wicked Strings.

Once the women return, we’re off to a quick soundcheck with Panic!’s other band members before an early dinner where we split vegan beignets (doughy and warm and way more delicious than they may sound) and then dash back to the venue. Because barricades and metal detectors are already set up and Panic! fans are swarming the arena, our driver drops us off at the front entrance. We navigate around giddy groups donning t-shirts of frontman Urie’s face, and race to the backstage entrance. No one notices us—in fact, none of the soon-to-be-shrieking fans even seem to realize they’ll be cheering and singing along to my companions in just under two hours.

See also Yoga Poses for Traveling

Growing up, mindfulness was a constant in the Perico household. Her father meditated for four hours each morning, prompting Perico to establish a regular yoga practice while studying viola performance at Boston University. Tendonitis from misaligned posturing throughout high school and the inevitable imbalance of playing an instrument exclusively on one side meant the young artist had to take extra precautions in college, she says. Knowing long-term injury had the potential to derail her burgeoning career, Perico took to serious self-care. Acupuncture, massages, physical therapy, and yoga “helped me focus my mind, move my body, and return to safe alignment,” she says. Between four-hour viola sessions, Perico stretched and inverted her way toward better circulation in her upper body and strength in her wrists and shoulders.

“Playing music at an elite level requires sophisticated functioning of the physical and psychological systems of the body,” says Bronwen Ackermann, PhD, a musicians’ physiotherapist, musculoskeletal anatomist, and health researcher at Sydney Medical School. Ackermann has worked on numerous studies that demonstrate the injury prevention benefits of physical activities such as yoga for musicians. One such study, a 2012 article published in the BMJ journal, Injury Prevention, found that strengthening and stabilizing areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, spine, abdominals, and hips may reduces occupational injuries in professional orchestral musicians.

Perico uses yoga on tour to avoid injury and keep focused.

As yoga gradually helped Perico relearn healthier posturing to protect from future damage, the practice also unleashed undeniable psychological and spiritual repercussions. She says her practice is what has supported and sustained her through the past decade’s extreme highs (playing sold-out arenas) and devastating lows (unexpectedly losing her father last year). “I really had to work on finding a sense of home within myself,” she says. “I think once I figured that out, I was more prone to being at peace in my everyday life.”

See also  How to Travel the World Teaching Yoga

Perico moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to try and make it big in an infamously unforgiving industry. Almost immediately, the hustle and constantly in-the-car culture began to take its toll. “I felt terrible,” she says. Once again, yoga helped her find her way. “I started practicing every morning at Runyon Canyon park in the middle of LA,” she says. “That really pulled me into grounding, and I immediately started meeting really beautiful, like-minded, soulful people.”

Once she laid down roots, her career soared, starting with an overseas opportunity that led to one international tour after another. “Producers who told me it takes a few years to get settled in LA were totally right,” she says. In 2012, she met Hazley, Metzler, and violinist Molly Rogers when they accompanied Japanese rock star, Yoshiki, on an international tour. The foursome went on to form the orchestral-pop troupe Orchid Quartet, performing alongside recording artists like Morgxn (Rogers has been working on other projects while the others perform as The Wicked Strings, but they reunite as their schedules allow). In 2015, Perico accompanied Ariana Grande on the Honeymoon Tour, and in 2016, Adele came calling. Through all of it, Perico kept a strong yoga practice, building on it and thinking about yoga teacher training. In October 2017, just before the Panic! tour kicked off in July, 2018 Perico completed her 200-hour certification at YogaWorks in Santa Monica, CA. Today, when she’s not touring with some of the industry’s biggest acts, she teaches studio and private classes in Southern California.

After Panic! wraps its European tour, Perico will head to Bali to complete her RYT-500 training and hopes to one day offer workshops to fellow musicians—she knows firsthand how much havoc the postures of professional playing can wreak. Right now, it’s hard to imagine when she’ll find time to add “workshop leader” to her list of credentials, but for now, she’ll continue prioritizing her practice — even if it’s a little hard to predict where her journey will take her or how much time she’ll have to herself along the way. “Meditation, yoga, and the cultivation of inner peace are absolutely the reasons I’m not spinning out all the time from the chaos around me,” she says. “Of course I get homesick, feel lost, lose my sense of grounding but the ability to reign it all back into reality and my inner sense of home has made all the difference.”

Photos by Lenore Seal.



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One Yoga Teacher's 3 Lessons We Could All Learn About Making Money

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Yoga and abundance don’t always feel like they belong together. One yoga teacher shares the lessons she learned about accepting wealth and tearing down financial barriers that weren’t serving her.

As I watched the snow fall into the hot tub at the retreat center I was visiting, nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, I found myself thinking, How did I get this luxury?! Taking four days off to indulge at a hot springs in the mountains while learning from my yoga mentor seemed like a far cry from my start as a yoga teacher. Being underpaid was a regular occurrence when I first started teaching. Struggling to buy groceries, trips to the gas station hoping that I didn’t go over the twenty dollars I had in my wallet, and not being able to afford health care (gulp) were discomforts I grew strangely accustomed to.

I was extremely passionate about teaching yoga and I loved doing it, but my bank account did not match my passion as an instructor. As much as I would like to blame corporations, point my finger at capitalism, and gnash my teeth at the unfair nature of my soulful work being so undervalued, the truth is that my value as a teacher was already at a deficit before I even stepped foot into a yoga studio.

