Yoga At Work: By Gina Matranga

Author: Jackieb / Date: 25-10-2014 / Tag: Yoga, Full Circle Yoga, Yoga At Work, Yoga Longmont CO, Yoga Studio, Jackie Boeheim, Gine Matranga /

I don’t work a traditional 9 to 5 job and I like that.  I don’t have a traditional 30 minute lunch break to pause from the working day and eat, and that can be a good and bad thing.  A lot of times I end up eating in between various tasks, like answering the phone, or running to and from meetings.  Some yogis are able to catch a yoga class during lunch, or step away from their desks to do some personal yoga.  I think that’s great, but that’s not what my day looks like, therefore, I try to infuse yoga into my day in a variety of ways.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having a rather untraditional work day, so I thought others might benefit from the ways I’ve learned to infuse yoga into my working day.  

Infusing my day with the physical postures of yoga can be great for me, but what I’ve found most beneficial to my working day is practicing the other limbs of yoga while I work.  Yoga is not simply made up of physical postures, or asanas, but how we connect to ourselves, and how we relate to others.  Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra, a staple text in understanding the philosophy and practice of yoga illustrates the The Eight-Limb Path of Yoga.  The Eight Limbs include: Yamas (five moral restraints or how to connect with others), Niyamas (five observances or how we connect to ourselves), Asana (postures), Pranayama (mindful breathing), Pratyahara (turning inward), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (union of the Self with object of mediation).  I don’t practice all of these everyday at the same time, but these limbs of yoga are all a part of the yoga journey that can be taken off the yoga mat and into the world.

One way I bring my yoga off my mat and into my work is by practicing mindfulness.  What several Buddhist teachers and well-known yogis will say is that practicing mindfulness is a great way to find contentment throughout your day.  Mindfulness simply means to pay attention, and can be related to Dharana, or concentration, from The Eight-Limb Path of Yoga.  Thich Nhat Hanh, a world renowned teacher of Buddhism and mindfulness, explains mindfulness this way:

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment.  It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment. To be mindful is to be truly alive and at one with those around us.  Practicing mindfulness does not require that we go anywhere different.  We can practice mindfulness in our room and on our way from one place to another.  We can do very much the same things we always do--walking, sitting, working, eating, talking--except we learn to do them with awareness of what we are doing.  (Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices as found in Bernie Clark’s The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga-The Philosophy & Practices of Yin Yoga).

Doing something mindfully means you are experiencing the task moment to moment, and you are intentionally working only on that one task.  This excludes ‘multi-tasking’, a beloved activity in our culture.  Some folks can multi-task without a problem, but I find that when I do, things get lost or I might forget why I’ve even walked into a room.  When I go about my day with intention, I am more mindful and aware of what needs to be done.  This more than anything, is a way for me to stay present, positive, and be productive.  

Another way I bring my yoga into my work is by practicing setting boundaries.  The longer I’m in my current role at work, the more I learn about setting boundaries.  I am one of a handful of employees at a small business.  My role is that of a director, so I do everything from cleaning and maintaining the facility to answering phone calls and doing my best to bring in new clients.  I have a tendency to take all of this on in a way that can be hard for me to let go of at the end of the day.  Once I realize I’m getting emotionally attached or feeling completely responsible for the outcome of a particular event, I have to re-establish my boundaries.  

One way I do this is to remind myself that there will be bad days and good days for everyone- and that is okay.  I hold myself to an incredibly high standard, and this is tough.  There are days I feel like all I’m doing is letting myself or others down.  There are other days I feel like I’m crushing the day. Having an in-between day is unknown territory for me.  I find myself needing to label everything, and these labels can be debilitating.  What happens next is that I am defining myself by my work, how much I’ve accomplished in the day, and where my shortcoming lie.  We are not defined by what we do, what we have, or even our emotions.  When all of that is stripped away and we are left with the raw self that is who we are.   

