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Unroll the Mat

Yoga has become a common practice in today’s society. What sounded foreign and exotic several years ago has now become part of mainstream culture. Many have ventured into yoga studios to discover a beneficial practice for strengthening their bodies and quieting their minds and leave feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. Scientific research has also shown the benefits of yoga on promoting relaxation and decreasing anxiety, depression and stress. So, in the midst of a busy career and personal life, how do we maintain well-being and a balanced state in our daily routine outside of the 90-minute class?

Observing our breath is a great tool for tapping into our natural rhythm. Belly breathing can be practiced when standing in line at the grocery store or during a work meeting. With hands placed on the belly, feel the belly rise on inhalation and relax on exhalation; observe whether the breath is smooth and regular, or if it’s being held. Slowing down the breath can help to calm the nervous system and allow a more relaxed state for body and mind.

Yoga and wellness education can also be added to the corporate environment. Incorporating simple stretching and breathing exercises into the daily work schedule can provide employees with a healthy, supportive way to de-stress. Start by taking a 5 to 10 minute break in the morning and the afternoon just for de-stress time— not for coffee or catching up with a colleague. Close the office door and practice breathing through the belly or doing some neck stretches. Keep a small bolster or blanket roll in the office and lay on top of the bolster, placing it under the heart, opening up the chest, for three to five minutes. Another option is to schedule a group yoga activity at the office on a daily or weekly basis. Practicing yoga as a group may enhance overall morale and productivity, as a team that works together also relaxes together.

Outside of the work environment, consider a group yoga class as a relaxing activity for a birthday, bachelorette or wedding party. A yoga class prior to wedding festivities could be a way for guests to unwind and stretch before a night of dancing. It can also help the bride stay in the moment during the festivities, rather than feeling overwhelmed with the excitement.

For those with busy travel schedules, it can feel like there is no time to get to a yoga studio. Buy a thin travel mat that can fit in the suitcase, and unroll it next to the bed in the hotel room. Simply having the mat nearby may provide enough incentive to try doing at least a couple of simple poses before sleep or first thing in the morning upon rising.

Many parents express difficulty in finding time to do yoga while juggling childcare. Try incorporating yoga into family time. Practice chanting “Om” together while on the long car ride, or do some poses together instead of watching TV. Practicing breathing exercises can provide children and adults with a simple tool for facing daily life stressors; when sitting in traffic, preparing homework or a presentation, or planning a holiday event, attention to the breath can release tension in the body and quiet the chattering mind.

As published in Natural Awakenings, June 2014.

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