Yoga Anti Stress: doing yoga at home while teleworking is without a doubt the winning combo to relax! Telecommuting has become widespread in recent months for better or worse. Some of you have been able to free up a huge amount of space in your schedule by eliminating travel time and/or saving fuel on that same travel time. For others, however, staying at home to work is more of an ordeal. Indeed, it generates stress, pain related to a long sitting position and requires a military organization to manage the life of the house. What if we made it easier for you? Practicing yoga is a great way to reduce work-related stress from home, but not the only one!
Working from home has many advantages. But as with any situation, there are negative aspects to this practice, including:
- Isolation: going to work is an important vector of socialization. Being alone at home can be anxiety-provoking, creating stress and tension;
- Lack of breaks: we find ourselves going directly from our bed to our office without a trip to the workplace. Gone are the coffee breaks with colleagues to stretch their feet and legs. In addition, by telecommuting, our colleagues feel more free to call us at any time of the day. They assume that we are constantly available. Finally, when telecommuting, we can tend to skip our lunch break, to continue to work for a long time and not to free up time to recharge our batteries;
- The difficulty in disconnecting at the end of the day: we don’t have that time on the way home to free our minds and stretch our legs. So we tend to work later without really disconnecting from our work day.
- New physical pains generated by sitting for a long time and the lack of adapted office equipment: the most toxic element of our society is the chair! Even if we also remain seated for a long time when we go to work, the problems linked to a bad posture as well as to a sitting posture for a long time are multiplied when we work at home, we stretch our feet and legs less and our postures are less pleasant. As a rule, we don’t have the benefit of ergonomic equipment (who has never broken down and worked on their couch) and we move even less from our chair. Although there are solutions to improve your posture in front of your desk by putting your feet on the floor, for example, this is not always enough to relax and pain may occur (neck, legs, back).
All this leads to additional stress in our daily lives. As a former teleworker and new digital nomad, I found in yoga many tools to help me reduce my physical and mental stress related to this new way of working.
Before we get into the details of yoga tools to reduce stress like anti-stress yoga, it is helpful to understand what stress is and how it works.
Stress is a reflex. It is one of the two components of our autonomic nervous system (reflex nervous system), the second being the relaxation reflex. The stress reflex is essential to our survival and should only be triggered in life-threatening situations.
However, you will easily admit that this reflex is triggered in a multitude of situations that are not real danger situations. For example: when I stress in anticipation of a telephone meeting with my superior, I am not in a situation of physical danger and yet my stress reflex is triggered. The consequences can be multiple: I sleep badly because I imagine the worst during this point, I work twice as much in anticipation to prove my worth, I am in a bad mood and this reflects on my entourage, etc.
To reduce stress when working from home, you need to retrain your mind to use less of the stress response as a reflex and more of the relaxation response. Yoga is one of the best practices to relax.
Yoga at home or in the studio can help us manage this stress reflex because it helps us to to anchor ourselves in the present moment. Our stress is often the result of a projection into a negative future situation (e.g. that bad phone call) or the memory of a similar situation that went wrong.
To avoid this thought pattern (and reduce the stress that goes with it), you have to develop your anchoring in the present moment, the only moment of truth in which, in most cases, the feared negative situation does not take place and therefore the associated stress has no reason to exist.
Discover anti-stress yoga to feel better, improve your posture, your breathing and have a physical activity at home!
Meditate to return to calm
The meditation is the most effective way to come back to the present moment and calm your stress. Our stress will be triggered by external events (the phone ringing all the time, an email notification, a zoom meeting, etc.) which may be concurrent, which has the effect of multiplying the stress response. By taking a few minutes to bring our mind inward, by concentrating on our breath or the sensations of our body, we calm the tensions and agitation of the mind generated by the stress of the situation we are experiencing. A few minutes are enough to immediately feel a sense of calm, to counter anxiety and to find serenity for the day. In addition, meditation is a great way for a beginner to get into yoga.
Breathe to slow down
Our mind and our stress are directly connected. Richard Freeman in his book “The mirror of yoga” tells us that the mind and yoga are like two fish swimming in tandem. When one fish takes a direction, the other follows. I’m sure you’ve already experienced this: when we are stressed, we often have heart palpitations and/or the feeling of being out of breath. By calming our breath we will be able to calm our mind and anchor ourselves in the present moment.