See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career

When I followed the thread that led me to being a “poor yoga teacher,” I could trace it all the way back to the old sayings that were instilled in my absorbent young brain as a child: “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “You have to work hard for money.” Or the most insidious, “Good people don’t need money.”

These seeds grew in my subconscious at a slow and steady rate. Over time, they became my reality, and as my yoga career developed, so did my belief that money meant struggle.

See also A 5-Minute Meditation To Relieve Financial Stress

I said “yes” to unpaid yoga gigs. I constantly bustled across town from one teaching job to the next. And I watched as my own practice fell to the wayside because teaching at a high volume was siphoning all my time and energy.

Finally I hit a bottom. I was fed up with scraping by, and I knew something had to change. I realized that if I wanted abundance, I needed to make a choice. That choice was to start shifting my perspective around money so that that I could not only heal my relationship with money, but also welcome prosperity into my life.

See also A Katonah Yoga Sequence To Live A More Abundant Life

There were three critical things that shifted the tide for me, and I know they can help any teacher looking to give themselves a raise.

1. Realize that spirituality means abundance

When you go into class and speak the word “abundance,” can you honestly say that you are feeling it in all areas of your life? Chaining yourself to the idea that being spiritual means financially struggling can disrupt the abundance that is waiting for you. When you accept that financial abundance and spirituality can have a thriving working relationship, it will reflect in your spirit—and your bank account! Take it from visionary Maya Angelou, who said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive”.

See also The Yoga of Money: Take Wisdom from the Mat to Your Finances

2. Get crystal clear on your teaching intention

For some people, teaching a full load of 15 classes a week can strain your health and your capacity to serve. As in any other business, it can take time to build a network and establish a presence in the yoga space. Figure out a teaching strategy that will fulfill you and help maintain your sanity—not detract from it. Do you see yourself teaching full time? Does having a full-time job while teaching two to three classes sound fulfilling? Get clear on what is right for YOU. The way I figured this out was by getting support from a business coach and community I trusted so that I could navigate how to market myself and speak effectively about my services.

See also Live + Practice From the Heart: Identify True Intention

3. Seek great mentorship

One of the most pivotal steps you can take to open to financial abundance is to seek guidance from other successful yogis. Learning from others who gained wisdom and experience from walking a path before me allowed me to understand the paths available to me. Just like your daily local teacher, learning from someone who knows the ropes is so much easier than trying to figure it out yourself. I also sought guidance from business mentors and like minded women who were committed to living on purpose that could teach me how to offer my gifts, live my purpose, and get the structure I needed to financially sustain myself. Look for local clubs, meetups, and other networking opportunities in which you’ll be able to make valuable connections in the community.

See also A Yoga Teacher’s Guide to Social Networking

Just like yoga, stretching your financial container can cause some discomfort. Just like the journey of yoga, the path to feeling ease and grace with our money values starts from within. With a clear vision and the right tools and support, knowing and claiming your worth as a yoga teacher is totally possible!



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Advanced Yoga Sequences

8 Poses to Feel Empowered and Sexy

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Try an affirmation practice to create a more satisfying sex life and spiritual life.

“I’ve learned that having sex and feeling sexy can and should come from the purest space.” — Rina Jakubowicz

When I was going through a divorce 10 years ago, I used affirmation practices to try to shift my mindset during the healing process. One phrase I repeated often was “I am beautiful.” 

As silly and simple as this may sound, it really helped me. Failing at a marriage is very painful and I carried a lot of judgments about myself, especially since I had been the first in the family to get a divorce. Walking around each day with this affirming thought, even if I didn’t believe it in the beginning, was life-changing. It helped me realize that my words and thoughts are powerful and that I’m in control of how I feel about myself. I began walking with confidence and maintaining a sense of calm in my communication and interactions. In addition to the affirmation practices, I started studying in the Bhagavad Gita and began to apply some of the teachings to my relationships, including in the bedroom. It took several years, but I began to develop a healthier relationship with myself and my sexuality. I learned how to break down my sexual walls and release judgment and fear to become my gorgeous, badass self from within.

I’ve learned that having sex and feeling sexy can and should come from the purest space. That will create the most euphoric and pleasurable experience for both you and your partner. I now teach “Sattvic and Sexy” workshops and courses because I want to help more women tap into this empowering space where they can stop harshly judging themselves or suppressing their sexuality. 

See also “Three Things Divorce Taught Me About Love”

Sattva is the highest of the three gunas (mental qualities) in Ayurveda. It means pure, poised, or objective. The lower two gunas are tamas and rajas. Tamas is a mental state of inertia, dullness, or laziness. Rajas is associated with mental agitation and hectic activity. We need rajas to move us away from tamas, but our ultimate goal is to move into sattva. If you’re passionate about something or someone but you’re overthinking, emotional, or getting caught in your head, then there’s an attachment and you’re in rajas. If you have passion from a pure place and it doesn’t control you, then you’re sattvic. 

See also How a Sattvic (Pure) Diet Brings You Into Balance + 2 Ayurvedic Recipes

To start feeling more empowered, sexy, and content in your life and relationships, try this 8-pose sequence. Each posture is paired with an affirmation to inspire you to become the best version of yourself, both as a lady and a lover, so you can create the sex life and the spiritual life you deserve.

Then, join me for a free “Sattvic and Sexy” webinar on April 10 at 2:30 EST. I’ll share more tips for developing a healthier relationship with yourself, your sexuality, and your partner. Register today!



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