I have to remember that setting healthy boundaries is an important job for my self-care and state of mind at work.  If we try to accomplish every task asked us, we get lost in that process and at some point our flame for doing our job goes out.  This goes back to the point that there will be good and bad days.  Some days we’ll get everything done on the to-do list, and other days we’ll have to say to ourselves “that task will have to wait”, and it is our duty to ourselves to not feel guilty about this.  We need to remember that how much we achieve in a day should not reflect on our self worth or sense of self. There is only so much that can be done in a day.  Let go of the judgement of the ‘good’ days and the ‘bad’ days.

Setting boundaries is another important aspect of both one’s personal and working life. This can be extremely challenging for me in my work and personal life because I am such a ‘yes’ person.  This is strongly tied to a deep need to make everyone around me happy- as if that’s my job!  At some point in my life I felt that saying ‘yes’ to everything was how I would be successful, how I would get others to like me, and how I would make all wrongs right.  I don’t know when exactly I picked this up, but it is a truth about myself I now understand, and it is a part of me I am trying to soften.  The words of Judith Hanson Lasater, yoga teacher and Ph.D. are helpful:

“Only you can give yourself permission to be happy.  We grow up when we realize that no one is going to tap us on the shoulder and say,  Now you have done enough so you can be happy.  Take a deep breath and make the decision that you will connect with your own happiness for the next five minutes.  At the end of this time, make the commitment for the next five minutes, and then the next.  Know that your ability to be happy lies within you, only you, and is not dependent on your circumstances” (A Year of Living Your Yoga, 2006).  

This rings true for how relate others.  We are not in charge of others and their happiness or satisfaction, and we are not in charge of the universe.  Trying to fix everything and everyone is an unnecessary task.  Remembering that just being here we are enough.  Saying yes to everything asked of us will not make us more complete or happy- it can sometimes result in just the opposite. Giving yourself permission to be happy is akin to setting healthy boundaries.  

Saying ‘yes’ to a request is of course important for the sake of progress, but saying ‘no’ can be just as important.  Saying no does not necessarily mean your are denying a request, but rather not taking on every single thing asked of you.  Saying no can sometimes take the form of asking for help, or perhaps handing off a task you know you cannot complete at a certain moment in time.  Saying no looks something like this for me in my working life. “Would you mind making that call to (x client) because I have several other calls to make before (x client) comes in for their session” or, “I don’t feel comfortable making that particular phone call.  Would you mind doing that one?”  I work directly with my boss so sometimes this is a scary area for me- passing a task off to my boss when I know she’s just as busy if not busier than I am!  

Engaging in spontaneous yoga is great- simply getting up and moving is helpful.  Anything you can do to reawaken your spine is beneficial.  If your work day is like mine and you don’t really have an opportunity to step away from your work, use any opportunity you can to make space for your yoga practice. Step outside for a few minutes and hold your face and arms up to the sun.  Step away from your computer and do some wrist stretches, side bends and a forward fold.  Walk mindfully to the bathroom or the water cooler.  Close your eyes and take ten deep in and out breaths, and focus on the out breath.  Let things go for a moment, and remind yourself you are one person- one beautiful person who makes up this great universe.  

When you answer the phone, smile when you pick up the phone.  You never know what awaits on the other end.  Is is a new client curious about your business?  Is it someone calling to cancel an appointment because they are sick or hurt, or maybe their child is sick or hurt?  Or is it a telemarketing calling to get your business?  If all of your action with the other end of the line begins with a smile, this will radiate through the conversation, and will make it easier for you to participate in the dialogue.  In the case of the telemarketer, imagine the times you’ve gotten frustrated and all you wanted to do was get off the phone.  Has this helped you?  It hasn’t helped me.  Frustration and impatience just seems to make the conversation longer!  

Your yoga can take several forms throughout the day that extend beyond the physical postures.  Some days you may focus on one aspect of your practice like setting an intention for your day, and others you may focus on taking deep breaths to help you through a challenging assignment.  I try to remember that whatever the day brings, it is my responsibility to take care of how I behave in the world.  I cannot control the world around me, but I can control my thoughts, words and actions.   We can remember that we are made up of both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, the dark and the light.  We can practice mindfulness when interacting with others or when we are engaged in a task.  We can smile when interacting with others over the phone, via email, or face to face.  We can set healthy boundaries and say no from time to time.  We can remember that we are not defined by what we do, but who we are.  
Image Credit: Fun and Food Cafe