Abdominal breathing is the natural breathing. But we often notice that it is no longer used spontaneously by our body because of our lifestyles. To (re)activate your abdominal breathing and perform this yoga exercise, simply inflate your belly on the inhale and deflate it on the exhale, the idea being to bring the breath into the lower abdomen (at the level of the navel) rather than breathing into the upper rib cage. Breath after breath we will lengthen our breath which will have the effect of calming our mind. Focusing on our breathing to make it abdominal and lengthen it puts us in a meditative state (double kiss cool effect!). This is the easiest yoga exercise to do at home when you feel the stress of your long days at home.
Heart coherence/square breathing exercises
For this breathing exercise, we will use our abdominal breathing. The idea is to do an inhalation then a retention/apnea – kumbaka – full lungs at the end of the inhalation then an exhalation and finally a retention/apnea – kumbaka – empty lungs at the end of the exhalation. I recommend starting the yoga exercise with 4-count inhalations/exhalations/relaxations. Once you feel comfortable, you can increase your count. Retention (apnea) is not recommended in case of heart problems and in pregnant women. If this is your case, you can do simple abdominal breathing exercises that are already very effective.
Alternate breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Nadi Shodhana consists of breathing alternately through one nostril and the other.
To realize this exercise of yoga you are going to use your right hand, with the thumb you press lightly on your right nostril to prevent the air from entering (do not press too hard, otherwise it becomes unpleasant) and you inspire by the left nostril. At the end of the inhalation you block the left nostril with the little finger (light pressure) and you exhale through the right nostril. Then, without changing the placement of the fingers, breathe in through the right nostril. Then at the end of the breath, close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This constitutes a breathing cycle. I recommend you do this over 6 cycles. You can increase the number of cycles if you feel comfortable. It is also possible to add a retention at the end of the inspiration and/or at the end of the expiration (with the same reservations as those mentioned for retentions in cardiac coherence).
This yoga exercise is excellent for to rebalance and calm the mind. By practicing alternate breathing we purifies Ida and Pingalathe energy channels (pranic) which are directly linked to our brain, Ida carrying the energy linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (nervous system of relaxation) and Pingala carrying the energy linked to the orthosympathetic nervous system (nervous system of stress). I recommend practicing Nadi Shodhana in the morning to balance your mind before the day of telecommuting and bring clarity to your mind.
If you are more of a gentle yoga
I recommend practicing Yin Yoga . This is a gentle yoga practice that puts the body and mind at rest. The idea with Yin Yoga is to put the muscles at rest in order to soften the deep tissues, in particular the fascias . This automatically reduces stress.
To do this, we must hold a prolonged stretching posture (between 3 and 8 minutes) in stillness. Immobility is the key to Yin Yoga because the muscle must be at rest in order to reach the deep tissues. In order to be able to withstand this immobility, one should not go to the maximum stretch during the yoga session (I recommend a level of 2 to 3 on a scale of 5, 5 being its maximum stretch).
During the yoga posture time, we activate our abdominal breathing to help the body relax and we focus on the sensations of our body to accompany it in its relaxation. Thanks to Yin Yoga we relax our body (arms, legs, back) after a (too) long day in a sitting position and we relax our mind thanks to the breathing and themeditative state that we reach by concentrating on our sensations.
We often practice a yoga posture ofstretching of the hips which allows to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (reflex of the relaxation) which is located in particular in this zone. If you feel strong emotions (even the urge to cry) when you stretch your hips, don’t worry it’s normal and a good sign! You are eliminating, with this yoga posture, what was weighing you down internally.
If you prefer dynamic yoga
“Motion is lotion of life”. Sorry for the English but it sounds better in this language. Indeed, to stay healthy and feel better in your life, movement is the key! By practicing dynamic yoga ( hatha yoga or vinyasa yoga for example) we strengthen and soften our body at the same time.
Telecommuting leads to poor posture of the neck, back, legs, a relaxation of the abdominal belt which will result in particular in lower back pain, stiffening of the muscles of the shoulders, arms, etc. This is why it is important to practice physical activity that both strengthens our spinal muscles and makes the body more flexible. Dynamic yoga is perfect for this. By practicing hatha yoga or vinyasa yoga we will also breathe consciously to synchronize the movement with the breath and we will meditate in movement which will have the effect of calming our mind and reducing our stress. If you are a sporty beginner, dynamic yoga is perfect for you!
In conclusion, anti-stress yoga is an excellent medicine to overcome the challenges of telecommuting! Yoga is an ideal practice to reduce stress and pain (neck, back, legs) related to telecommuting. 10/15 minutes of breathing and/or meditation and/or stretching per day is enough to stay relaxed and serene during those long days of work at home.