News, Wellbeing

Yoga and wellbeing at work

09 October 2020 by Isla Lightfoot

Wellbeing initiatives within the workplace are a proven way for forward-thinking companies to boost morale and productivity throughout the day. Rosie Elphinstone from Connection Yoga runs a range of classes for Corndel staff, including three vinyasa classes and one for people recovering from injury or surgery.

Classes are held at different times of the day to suit people’s diaries and the type of person they are (up with the lark or more of a night owl). Everyone is encouraged to just turn up and switch Zoom on. “You can practise yoga anywhere,” explains Rosie, “you need nothing more than a spare hour. We focus on breathing, slowing down and energising, working on strength and flexibility. Just thinking about breathing and concentrating on slowing the breath brings calmness and head space. Any exercise has tremendous benefits, but yoga connects the physical and mental. Particularly in a work environment this is very powerful.”

Whilst working as an Assistant Head at a Secondary school, Rosie introduced Yoga classes to help with teacher burnout and stress. “It became everyone’s favourite part of the week and encouraged me to focus on yoga teaching full time.” She founded Connection Yoga to help employers connect with employees working from home.

Jane Shannon, Chief of Staff at Corndel, talks about the motivations behind this programme: “We wanted to offer yoga to the team for a number of reasons. Firstly, by holding it during the working day and actively encouraging staff to attend we are indicating to them that we value their wellbeing and mental health. We want them to take breaks, to switch off for an hour during the day.  We also want to encourage them to do things as part of a larger group. Our team is largely remote and it’s possible to spend the day never moving from your desk and not really engaging with anyone on anything other than a work level. This activity breaks down barriers and our team have fun together, which encourages good mental health.”

Taking a few moments of your day to stretch and move will re energise and can help to contribute to the prevention of repetitive injuries that occur after hours spent sitting at a desk.  These exercises, recommended by Rosie, will give you a bit of a physical and mental boost!

1. Neck rolls. Close your eyes, drop your chin down to your chest and circle your head slowly round clockwise and then anti clockwise. Take 10-15 rolls each way.

2. Cat-Cow stretches. These are a common feature of our classes and you can do them seated at a desk. Bring both feet flat on the floor and place your hands onto your knees. On an inhale, arch your back and look up to the ceiling. On an exhale, round your spin, draw your belly towards your back and gently drop your head forward. Repeat 5-10 times.

Yoga position - seated twist

Seated Twist

3. Seated Twist. Turn sideways in your chair and bring both feet flat on the floor. Twist towards the back of the chair, holding the back of the chair with both hands. Hold for 10-15 breaths. Move so that you are facing the opposite side of the chair and repeat on the other side.

4. Open Chest Stretch. Probably our favourite one in this series! Sit near the edge of your chair, bring your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers. If you can, press your palms together. Lean forward slightly and gently lift your arms away from your back, finding a stretch in shoulders and back. Inhale slowly and lift your chest. Exhale slowly and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Hold for 10-15 breaths.

5. Seated Eagle. This one sounds more complicated than it is! Cross your right leg over your left leg. If you have space in your body, wrap your right foot around your left calf. If not, then flex your foot to the side. Reach your arms out parallel to the floor, at shoulder height. Bring your arms forward across your chest, cross the left over the right and if you can, bring your palms to touch. If this isn't available for you, you can give yourself a hug by grabbing opposite shoulders with opposite hands. Lift elbows and slide your shoulders down your back. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

Yoga position - seated eagle

Seated Eagle

6. Finally, and easy one is to simply close your eyes, plant your feet flat on the floor either at your seat or standing, and breath. Notice your breath, give your eyes a break from staring at a screen, and ground yourself in the earth. One or two minutes of this will help to re centre and calm you during a working day.

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